As I am reading probably my one-hundredth CV and letter of application, all for one teaching position, I am reminded of how it is so often the smallest of things, the attention paid to the most obvious of details, that can influence the greatest decisions we make in our lives. I make no bones about how much I love my job. I love the variability, constant challenge and excitement working with children every day offers, and I am thankful that I have had colleagues and employers who have taken a chance and given me the opportunity to pursue my dream job.
But as we all know teaching is not just a job, it is a long-term commitment to ensure that every day, every student in our care has the very best opportunities for learning. And by “long term”, I mean that teachers need to constantly improve, to always get better and to prepare for where their career may take them.
Preparation, at a higher level, is why every country in the world invests in education, to prepare for what 1960s UK Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, famously called “Events!”, which in 21st-century growth-mindset speak, perhaps translates as “opportunities and unexpected challenges”.
Preparation is the reason that schools create, monitor and constantly update their 3 to 5-year improvement plans.
Preparation is one of the major reasons why schools invest so many resources into professional development opportunities, research and recruitment.
Preparation is also one of the major reasons why teachers invest so much of their time and energy into the above too. But there is often, one exception – recruitment, and this might explain why so many of them let themselves down when new opportunities present themselves, both internally and externally.
Looking at the many applications I have already handed off towards the bin, I am starting to again appreciate how much preparation and work I put in to ensure that at least I got myself in front of those very colleagues and employers and gave myself the best opportunity to be successful.
I want the right people on my bus
In the business classic Good to Great that researched and highlighted the tenets of good companies that became great companies, Jim Collins concluded that getting the right people on the bus was the most important thing great company CEOs did.
I believe this is the same for Headteachers who want their students to benefit from great schools too. But getting great teachers is hard, and it is made harder when those who could be excellent do not put themselves forward in their best light during the recruitment process (this is also true of the Performance Management process, but that’s another blog entirely!) It makes me feel sad because I know that many of the applications I have today passed over do not truly reflect to their best, the people who wrote them.
There are many websites out there that give concrete advice on how to build a good CV, write a first-rate letter of application and present yourself in the best light at interview, so I’m not going to repeat their great content here (although I have added a few to the resources section of this site). Rather, I will share with you the key points that came out of a series of workshops I ran with a group of teachers this time last year, and share the view of one recruiter, me, about what it is school leaders are looking for, specifically what I need to get from an application, and what I want to see in an interview.
But before that, I want to explore why it is that I believe many great teachers don’t do themselves justice when applying for new jobs.
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