Follow these top tips to write an effective application and secure an interview

A cartoon of a woman going through the stages of applying for a job

Source: © Elly Walton/Ikon Images

Advice from the coalface to help you ace your job application, get an interview and land the teaching post you deserve

HAYLEY: I’m just back from a residential trip and am now preparing our probationers for application and interview season.

LAURA: I can’t believe it’s this time of the year again. Applying for jobs is such a daunting process, isn’t it?

HAYLEY: Definitely. I was lucky to have a lot of support when it was my turn.

LAURA: It’s hard to sum up the whole year on paper with limited space.

HAYLEY: Especially when you are trying to show the best version of you.

LAURA: I think the best place to start with any question is to think in ‘circles’. For example, classroom, then department, whole school , community.

HAYLEY: Yes, definitely. And then for each point always include an example and the impact of your actions.

Highlight your skills

LAURA: The wording of questions on application forms – if there is one, sometimes it’s a CV and covering letter – can be so different between each school and council area.

HAYLEY: It can help to make a list of everything you have done and then fit those things into the categories on the application form before trying to answer the questions (or write your covering letter).

LAURA: A good place to start is always the ‘skills’ type questions. What is it that makes you a good teacher? What skills and qualities do you have that make you stand out?

HAYLEY: Being a great teacher with high standards is the most important asset to any school. I was always told to mention three or four skills, with examples. Choosing fewer skills with evidence of how they enhance teaching and learning has a much bigger impact than just writing a long list.

LAURA: If a question asks about personal or professional learning there are so many things you can say. It’s important to include professional development that you undertake in your school, sessions led by local councils and then anything that you personally volunteer to do outwith the compulsory sessions. For probationers in Scotland, the practitioner enquiry can help you to stand out, depending on the topic.

HAYLEY: It’s not uncommon to be asked about leadership and management skills in both application forms and interviews, even for an unpromoted post. This doesn’t have to specifically mean managing colleagues. Think about any initiatives you have introduced to the school. Do you lead any working groups? Or do you run any extracurricular clubs?

LAURA: Yes. ‘Leading learning’ is a good phrase here. If there’s not a question about managing the curriculum or resource development, you can mention that here too.

HAYLEY: I was once asked about why I developed a particular resource and how I identified the need for it.

Communication should feature in your answers too. It’s as important a skill as being organised.

LAURA: Agreed. Do you share classes with other teachers? Or have learner conversations? Include communication that happens outside the classroom, for example with other departments or in pupil support conversations.

Share your experiences

LAURA: Also mention any experiences of report writing, parents’ evenings or using technology in the classroom. The key thing is to mention the impact of everything you have been part of. Every teacher will do these things, but what positive outcomes have your activities led to?

HAYLEY: Something I struggled with in my first few application forms was including the basic, everyday structure of my lessons. I focused too much on the additional things that I was doing outside of standard routines.

LAURA: Routines set the tone for everything else. It’s a good thing to link to relationships and behaviour in your application.

HAYLEY: Yes, and questions about meeting the needs of learners or attainment. Mentioning the impact of differentiated tasks, starter tasks and plenaries that incorporate exam-style questions, and homework. Do you run supported study? What do you do with assessment results? Are there any specific tracking and monitoring or verification procedures that you follow?

LAURA: As well as raising attainment, raising achievement is a priority for a lot of schools just now. It’s good to talk about how you do this and how you raise the profile of wider achievement both within school and possibly through social media. It helps lead pupils to positive destinations.

Top tips for acing job interviews

Essential advice for acing job interviews

  • Be punctual – do a test drive if you aren’t 100% sure of the location.
  • If the school offers a visit/walk round, go and ask relevant questions.
  • Practise saying answers out loud to get a better idea of timing (most answers should be five minutes).
  • Research the school and community. Does your skill set fit here?
  • Reference what you know about the school in the interview.
  • You’re allowed to be nervous, but you put a confident front on.

HAYLEY: Whole school involvement is one of my favourite things to talk about. It’s something I really enjoy and if you’ve been involved in a lot of it and managed it well, this can separate you from other candidates.

LAURA: The thing to remember is that it’s almost impossible to mention absolutely everything so you need to be selective. Really think about what makes you the best.

HAYLEY: Check the school website and documentation before starting your application, and maybe visit the area. If you’re in England, it might even be possible to visit the school. Is there anything in particular that would make you a good fit for that specific school? If so, mention it.

LAURA: Yes, if you can enhance anything already in place at the school, it might get your foot in the door for an interview.

HAYLEY: Mock interviews were really helpful to prepare. I would suggest doing a few of these to get different perspectives as the feedback is so useful.

LAURA: They help to calm the nerves for the real thing too because it’s much worse when people you know are asking the questions.

Ready for more?

Find Hayley and Laura’s previous conversations on the Education in Chemistry website:

Early career conversations