Rocking that Application

When it comes to new years’ resolutions, getting a new job must be up in the top 20, among other common ones, such as losing weight (check) and spending more time with your family (also check).

I’ve been trawling job sites for a few months now, in search of an offer of a job, which would equal a promotion in my field, and I have come across one or two, which have sparked my interest.

The good news is that in teaching, most job adverts come with a complete package including a full person specification, job description and a more or less standard form, which needs filling in. In a previous post I have already explained the importance of trawling both the person specification and the job description to match your skills. I reiterate it here: before even looking at the application form, make a list of what you have already achieved. It will help no end when it comes to filling in the more personalised part of the form.

Teaching application forms can look daunting. The one I am currently looking at contains a whopping 9 pages – and that is not including the personal statement (standard in some LEAs) or the ‘fair recruitment’ part of the application.

Most of the information asked for is pretty standard and no different to what you’d typically put onto a CV: personal details, information on previous jobs and education, referee contact details. Where teaching forms mostly differ are requests for details of recent training, the agreement to have your DBS checked and paperwork, which would typically be filled in once a post has been offered to you in a non-teaching environment.

So,  with a standard form to fill in and no fancy-pants CV to be included, how do you make the most out of the form in order to stand out?

It’s all in the numbers

This is one of the most important aspects of any application. Many people are either too modest or too scared to put hard numbers to achievements, but they are all that stand between your application looking like a load of blah and you appearing to be the next Super(wo)man. If you had a great year last year, let’s hear the facts. ‘Most of my students made more progress than expected‘ sounds so much more lame than ‘85% of my GCSE students made at least 5 levels of progress‘. Numbers impress. Just don’t go around inventing things.

Talk the Talk

So the person specification is looking for someone who is enthusiastic. Don’t be tempted to go all Shakespearian and use your thesaurus to reinvent the word. Enthusiastic does  not mean fervent, passionate or eager when it comes to applications. It means enthusiastic. This is particularly important outside of teaching, where the sheer volume of applications often necessitates a bot to scan documents for key words. Leave those important key words out and your application will be discarded before someone has even set a human eye on it. What a waste of dictionary time.

The best hint ever given when it comes to talking the talk is to mirror the advertisement as much as honesty allows. If they want an outstanding candidate, who is enthusiastic and flexible, then make sure that you point out how outstandingly enthusiastic your flexibility is.


Another one that proves difficult if you have been brought up to be modest about your achievements. Applications are no place to be modest. You have to sell yourself in the best light possible. But beware: keep to the advertising standards. If it cannot be proven by hard numbers (see my first point) or actual facts, do not be tempted to exaggerate. It’s called misleading and can land you in a heap of trouble.

So how do you advertise correctly? Point to your strengths, then shove their nose into them a few times. You’re a good team worker? Use hard numbers to show where you have lead, supported or otherwise worked as a successful team member to raise student achievement or the profile of your school. ‘I work well as a team member‘. Lame. ‘In 2016, I have supported the development of KS3 module X for my team in Mathematics by analysing previous misconceptions and suggesting further development of Y, which has resulted in a 10% improvement in student outcomes for this module‘. Perfect.

You get the gist.

Once you have reviewed your skills and matched them to the job description, advertising is easy. All you have to do is list your greens. If you have red areas that are essential, show how you will be able to overcome those barriers in your future job. That way, you use the key words (improving your chances of actually getting your application read) while showing initiative.

I, for one, will now finish off that application. Let me know whether you found this post helpful.

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