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Whoops! I've just ruined my application

Have you heard about the person who applied by fax - all 40 pages of it? Philip Schofield chronicles the worst howlers

One of the rewards of interviewing for jobs is the crop of hilarious stories that arise. I suppose that the tensions cause otherwise well-organised and professional individuals to become gibbering wrecks - but there are cautionary tales here for anyone applying for a new job. Read on... and learn from others' mistakes.

Letters of application are a rich source of amusing stories. A newly qualified teacher once sent a letter of application stating his name and address only, saying that his college tutor would be happy to provide a CV for him. A headteacher applicant sent a CV that comprised a list of eight teaching appointments and no more. Needless to say, neither was taken up.

Last week, I received an application by fax that took nearly 30 minutes to come through: there were more than 40 pages. When will people realise that more than two pages is normally a real turn-off for recruiters? Mind you, some people's resumes are so helpful. One man's employment record showed that he had been an instructor in a military prison, the perfect recommendation for our Year 9 pupils. Another NQT wrote half a page of explanation about the way in which her two weeks of employment at McDonald's had prepared her for a post in an inner-city school. Do you want your maths lesson with ketchup or without?

Applications by email can be hilarious. I really can't see myself appointing someone whose address is like this: Neither can I get my mind round a filename such as Dave's shot in the dark... There is of course a real disadvantage to the instant nature of internet communications. Many a button has been pressed in error causing the wrong application to be sent to the wrong school. I did get one once that was addressed to the human resources manager of a famous lingerie company!

Another bugbear of internet applications is the dreaded attachment. I always shudder when the file size reads 1MB or the file name ends with .jpg. One such contained half a dozen photos of the candidate and his family on holiday in Spain. I still haven't worked out the relevance. There are compensations such as the applicant who a selection of photos from her modelling portfolio!

And interviews can also go terribly wrong. When Andy, a new head, interviewed for the first time. I was so impressed with his organisation.

Every last detail had been attended to. It was only as the first candidate came into his office and sat down that I noticed his only mistake: the candidate's chair was on castors! She sat down and catapulted out through the door, the contents of her handbag scattering to the four corners of the office and her best interview frock riding up in disarray around her neck!

Mind you, one internal candidate for headship fared little better. She played out the role of loyal deputy and welcomed each rival applicant to the school with a smile and a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, she collided with one of them and the coffee went down the front of her dress. She soldiered on and got the job despite the embarrassment.

Interview questions can bring moments of hilarity. I remember going for a head's post in an international school many years ago. The interviewer leaned forward and said: "You have applied for one of the most highly paid jobs in the world. What attracted you to the position?"

Another time an intense school governor-cum-lecturer at a local college with a strong interest in behaviour management asked an unsuspecting candidate: "What would you do if a cat walked into your classroom and a child picked it up and began to swing it round his head by its tail?"

Quick as a flash, the candidate replied: "I'd turn it into a lesson on pendulums!"

Talking of governors, there was the time when a chairman of governors went to print in the parish magazine saying that what the school needed was a man to run the boys' football team. You can imagine my delight when I was able to present him with a female candidate who was a qualified FA coach!

I could go on about the applicant for a headship who marched into the interview and made his presentation playing his guitar like Cliff Richard.

Or the time that my chair of governors tripped and fell between the legs of an incoming candidate as she rose to greet him!

Then there was the time that the catholic diocesan education officer threatened a governing body with excommunication if they appointed a male candidate against his advice. Mind you, the man he wanted did play cricket and the village was short of an opening batsman.

Sadly, I don't have time. I have 100 application forms to plough through and - who knows? - there may be a pearl or two tucked away somewhere that I can use another time!

Philip Schofield is an educational consultant email:

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