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#1 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 04:08 PM

This seminar is initially intended to provide ideas for people looking for posts offered on the main pay scale. In particular it has been suggested as a result of the growing number of posts on the forum that ask about the application process, selection procedures and what to expect on the day of an interview. Much of the content will be generic enough for trainees to take away and apply to the posts that they are considering applying for, and hopefully the same will be true of advice offered about things such as interview lessons etc.

Ok then, what does a school want and how do you deliver that in your application letter? Obvious though this may seem, the first place to look is the application pack (you'd be amazed how many applicants clearly haven't read these!)

The subject specific bits:

Person specifications - typically these include essential and desirable qualities such as:

- Relevant degree
- Teaching qualification (or impending award of one in the case of NQT posts).
- Understanding of subject specific issues
- Ability to use ICT
- Understanding of things such as specialist status of the school, religious backgrounds, ethnic mixes etc...
- Ability to work with and motivate students
- Ability to work with other staff in a team
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Able to to work under pressure

Other information:

The description of the school contained in the pack MUST be read REALLY carefully. It will contain information about the schools strengths, areas for development and of the courses that they offer - both examined and otherwise. Look at the extra curricular opportunities, the results, the mission statement and try to get a feel for the place. Check the schools website and any recent Ofsted reports. That way you'll know if you want to work there!

Thats just about everything that the school will have made available. Everyone applying for the job knows all of this, so what will make you stand out? (NB: Just dealing with the letter at the moment)

I'm simply going to offer a couple of things I look for before asking other people to contribute their thoughts about what makes a good letter of application.

- Tailor it to the school. Standard letters often stand out a mile and don't impress.
- Give examples of what you can offer and your own ideas. Talking about 'my mentor helped me work on...' is pointless.
- Make sure you address it to the right person!
- Spell check the letter. (He says setting a bad example of having not spell checked this post).

Ok - there are loads of things to take into account here and I don't want to try and work them all out. Over to you for your suggestions. the ideas of trainees who are applying for jobs are welcomed as are those of people who have to read them at the other end!

#2 neil mcdonald

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 06:22 PM

Tailoring your letter to the job description is critical - too much generic detail and all the hard work will count for little. Try to put yourself in the mindset of the person looking through the applications - what would be the best thing you could say to stand out?

When I started in my present post as a HoD I had to look at potential candidates for a post becoming available within the department. Looking at the job description and cross referencing that with the letter was my first port of call. The generic letter fell by the wayside which might have meant a good candidate being refused an interview - all because the letter did not seem to be focused on the job at that school.

I have always read the job details and then looked at the school website to see what the school goals are. Playing to your strengths is critical - really play on these (especially when they feature in the job spec).

Research is really effective - do the google search, if it is local - have you seen the schools in the news - what for? Sometimes that little bit of knowledge is the key. My first post was at a privately run state school with pretty much all new staff yet I did not know this. Finding out that at interview was a shock but thankfully did not make much of a difference.

Theming sections is a good idea just so it makes reading it easier. I have always tended to make my paragraphs follow a particular theme such as reasons why, move onto teaching experience, philosphy of education, other whole school experience, professional developments such as ICT.

By doing this I intended to allow the reader to gain an insight into the way I taught and saw myself working within a department, but by placing my strengths (ICT etc) towards the end I made the decision to make sure these aspects played on the reader's mind more towards by being more memorable, after all everyone is going to say why the want the pist for the same reason (I think!).

Edited by neil mcdonald, 06 April 2005 - 07:45 PM.

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#3 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 11:09 AM

Thanks Neil.

Doing these things will help to make your letter stand out. If you want the job - it needs to. Many posts have over a hundred applicants and these simple but easy to forget things will help to make sure that you're on the right lines.

When you've written a letter of application check it against the criteria that has been given. Have you met all of the essential areas? Have you shown that you meet most, if not all, of the desirable areas? A further check would be to see if you've given a firm example of how you have done this in the past - for example if you're proving that you use a range of teaching styles, you may have briefly outlined one of your lessons.

