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Try and try again

Didn't get the appointment? Don't despair, says John Rees

So, Zola, you want feedback on why we didn't appoint you head of department?" "Please, as I thought that it had gone well."

"We did want it to be you; your written application was good. But there are one or two things you need be careful about. For example, beginning your letter Dear Sir or Madam, when it was addressed to me by name. Show your finished application to someone to proofread, and who will suggest ways in which you can project yourself effectively. It's not what you think you are transmitting that matters - it's what they receive.

"There was a sense at interview that your CV and other responses had not been tailored to the needs of the school and post. You'd done little to find out about our school. We have an excellent website and materials which we send to all applicants. It seemed that you simply wanted to be head of department somewhere, not specifically at our school.

"Your CV should not be standard for all applications. You are trying to sell yourself for a specific post. Think SALE:skills, achievements, learning outcomes and experience.

"One of your referees was at odds as to why you wanted the job. And criticisms of your current school are not a good reason for us to appoint you. You seemed to lack lively and inspiring examples of good practice in your work or of colleagues whom you admire professionally. You didn't develop the arguments in your application - you simply rehashed them.

"Keep your referees in the loop with details and a copy of your application so what they say is complementary and supportive.

"You seem to have given little thought to the business of leading a department. It is different from being in a classroom.

"The skills of a class teacher are not the skills of managing and leading other adults. How do your colleagues lead their departments? For some material on management, visit"

"What should I do next?"

"Go back to your school and have a discussion with someone who knows you and whom you respect, because they will tell you the truth. Rejection is painful but may be the catalyst for change. Work out who you are, where you want to go, and whether this has been vague aspiration or serious ambition.

"If you are serious, investigate self-presentation and management skills. You may not have been successful, but don't abandon hope. If you think you should change direction as a result of this experience, do so."

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