Teachers on the Move

Teachers on the Move – Writing Applications

January 25, 2019


There are no guarantees in this world, you could be the best teacher, highly qualified and experienced, write an amazing application, and still not achieve an interview.  Here is the deal – there is no simple answer to the question: ‘What do recruiters want to see on your resume?’ But there are some simple truths.

In this day and age, administrators are busy people, school life is demanding on a day to day basis, then there are development plans and wait – recruitment??  The popular schools receive thousands of on spec applications, all year round. Some schools use HR to filter them, others use agents, often even a combination of factors. So, for example, I know for a fact that I didn’t make a short list because I didn’t have a particular qualification, even though I can do that job better than most people with the qualification.  Why? Because a locally employed HR person had a checklist. I would never have been hired by a particular school in Turkey if I hadn’t met the recruiter in person. I had the wrong qualification for Turkey specifically, but they made it work, because they met me and believed in me. So applications can only do so much. I will write another post on networking soon.

Here’s another truth (sadly) – Nationality counts, as does first language.  This is not always up to the school, it is often an immigration restriction by the country and these change all the time, so do your homework, don’t waste their time applying where they can’t hire you anyway.  This also applies to age, many countries do not allow teachers to work over 60. Don’t blame the schools, there is nothing they can do about it.

Third truth: when wading through a pile of applications at the end of a very full day, administrators are hoping for simplicity, clarity, and personality.  That’s where you can gain an edge. I have read thousands of applications, honestly most of them are awful. It is sad to report, based on my coaching experience, that often the best people are presenting themselves badly while others are just really good at presentation.  If you do nothing else; find a friend who gets lots of interviews and compare your paperwork. But the following advice applies across the board:

Avoid repetition – recruiters don’t want to read the same information in your cv, your letter and your philosophy statement.

Resume/CV length Some people say one page, I say that’s really difficult unless you are 25, so two pages are fine, but not more, and no cheating with extending footers and margins, we can tell!

Keep cv statements short and focussed – my pet hate is seeing long straggly sentences in the Experience section. Bullet points people, bullet points!  Not ‘have been instrumental in developing IEP for students’, rather ‘developed IEPs’. Besides anything else. this shows you can synthesise and also have some consideration for a tired administrator!  

Do include Extracurriculars – there are many schools looking for a volleyball coach or a drama enthusiast to help organise shows. It also shows that you’re looking to contribute beyond the classroom.  

Do include recent professional development – we like to know you are a life-long learner and your PD also indicates your professional interest.  But nobody cares about that workshop you took in 2007. Recent!

Letter length – one page, ONE!

Letter content – depends – if the school has asked for a philosophy statement then you don’t need to include your educational beliefs in your letter, if you are applying via a site where you have a detailed profile, you don’t need to include too many background details.  Use common sense.

Always mention where you saw the job. I don’t advocate for on-spec applications, unless you know someone at the school or have met an administrator.

Always mention what interests you about the school, be specific!  Always mention how you can meet the job specification. If you can’t, please don’t apply.

Always synchronise any description of your pedagogy, beliefs, experience with something you know about the school, use their key words. This shows that you have done your research and thought about how you would support the forward movement of the school.

Share a personal passion, the best schools are seeking passionate educators!  Reflect on what you have learned on your journey, or if you are just starting out, what you are hoping for or looking forward to.  The best schools hire teachers who understand the learning journey. More than that, they love people who are real.

Finally,  write a well constructed letter.  If I read another letter where all the sentences start with I or my, I am going to have a blue fit!  I would not accept this from a Grade 4 student and a decent administrator will throw such a letter in the bin,  Sentence diversity shows that you can support language development which, believe me, is highly sought after. So unless you are one of the 103 highly sought after Physics teachers in the world, learn to write a decent letter, or have someone help you. I’ve turned around more applications than I can count with that simple strategy.

One of my coachees told me recently ‘this is hard work’. Yes it is, and it is good that it is, it is a test of your capacity and commitment. Our job is not an easy one, heads want to know that you can measure up to their requirements.  Remember, the best schools are looking for the best people, it is competitive out there, you need to show your best side. But remember you can do all this and there are a myriad reasons why you aren’t selected, team balance, school diversity, someone who is a known quantity. If you want assurance, marry a Physics teacher. Otherwise breathe. Go back, read carefully, edit profusely, and all the best luck with your search. There are more schools than educators, keep calm and positive. Be yourself and you’ll find a match.

Kirsten Durward is the PYP Coordinator at KIS International School in Bangkok.  With leadership experience in 5 schools, she has been reading applications and coaching teachers for many years.  She enjoys supporting educators to make successful transitions in a myriad of ways. You can find her on Linkedin or through the facebook group ‘Teachers on the Move’.