The other major part of the application is often the CV (I say often as some schools don't accept them). Tailor these to the job as well. Make sure they're not too long, 2 pages is often cited as being the longest either a letter or CV should be. Select the things that are most relevant - your cycling proficiency badge, no matter how greatly you value it, ain't going to impress a headteacher that much!

Other ways of getting yourself noticed:

Some people send in small portfolios of their work. The best method though is quite simple. Ask if you can visit the school. Being seen to be interested and getting involved a bit, even if only for an hour or so, will stand you in good stead.

What else would people recommend for preparing applications?

#4 Stephen Drew

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 06:04 PM

I thought I would add a list of the things that impress me when I read letters of application.

1) Evidence that the applicant has actually taken the time to find out about my school. An applicant who cannot be bothered to tailor their letter or CV etc to the specific school is unlikely to be willing to actually make all that extra effort that the school wants from their new teacher.

2) Comments which show that the school's prospectus and website has been visited, understood and referred to. If you are prepared to try and fit in from the off, you are more likely to be able convince the school that you will be able to contribute to their ethos and development.

3) Words which show a real passion and energy for teaching and learning in the modern school environment. If you love your job and are as enthused about teaching in the March of your PGCE as you were in the September, then find a way of saying so. Schools want energetic and keen new teachers. Obviously you don't want to come across as a bit mad, but energy and passion are real selling points.

4) Comments which show a willingness to contribute beyond the teaching in the classroom. It is perfectly possible for a PGCE teacher to show they have been involved in something at their placement schools. If you are a rugby / football / netball etc. player or coach, then say so. If you are into D of E type things or have a muscial talent then make sure you say so. It could differentiate you from another candidate for the job. Whilst you don't want to be offering to work for the new school for 24 hours a day, if you want the job then you have got to be willing to offer them something extra.

5) Some mention of a modern pedagogical or philosophical teaching issue which shows an appreciation of the debates in education. This does not have to be profound or show that you are able to lecture the entire staff on the issue, just a sense of knowledge will do at this stage! If your PGCE tutor or your in school mentor talked a lot about something or you read about in Teaching History etc. then perhaps you can refer to it and give an example of how you have used it. Assessment for Learning is a real hot topic at the moment - refer to it and be ready to talk about it in practical terms.

And a final related to something that happened with my current job. Read the most recent Ofsted report for the school. Pick out the key details and see if you can work something into your letter. The Head or person who reads the letter should have read the Ofsted report and have the key bits burnt into their brains. If there are weaknesses identified in the department you are applying to, or in the school as whole and you think you have ways of developing these areas, then say so. Obviously you are not going to say "In your Ofsted report of 2003 it says you are crap at teaching Gifted and Talented students. Well, I am great at this so give me the job". Clearly not a good approach, but something more subtle such as:

"In my second placement school I was involved with a program to support Gifted and Talented students in the Humanities. I worked with ....... and did this ......"

Things that like make people sit up and take notice of you.

Finally of course the obvious one is:

BE HONEST AT ALL TIMES - YOU WILL BE FOUND OUT AT SOME POINT!
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#5 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 07:07 PM

Having been at the sharp end of both looking for jobs and appointing history teachers in the last few years I have to make a few points that you might want to consider.

1) Last year in the north east there were fewer jobs in teaching history available than I can remember at any point in the last 10 years so my college was getting entries from some of the very best pgce students and other teachers that needed work at the time. (we had 13 applicants for a one term job!!)

2) To sort the wheat from the chaff we had to be ruthless. Anything that didn't look well prepared or that even seemed to know nothing about the college was thrown out. We had 2 people make pre interview visits for a look around (you can do this!) and if nothing else it gave these people a head start as they were ready for interviews on the college and what they could add to it.

