Let’s face it- this is a really stressful time to be looking for a job. If it’s your first job as it is for so many NQTs its even more stressful- believe me I know- I live with someone who is writing her dissertation and then focusing on getting a job (mainly so she can start to pay her mother back to be fair but searching nonetheless).
We have daily conversations now about what she should put in her personal statement and how to stand out in an application form- not that I don’t like talking to my daughter but thought this might help others too!
So short and to the point-
Things not to do- always best to start with the stuff that its best to avoid!
- Don’t leave another school’s name in your personal statement- bit of a giveaway and whilst we all know you are probably applying for every job advertised we like to feel special!
- Don’t cheat and write another two pages as a ‘covering letter’ to get round the page limit for your statement- if other heads are like me they will ignore it anyway and it takes away rather than adds.
- Don’t stay in assignment writing mode and put lots of theory in your personal statement- we like real life examples. Saying that assessment is really important to identify gaps is something I already know! Wastes your word count and tells me nothing about you other than you can read and listen in lectures!
- Don’t quote the latest OFSTED and use it as a truth- we all know OFSTED comments can be so far off the mark and it can be really irritating! You need to be astute and read it but look and see what progress they have made or what they are currently working on and comment on that instead.
- Don’t say you prefer a particular year group unless you really wouldn’t work anywhere else as it may limit your opportunities- a year group may be advertised but others may have come up in the meantime and you don’t want not to be considered
So- what to do to stand out?
- The best advice I can give is to show personality. I always say that I can teach someone how to plan, develop them to be a good teacher etc but I can’t teach someone to have a personality! In the classroom it matters- in an application form it matters too.
- You need to stand out and the best way to do that for me is to have a more conversational tone to your personal statement. I am sure others would disagree and state that applications should be formal but I want to know something about you, not read lots of clever words.
- I also think a sense of humour is so necessary in education that you can’t really write an application form without showing you have one- I love reading applications where this shines through- not through twee jokes but just amusing anecdotes.
- Start with a couple of lines about why you want to work at ‘that school’ and how you would fit in, bring something new, believe in their ethos etc
- Be really specific and make it obvious you have followed them on twitter or facebook for example and have read their website- pick something out and comment on it- it reads as if you have put thought into which school to apply for and that you have done some research.
- If there is a job specification use bullet points and give your evidence/ reasons they should employ you for each one IN ORDER. It makes shortlisting so much easier for the interviewer as they can literally tick them off as they read rather than trying to find evidence.
- Bullet points are a really effective way of getting lots of information and examples into your personal statement and its quicker to read and easier to get a feel for you. Think about having to read 50+ applications- not always great bedtime reading!
And finally- and this is the best bit of advice I can give anyone. Do not see yourself as a failure if you don’t get an interview. Remember that heads are human too and they make mistakes. Even if you follow all the advice above, a written application can very rarely sell you as much as a face to face meet can.
My mum’s advice has seen me through some disappointing interview outcomes-
‘If it’s meant to be love, it will be- it obviously wasn’t right for you’
Annoying as it was – she was always right!