Want to work in education? How to get your graduate teaching application to stand out

Career Advice
01 November 2019 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Thinking about getting into teaching? You don’t have to look far to see it’s a hugely fulfilling path that demands hard work but rewards it in spades. If you’re serious about a career in the classroom then you’ll be wondering how to make your application stand out from the crowd. Most people applying for a teacher role or teacher training role will have a similar level of qualifications, so there’s a high bar that makes it extra important to be memorable.

Like any career path, your enthusiasm will get you part of the way – if you’re keen to teach then it’s likely that you’ll already be setting up connections with schools, getting into classrooms wherever you can and figuring out ways to build up relevant experience. But in order to set you on the right track, here are a few tips that could help you show you’re the right person for the job.

1. Never write a generic personal statement

Ask anyone involved in teacher recruitment and they’ll tell you it’s the personal statement, not the application form, that gets someone into an interview.

Use your application form to get the basics across – your education, qualifications and any experience that makes you ready for the job. But when it comes to the personal statement, read the job description in detail and tailor your writing accordingly. Show who you are, why you want to teach and where you believe your career is heading. By demonstrating real love for your chosen subject, you can truly put your personality across and show how suited it is to the teaching profession.

Match your skills to specific points on the job specification. Find out who’s in charge of processing applications and address them directly, making sure that your statement is more of a letter than a list. Account for any gaps in your CV – these aren’t necessarily a bad thing if you’ve got good reasons for them – and ensure you’re not negative about any schools where you’ve gained experience, even if you didn’t love them.

2. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want 

It might seem like common wisdom to throw as many applications as possible at the wall and see what sticks – but you can’t feign enthusiasm. If you’re genuinely excited about this particular job at this particular school, it will show. Give yourself the chance to get to know where you do and don’t want to work, and you’re likely to be much more clued up and genuine when you get to an interview.

Being reasonably selective at this stage will make each of your applications more unique, and could ultimately put you at an advantage over candidates if they come across as applying for just another job.

3. Visibility will make you memorable

Visit schools before you apply for jobs, attend careers fairs and make every effort possible to put your face in front of people. If you’re the one applicant who’s made that effort, then you’re immediately streets ahead. It’s one thing to say in a letter why you’re so well-suited to teaching, but showing it will set you apart.

Showing up in person does more than make you stick around in recruiters’ heads, though – it shows willingness to learn. Don’t underestimate the importance of this quality – teaching is as much about learning as it is about dispensing knowledge, and you should aim to show that you’re highly competent but far from a complete package. Recruiters need to be able to picture not only how you’ll fit into a school but how you’ll grow there, and the more willing you demonstrate yourself to be, the more easily they’ll imagine it.

4. Know the school inside out

How is the school day structured? What’s included in the curriculum and what’s not? Which subjects are taught more often than others? What was the most recent set of exam results like, and how did OFSTED rate the school on its last visit?

If you know the answers to these questions about every school you’re applying to, you’re doing something right. Remember that the application and interview process isn’t just about knowing your CV back to front – you need to show that you understand the school, what its needs are and what’s unique about it.

Nor, however, is applying for a teaching job a one-way process – so while it’s important for you to be able to talk confidently in detail about the school, use the information as an opportunity to judge whether it feels like the right place for you. Is it somewhere you’d thrive?

5. Be sure of the best route for you

There’s no single route to attaining QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) after graduating. From TeachFirst and Premier Pathways to a traditional PGCE, there are numerous options when it comes to teacher training – each with its own unique combination of study and practice, and its own benefits.

Think about which is most well-suited to your abilities, preferences and circumstances and you’ll find it much easier to match your skills to a job or training programme.

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