3) Some of the letters of application really suffered from "I strain" and some ran onto 3 pages (which I probably didn't even finish reading as I'd got the gist by boring page 2) so nothing too long BUT something that really sells you. Make sure you tell me all the things you do, have done, would like to do etc and really show your enthusiasm, not just to working with my department or college but your love of the subject.
I'm good at getting interviews but very poor at the hardest part of getting the job but I had colleagues check my letter of application over for their honest opinions and it really did help me hone a letter down to about a side and a half of A4.

4) When you look at the job spec you must tailor your application to show you fit the school or college's requirements. It's already been said but you could have a chat with the HOD about what sort of person they're after first then write the letter!
Check your references and give them an insight into the sort of things the place you're applying to are looking for so your referees can tailor their references to suit the post and help you get the interview (I'm not saying lie, just make sure that you appear to be the best candidate both on the form, in the letter, on CV and in your references.)

I think it's fair to say that this whole selling process you get involved in usually (but not always) saw me know in advance who would get the job before the interviews took place because I felt I knew the person and would like to work with them before we met. The key for these people was to get the application right.
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#6 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:19 AM

The selection Process

Is there a more unusual selection process for any career than the one we put ourselves through in our search of a job? Be prepared for a very contrived, artificial day in a weird process where youíre likely to be stuck for a long period of time in a room with all the other people who want that job, the same one youíre applying for!

Although there are numerous variations in the process there is a sort of standard procedure that each day follows
1) Meet with the bosses/ senior managers
2) A tour of the school
3) Interview routine

There may be other parts to the day where youíll have to teach a short lesson, lesser one to one interviews with staff, meetings with governors etc but Iíll concentrate on the basic features and hopefully provide some useful advice on the whole rigmarole of getting yourself a job.

Firstly a few points. This is a two way process. You get to look around and ask questions about the school or college and decide if itís somewhere you really want to work and they get to pick someone to fill their post to the best of their needs. You will be watched and on display for the full day, so no picking your nose!

(Now, a very personal point! Something I hate!)
Donít get desperate! The one thing I always hated were those who were fawning or laughing like a hyena at the half joke thrown out by the Head teacher. If for your own sake, have some dignity and donít look too desperate for the job. Chances are you wonít get it! It shows in the way you carry yourself, the things you say and how you behave.

(Back to the main focus!)
Treat the whole day as a learning process. Use it to find out more about how schools do things and get ideas, collect materials, swap experiences with the people who are on interview with you and the other history teachers at the place. Be ready to learn how you can do things differently and take as many positives out of the day as you can. Iíve been to interviews where there were 8 of us lined up for 1 job and even then there was a clear bias from the managers of the school for their PGCE student so I knew I was otherwise effectively wasting a day.

Iíve walked out of a number of interviews because I didnít want to work at the place I was looking at. Thereís nothing wrong with that. Youíd be mad to take a job where youíre going to be miserable or unsuitable and youíre doing the school a favour if you walk out because they wonít be stuck with you!
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#7 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:20 AM

Preparation for your day.
As Iíve said before youíre on display all day so make sure youíve got a good idea of what the school or college is like. Check the departmentís Ofsted report, read the school prospectus or website, have a look at the exam results, ask others who might know about the place but doing your research will pay off as you can tailor your answers and questions throughout the day.

One colleague tells me she goes on preparatory visits, to get a feel for the place and watches the students before the start of the day to see what they are like. She also told me she carries a set of crib cards prepared in advance in her bag of things she wanted to say, questions she wanted to ask and answers to the generic questions that always seem to be asked.

Wear something you look smart in and feel comfortable wearing because youíre there for a full day and nothing should distract you from your big day. One guy came for interview at my old place, looking like a tramp with a scruffy jumper, filthy trousers and my boss wanted to send him home before heíd even started the day. Indeed if heíd not travelled 350 miles for the interview heíd have been on his way before heíd had a tour of the school.

