How not to get a job interview

Teaching jobs are getting more and more scarce every year in Ireland. The days when you could almost graduate, pick the school you wished to work in and gain a permanent position have all but disappeared. Nowadays, it seems that substituting and temporary positions are the norm for most teachers starting out. It appears that only the very lucky or well connected have chances of long term positions.

However, before getting near a job, obviously you need an interview! Getting a job interview is also getting harder than ever before. With many schools now allowing teachers to apply for jobs electronically, this means that it is easier and cheaper to apply for many more positions. It also means that schools are getting a lot more applications than normal.

Getting an interview means that you are getting a chance for a job so how do you rise above the other applications to get an interview? There are a number of places that will give you hints and tips (including this article from last year), but here are some things to do to ensure you don’t get an interview.

1. Make spelling or grammar errors

Even one error in your application can file an otherwise amazing application into the shredder. While not every interview panel will mind the odd typo, some are unapologetic about throwing away applications with even one error. The theory is that if one is going to be careless in a job application, they will be careless in their job.

2. Make a template then send it to every school

As teachers are sending hundreds of applications, it is often tempting to make a template application and send the same one to every school. This can backfire very easily. In order to make a good template, you’re going to have to generalise the answers to a lot of the questions. Therefore, you’re not going to say anything specific about any school you’re applying for. Worse yet, it seems that there are templates out there in the world of forums and web chats that are borrowed and copied and pasted and sent to loads of schools. In any batch of 100 CVs, there are probably 50 others like it.

3. Write to the wrong person

If you’re putting in a cover letter, be sure that you address the person properly. Here are some real examples I have heard or come across:

  • Dear Reverend Chairperson – to a chairperson who is not a priest
  • Dear Sir/Madame – to a priest. (As of yet, I don’t think there are many madame priests)
  • Dear Mary – to anyone not called Mary!
Cartoon taken from http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Yes-but-you-were-the-defender-of-the-wrong-faith-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i8477116_.htm

4. Talk about the wrong faith 

This is probably to do with the fact that the majority of schools are under the patron of the Catholic church. However, if you’re applying for a job in a school that isn’t of a Catholic ethos, while it is admirable that you have claimed to be passionate about Catholic teachings, most of these schools see that you’ve just copied from a template and your application is likely to go into the bin.

5. Don’t read the advertisement properly

You’d be surprised how many applications come in the wrong form to schools. For example, some schools this year only accepted applications via email but still received lots of envelopes, much of which didn’t get opened. However, if you check out the advertisements on Education Posts, often a school will add a few lines to applicants asking for particular things or perhaps asking not to include certain items. If you don’t follow these instructions, you might be missing out on a school that might have wanted you.

6. Make sure your only hobbies are reading and socialising

Schools like teachers to be able to do other things other than teaching. For example, if you’re a grade 8 pianist, you could be gold dust to a school who have just lost their only teacher who could play the piano. Perhaps a school has lost their GAA coach to greener pastures and are desperately looking for a former under-14  GAA player of the year who continues to coach kids at weekends. Who knows, there may be a school who want to set up a computer club and you might just have designed web pages for your mum’s online business? All your hobbies might be relevant to a school so put them in and show how you could be used in your school.

7. Have a level 1 certificate in any sport from college and nothing else

You more than likely have a Grade 1 certificate in coaching some sport. I’m afraid that all your friends in college did the same. You’re going to have to stand out more in an application so add some details. For example, talk about what you did to get the certificate and how you’ve put it into practice. Whilst on the subject, try to get a few qualifications outside college to boost your application. Perhaps you’ve done a First Aid course or an interesting (certified) evening course?

8. Be Bland

“From your web site I can see that your school is an inclusive, welcoming and enjoyable place to work in.   This is an atmosphere that would suit someone like me.” These sentences could be about any school (with a web site). To an interview panel, it translates as: “I have merely copied and pasted the same applications over and over again. I don’t even know what school this piece of paper is going to.” Be specific about why you want to work in a school. Tell them why you want to move to their school or how you admire something that they are known for. This might take time but it may pay off in the end.

9. Photocopy your applications badly

If you really feel you have the best template application and you’re going to send it to schools, you’re going to be using a photocopier if you’re posting applications. Whatever you do, make sure your application doesn’t look like it’s been photocopied. Fingerprints, coffee stains and other smudges do nothing to make your application stand out in a good way. Some people send applications on different kinds of paper, which is risky but sometimes effective. While it goes without saying a loud pink paper with glittery writing isn’t going to go down well, a muted cream or off-white good quality paper might make a panel member look twice at the application.

10. Handwrite your letter of application

For some odd reason, there was a rumour going around that teachers should handwrite their cover letter to show off their teacher writing. The problem is that it is very hard to write a handwritten letter well and conventions differ greatly from a printed letter. While that doesn’t seem to be a problem, the difficulty is that most people can’t remember the correct way to write a handwritten letter these days and this can lead to all sorts of confusions. A final reason to avoid handwriting letters is that when you’re handwriting 200 cover letters, even the best handwriting becomes scrawly eventually.

Of course, the best way not to get a job interview is not to apply for jobs! I always recommend that teachers put a lot of effort into the schools they would most prefer to work in. Five really good applications, I believe, are better than hundreds of templated photocopies.

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