Newly qualified teachers jobseekers are using techniques from the business world to market and sell themselves better in a tough education labour market.
With 40% fewer teaching jobs to apply for last year, according to research company, Data for Education, and this year not looking any rosier, smart NQTs are polishing up their presentation on paper and in person.
It's true a shrinking school budget sometimes favours the cheaper NQT. Offsetting this is the school that prefers the experienced teacher because of an imminent Ofsted inspection.
Whatever the recruitment bias of a school, NQTs have to construct a tailored job application to convince any school they are 'the one'. And as any savvy salesperson knows, success depends upon accurately assessing their customer's, or in this case prospective school's, need.
Build a proposition
As well as meeting the person specification and job description, a strong candidate creates a proposition, which can be used in the application and at interview.
The trick is to carefully analyse the school and vacancy and to work out their recruitment priorities: the job advert and the Ofsted report will provide the best clues. Then identify your key strengths that match the need. NQTs often worry that that they haven't so much to offer as experienced teachers.
But if you've gained experience of working with parents, or insights into differentiation techniques, during a placement, these could work. Contributing to extra-curricular activities will always go down well. The proposition should change according to the school - there's no room for a template approach for the personal statement in the current jobs market.
Structure your personal statement
The personal statement is the backbone of the application and needs to be logically structured, easy to read and to reflect the school's specific recruitment needs.
Keep it to standard length – around 1200 words - and make it easy to navigate by labelling sections with subheadings, such as "personal attributes" and "knowledge and experience". Cover the main skills and qualities sought and lead on the most important information; don't bury this in wordy paragraphs.
Briefly summarise your proposition at the top of the personal statement, and again at the end. These are marketing techniques of repeating key messages – and they work!
When to use a CV
Independent schools and agencies use CVs, and the academisation of the maintained sector means that more schools are using this business document.
The knack of producing a good CV for a school employer is to treat it as complementary to the personal statement component. You can shorten this element to one page and list key points in bullet points at the top: call this summary your "personal profile" and it will help surface key selling points and make your document more memorable.
When listing employment history, list month as well as year for Criminal Records Bureau checks and make sure that hobbies and interests cited are as dynamic as possible. State explicitly if you can offer a hobby as an after-school club.
Avoid these pitfalls
• Typos, illegible handwriting or font and poor grammar, such as misuse of the apostrophe, have no place in an application. Whatever your subject, schools will expect you to be a literate and sound communicator so get a competent friend to proof-read your application.
• Narrating the story of your teaching history. Instead, pick out relevant experiences and examples and use these to illustrate the criteria a school is seeking. A chronological structure can lead you into the trap of making your application all about you, instead of all about the school.
• Assertions instead of evidence. The beauty of providing evidence in the form of figures and also of examples is that it makes your statement personal and therefore memorable.
The more you practise tailoring your applications, the likelier you are to get shortlisted. The most important thing to remember is that the school wants you to be interested in them, so stay focused on the school, and offer them as much value add as you can.
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