I've not long returned from a speed dating for student and beginning teachers workshop called 'advice at first sit'. Run by our local teachers union, it was designed to assist those teachers new to the job market with some advice on their CV, Cover Letter and the job interview. I had been asked to be one of the 'experts' at the event.
Sometime ago I wrote a post about what teacher trainees need to know before embarking on their career as a teacher. In that post I outlined 15 key things I think new teachers should be aware of. Not a definitive list of things by any means, but certainly a few gems of advice - some that the average graduate won't be told. In that post I promised a part two at some stage on CVs, the Covering Letter and the interview. Today seemed a timely reminder of that promise, so some eight odd months later, here it is! Good things take time you know.
Here are my top tips for snaffling up that dream teaching job, starting with your Cover Letter and your CV. Once again, not a definitive list but certainly my key tips.
- Your cover letter is the most important thing you write and often the first thing that ‘sells’ you to the selection committee and the principal.
- Make sure you address it to the right school and the right person. That might sound obvious but actually, when you are sending out a lot of generic applications, mistakes can be made. Check, check and double check.
- Answer the job advert. If they outline what they are looking for the answer to that. If they ask you to explain why you want to work at their school then explain why. It is surprising how many don’t do that. I always state something along the lines of ‘send CV and a covering letter explaining why you want to work at our school’, and I can never understand why people would send a generic cover letter that doesn’t even mention our schools name. That automatically gets you into the ‘not likely’ pile.
- If it is a school you really want to work in, do some research and show them that you are passionate and keen to work for them by selling yourself in your cover letter.
- If you do something interesting or a bit quirky, tell me in your letter. If you climb mountains in your spare time, or are the countries stamp licking champion, let me know. It shows me that you are an interesting person with a story to tell and gives me something to ask you about yourself at an interview.
- Include the Cover letter (see above) and where possible keep it loose but attached (like with a paperclip).
- Make sure it has a cover, use colour, include your name, a photo (may be of you in a classroom), and a short contact details summary.
- Include in your CV your personal strengths that are relevant to the position.
- Include your Teaching philosophy, today I saw a page labelled ‘What I know for Sure’ where the Graduate had outlined a series of points about education that were important to her, and I liked the concept. (However, remember that as a beginning teacher your philosophy is an emerging one, and it is not until you are teaching in front of a real class and you are fully in charge, that the theory and practice combine, make sense and shape what you really believe )
- Include your personal details and interests so we can see who you are as a person.
- Make sure you have your Academic/Personal Qualifications and include Work History/Teaching experiences.
- Include the References and referees at the back and make sure it is well laid out so it is easily read – three is a good number.
- Ensure your spelling and grammar is accurate throughout! Make the font clear and professional, avoid coloured pages – white or cream is best. Many selection committees photocopy your CV so be aware of how easy it is to do this. Think carefully about colour, size, shape, how its bound.
- Do not put glitter in your CV – and yes, some people have done that, it brassed me off and made a mess on the floor. Worst of all, it was not a one off experience!!
When I advertise for a teacher, I can get up to 150 applications for one job so standing out from everyone else can be difficult. This is where the Cover Letter is so important, because I read every single one of the CVs' and Cover Letters that come in, and I sort them into piles of YES, NO, Maybe. I can tell if you are serious about our school, and I look for this when I read your information.
Next time, some of my top tips for the interview.
What is important to remember here is that this relates to how we do things in New Zealand. I am not sure what the process is in other parts of the world but I am hopeful some of these suggestions are helpful. Good luck and happy job snaffling!