Arrive on time and have everything youíre going to need with you. Now youíre ready.
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#8 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:20 AM

Part one Ė Meeting the management.
The first and most disturbing thing is to walk into a room where there may be another 5 or 6 other people all there for the same job as you?? A bit of polite chit chat and then the managers are there to go over the basic course of the day and to explain what the ordeal youíre facing is going to be. Generally itís a bit of a chat from them to sell their school to you and a chance to explain the nature of the post youíre up for.
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#9 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:21 AM

The Tour
This is my favourite bit. You get the chance to wander around the place, preferably with a few carefully selected students to see what itís like. I used this as my chance to find out about the college from the studentsí perspective and used what they said about history and their opinions of the college in my interview. This is often where you can find out whatís going on, what the kids will be like to work with and anything you should be concerned by, like the Head of Humanities sitting idly by helpless as kids wrote 4 letter words on his whiteboard (I didnít stop long after that!) or the classrooms locked to keep the kids in! You get to meet the people youíll be working with, or who youíll be replacing and hopefully spend a bit of time in the department to find out a bit more about what goes on there. Use it well, have a good mooch about, ask questions that you want to answers to and listen carefully to see what people have to say because there may be opportunities to talk about what youíve heard in your interview.
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#10 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:22 AM

Spare time.
Get out and meet the kids, go for dinner in the canteen, have a good look around the place, check out the departmentís resources, schemes of work etc and find out more. You can use this to nick ideas, see how topics are taught there, see what their assessment techniques are etc. I used this time at one place to see what the head of department was like as heíd been mysteriously kept away from us. Half an hour later and I was driving my merry way home, thinking about the lucky escape Iíd just had (I must just be a bit picky or unlucky in this area!)

Now remember you are on display ALL DAY, give a good impression by being able to show what you know, have done, can do, would like to do. Largely this is where the real selection process takes place. The interview is the chance to sell yourself to the various managers, governors, councillors, officials who will select the person they want to teach or lead history at their school. Donít slag the place off! These people are proud of their school community and want you be impressed by it too. You see places for improvement and opportunities, not waste and ruin.

The people Iíve selected to work with me have all brought portfolios of work (very impressive folders of worksheets, photos, documents and examples of their work with classes) to show what they do and what they can bring to the school (again a bit of research allows you to tailor it to the schoolís requirements). Whether you give it in at the start of the day or during the interview is up to you. I do know that we used these portfolios to select our candidates when there was nothing to separate them in their interviews and I think we made a few excellent choices when we did review these portfolios (Hello Rona and Dave!). Get someone to check your portfolio before you go.
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#11 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:22 AM

The Interview
There are a number of stock questions that are always asked, that you can have answers prepared for in advance, for example..

What sort of personality will you bring to ********** School and what qualities could you offer the history department?

Ofsted is likely to make an inspection visit soon, how will you help the department rise to this challenge?

Outside of the history classroom, what else can you offer to the pupils of ********** School?

How can you help raise achievement in the history department?

Do you have any experience of the use of teaching Thinking Skills and how did these work for your lessons?

What other subjects do you feel confident that you could teach?

What would be your idea of a good lesson using IT to teach history? What would you like to use IT to do in the classroom?

What's the best thing about teaching?

What's the best thing you've ever done as a teacher? Why?

How do you engage students in history?

IF offered the job would you accept it?

Do you have any questions youíd like to ask?

There are so many questions you could get asked, these are only a handful! Be ready to be asked about whatever the latest buzzwords are in education and your approach to these (the foundation strategy, discipline, engagement etcÖ.) Donít think youíll be bogged down with intricate questions about the whys and wherefores of the National Curriculum because (in my experience) this rarely happens. If the school teaches AS or A2 then youíll have to be ready to show youíre up to the job of teaching it and if your PGCE experience hasnít prepared you for this tell them youíve read widely and are prepared for the challenge.

Wait to be asked to sit down, relax, this is your moment in the glare of the headlights (I was selected for my current job by a panel of 8 or 9, but Iíve been sat in front of up to 12 people who all had questions for me!)

Donít be negative! Speak clearly and donít ramble. One interviewer was noticeably trying to grab a kip during the interviews! Thank the panel afterwards for their time and remember to shake hands! Make eye contact with the entire panel when youíre answering as this proves youíre talking to them. Be prepared to ask for a moment to get your answer correct in your head before you speak and avoid blurting out any old rubbish because you get scared by silence. Silence proves youíre considering your answer!

