When you’re a beginning teacher looking for your first teaching role, it can be hard to know where to start. Applying for a job in a school, whether that's through ep.education or directly to the school, is a unique process with its own rules and expectations, and when you’ve just graduated this process can be hard to navigate.
Over the years, ep.education has collected advice from Principals at our client schools about the best way for beginning teachers to approach their job hunt.
Here are their insider secrets! 🤫
1. Ensure you and the school are a good match by visiting there
Our Principals emphasise the importance of visiting the school in the application process. It lets you get a sense of the culture of the community and whether you’ll be a good fit for it. For example, whether you are comfortable with the students calling teachers by their first names. If the school says visits are welcome in the ad or your ep.education consultant is encouraging this, that’s a hint that the Principal wants to meet you. If you do visit, it shows you’ve read the ad carefully. If the ad doesn’t say visit the school, see if you can do it anyway - when there’s a pile of 100 CVs, you’re more likely to get on the shortlist if they already know you. ep.education consultants will always look for opportunities to have you meet the Principal in person.
Advice for when you're visiting the school: remember that everyone’s going to have an opinion about you, so be friendly, and talk to the other teachers, to the students, and the parents. Try and go during the day if you can because you need to see how the school works.
2. Take advantage of networking opportunities
Can you introduce yourself to a Principal at a school where you had a successful practicum? Absolutely! Our Principals recommend that teachers work their networks. If you did a good job in your practicum and were a good fit for the school, the Principal will likely be delighted to hear from a tried and tested educator. Nobody would mind if you said, “I loved working at your school, do you know if there’s a job coming up in the next 12 months?” When you call them, make sure you let them know when you did your practicum, what class you taught, and who your associate teacher was, to jog their memory.
3. Creative CVs are good, but not the be-all and end-all
A lot of teachers want to know whether having a “creative” CV - with photos and graphics - would help or hurt their application. Some of our Principals don't mind either way and that the CV needs to represent who you are. However, others say that you can’t go wrong with a white, classic, simple approach, but that there’s no accounting for the Principal’s opinions! In EP's experience, the classic CV is the one that will please the most schools. Our Principals emphasised how important it is to make sure your CV is easily printable and photocopiable - as multiple copies may need to be made for each person on the appointment panel so they can write notes on them.
4. A great cover letter can make a huge difference
One of our Principals said, “I don’t want a generic cover letter, I want one that is written to my job advert.” They advise making your cover letter match the job description closely so that you’re responding in your letter as to how you’d actually do the job. And use the Principal’s name. Overwhelming, we've learnt that non-tailored cover letters or ones with errors usually go straight to the bottom of the pile. “If you make mistakes with that stuff you’ll make mistakes with more important stuff”. Our Principals recommended doing fewer applications but doing them well.
5. A good fit for the school is more desirable than good grades
In this competitive teaching market, some beginning teachers are worried that their grades at university will affect their ability to get a job. However, our Principals note that university transcripts are not important to them and don’t need to be included in your application. “I’m interested in what you’ve done,” they said, and another suggested that if there’s something you’re really proud of in your university career, to put it in your cover letter instead.
6. A good reference can win you a role - so choose and treat your referees with care
References are obviously an important part of winning a role - but often teachers don’t quite get them right. Your referees need to be people who can really talk in-depth about your teaching practice, so at least one needs to be an associate teacher that you had. If you do voluntary work or other extra-curricular activities that involve connecting with other people, use those too. University lecturers are a risky reference - our Principals have had experiences where they didn’t really know who the student was. You really need to ask yourself: Will that person be able to answer enough questions about my training, the way I relate to people, and a bit about what learning took place? What you need is someone who can sell you!
If you use a name as a referee, ensure that you’ve told them you’re applying for the job. Email them and say “I’ve applied for a role at X school, it’s a year 2 and 3 role, just a reminder I did that year 3 placement at your school.”
7. When you get to the interview, take a deep breath
Our interview advice is, first of all, to take a deep breath. Don’t rush, take your time, think about the question, ask them to reframe the question if needed. Don’t waffle, answer the question then move on. It’s perfectly okay to take in some notes to the interview to refer to if you forget anything. Try hard to answer the question by reflecting on your own experience and making links to the question if you can. But it’s also perfectly okay to acknowledge your own limitations as a beginning teacher and to admit that you don’t know the answer.
8. Engage your interviewers by engaging with the school
When queried what questions to ask at the end of an interview, one of our Principals recommended using it as a chance to reinforce your connection with the school. Read the school website, use the school newsletter, look at what’s on the website, and use the information pack. For example, if you look online and see there’s been a big focus on Matariki, you can ask questions about how they teach te Reo Māori at the school. You can also take this as an opportunity to demonstrate what you could bring to the school community, for example, asking if the school has a student council. If they say yes, ask how it contributes to the school. If no, ask if you can start one. Anything that shows you’re interested and engaged with the school.
9. Remember that BTs can’t do everything - and that’s okay!
Our Principals recommended that beginning teachers acknowledge areas they need to grow in as beginning teachers and draw on other experiences. As one said, “some people have questions about how to talk up your literacy - that’s far too advanced as a BT, and not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in your relationships and your experience with children. Talk about how you manage difficult behaviours, how you manage difficult children. I’d rather know about that than what you’re going to do in a numeracy programme.” Another suggested drawing on your experience to show how you’ve built relationships and interacted with the public. “Draw on whatever you’ve done, whether you’ve travelled, where you’ve worked, and why you’re interested in children and like working with them”.
What can you do now?