The expert panel is made up from a diverse range of experienced school leaders and includes:
Wendy Tomes, Principal, Sidney Stringer Academy, Coventry
Peter Kent, Headteacher, Lawrence Sheriff School, Rugby
Steve Bowles, Vice-Principal, Grace Academy, Solihull
Q: How do I know that I have selected the right school to apply for?
Q: How many schools should I apply for?
Q: Can a maternity post lead to more, or should I ignore these when I am applying for NQT jobs?
Q: I am looking for part time work - do I have to wait until I see a part time advert, or should I apply to the school and make them aware I only want part time work?
Q: Do schools shortlist all applications, or should I have confidence that I have done something right on my application form?
Q: At what point does quoting the school ethos and vision statement become a turn off to a school?
Q: How should I write my personal statement? What information should I include?
Q: How do I prepare for safeguarding questions if I haven't had to deal with any relevant situations?
Q: If I study two subjects, what is the best way to structure my answers for interviews?
Q: Is it better to prepare answers for competency based questions (e.g., learn them off by heart) or not?
How do I know that I have selected the right school to apply for?
SB: I would always recommend you do as much research as possible, study the information in the initial advert, the person and job specifications, the school website and of course the Ofsted reports. A visit can be useful prior to an interview, but do not ask all your questions as you will need to save some for the interview. Ask questions that will make an impact with the school, to demonstrate that you are really switched on and understand the key strengths and issues around the school, the Ofsted report and school website will help you in gaining this understanding.
How many schools should I apply for?
WT: Apply for as many as you feel are genuinely of interest to you. Every headteacher will have a different idea of what makes a good application, so get your applications in to as many opportunities as you can.
PK: Don't just go for every school you see. Read the adverts carefully, look at the background information provided by Hays and the school. Ask around; ask if some of your peers know anything about the schools that you are looking at.
Can a maternity post lead to more, or should I ignore these when I am applying for NQT jobs?
WT: A maternity vacancy can provide a good initial opportunity, however, I would suggest only applying if the maternity post is for a full academic year as it will allow you to complete your first NQT year in one school. If the position is less than the academic year, then I would recommend you only consider applying if you really cannot find a job elsewhere.
I am looking for part time work - do I have to wait until I see a part time advert, or should I apply to the school and make them aware I only want part time work?
PK: That is fine, but make it clear at the point of application. From experience, it can be very annoying if you are interviewing a potentially suitable candidate to be suddenly told something that was not mentioned in the original application.
Do schools shortlist all applications, or should I have confidence that I have done something right on my application form?
SB: No, shortlisting is based on the most suitable candidates. I would recommend that you tailor your application and include a punchy letter ‘selling your skills and experience and personality’ to the role.
At what point does quoting the school ethos and vision statement become a turn off to a school?
WT: I am always pleased to see evidence when an application is personal to our school and that an applicant hasn't just submitted a generic application. I like it when a candidate can show they subscribe to this vision.
PK: I agree, it can be overdone, but in my experience it is more common for ethos and vision to be ignored by many candidates. Heads want to see that you have done some reading about their school and they will recognise the time you will have taken in putting the information together. However, one (maybe two) references would be enough.
How should I write my personal statement? What information should I include?
PK: Focus upon the way in which your skills and talents will make a contribution to the school. Link in what you are saying about yourself, with what you perceive the school to be looking for. These statements should be different each time you make an application because they should refer to the information provided by the school.
How do I prepare for safeguarding questions if I haven't had to deal with any relevant situations?
WT: You don’t have to have dealt with any specific safeguarding issues in the past, you just need to reassure the panel that you know how serious it is. You need to demonstrate that you would make sure you would be trained and understood the school’s procedures. Ask who the named contact is in the school and what training is offered to staff.
SB: Advise them that you would check the policy of your current school. If not consult any union or DfE document. I would say that experience is not vital, knowing principles of what to do is more important to a school. Best to know these but actually they can be refined.
If I study two subjects, what is the best way to structure my answers for interviews?
PK: Often it will be clear which one the interviewer is focusing upon. However, it is fine to distinguish between the two (in Maths we take this approach, whilst in Physics...)
Is it better to prepare answers for competency based questions (e.g. , learn them off by heart) or not?
SB: Try not to learn everything by heart apart from the theoretical content and aspects of a topic. When answering any question “say it, explain it and give an example”. So know the theory, use this to give your answer (Yes/No). Explain it through an expansion of the theory and then give an example based on your experience. Interviewers will be interested in how you apply the theory to improving learning, so be careful you do not waffle unnecessarily.
PK: I would advise you not - it is likely to come over as a prepared answer. An honest attempt at responding directly to a question is normally the best approach.
We work with over 4,000 schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK, giving you access to the latest teaching jobs. To help you prepare for the world of teaching – we hold mock assessment days and give you advice on how to write an effective personal statement and how to write an application that makes an impact. To speak to a recruiting expert to help you find your first teaching job contact your local office.
What is an NQT mock assessment day?
We run the assessment days with headteachers from our partner schools - on the day you will sit a mock interview with a real headteacher and be asked real interview questions. This gives you a real life experience of what to expect at your first interview. The headteacher will also give you advice and guidance on how you can achieve interview success.
Here is what other NQTs have to say about the mock assessment days:
“An extremely valuable experience, particularly as it was my first interview. Interviewers were positive and encouraging and put you at your ease, offering constructive feedback.”
“I thought it was excellent, especially the feedback. I learned things about myself that I didn’t realise I did.”
“A worthwhile experience. Useful, constructive feedback to take forward with future applications.”
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.