At the end youíre always asked, ďDo you have any questions?Ē
Of course you do! This is your chance to impress by making a suggestion of something youíd like to try out and would the school let you or to find out something that youíre unsure of, to prove to yourself that this is somewhere you want to work.
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#12 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 08:24 AM

The most surreal part is sitting in a room waiting for the judgement to be passed down, talking with the other candidates before hearing your fate. Be ready to accept the post with good grace or congratulate the person who got it because at some point it will be you who has to go through this rigmarole.

Always take feedback if you can get it, even if youíre successful. If youíre unsuccessful the advice will come in handy for the next interview and it gives you a chance to reclaim your travelling expenses, if nothing else!

Iím sure thereís loads Iíve missed here but no two interview procedures are going to be the same, often theyíre unfair and at times they feel like the person sitting next to you is definitely going to get the job, you just know it!

Be confident, enjoy your day and remember theyíre a learning experience! If at first you don't succeed.......
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#13 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 07:27 PM

Excellent Dave, thanks.

A few brief additions.

As Dave has noted you are almost certainly going to be asked in interview if you have any questions that you'd like to ask. Whilst Dave is quite right to note that there will be a lot of things that you won't have seen during the day - and therefore questions you'd like to ask - its very important to remember that you can say 'no'. Don't feel that you HAVE to ask a question. Loads of people have ruined their chances by deciding on the spot that they absolutely have to ask something... if you havent got something in mind that you want to find out about, say your questions have been answered over the course of the day and that nothing new springs to mind. Nothing is worse than waffling something out simply for the sake of it!

Make sure you talk to the members of the department who aren't involved in the actual interview and official selection process. Firstly, it'll give you a good idea of what the dept is like. Secondly, they will be involved in the selection process as they'll happily pass on comments to the HoD if they have a preferred candidate (or a 'get rid' candidate). Ultimately these are the people you'd be working with day in, day out. Get to know them as best as you can in the hour or so of relatively informal time you will have with them.

If you are give a tour of the school by pupils remember that these have been hand picked and may be asked what they think. Be interested in them, ask them questions and compliment them on their answers and general helpfulness. If its prefects etc they would be ideal people for management to use to 'test' candidates.

#14 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 17 April 2005 - 10:41 AM

Lessons as part of the Interview procedure.

We've had lots of posts on the forum asking for advice about lessons that form part of the Interview day.

Content is something that will differ from school to school but will generally speaking be either a total 'one off' lesson that doesn't fit in with what pupils are studying or it will be chosen by the department to fit in with their scheme of work. Either way, there are a few important things to remember.

Make sure you find out something about the group in advance. This shows that you recognise that lessons need to be planned with the needs of pupils in the group in mind. Often schools will send out some basic information about the class - 'It's the top set' sort of thing. ask for more - what levels, are there any pupils with special needs, do any of the pupils need enlarged print etc.

Ask what prior knowledge the group will have. If you're unaware of how the lesson slots into their learning, you could end up going over things they understood months ago!

What will the school be looking for in the lesson?

Someone who can relate to pupils.
Make sure that you make objectives and expectations clear at the outset and refer back to them. Try and make sure that you find out pupils names and that you use them. If possible, inject a bit of humour into the session and ask pupils to expand on points they raise. Praise pupils where appropriate and use the schools positive recognition systems if at all possible (ask what they are in advance).

Someone who makes learning engaging and active
Make sure you involve the pupils in the activities. You can then refer to the National Strategy etc when answering questions about your lesson afterwards.

Following interview lessons there are a few things that you can develop- How would the class progress in following lessons? How would you build the lesson into a more developed enquiry? What other techniques would you utilise in that enquiry? (making it clear that you'd do this to meet the needs of all pupils etc...)

#15 DvdHep

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 01:34 PM

Just got H of F interview any advice?




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