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Ten Tips for Job Hunters
Offered by LFSmith on the Teacher Chatboard
We regularly see postings here from people looking for teaching jobs, asking about the "secret" to getting one. They generally think that since they are highly qualified and good at interviewing, but they still can't get hired, there must be some mysterious thing that they lack.
There probably isn't. However, I've been on numerous hiring committees, and for the last few years, I've been one of the people who screens "raw" applications that come to the district. Here are ten things to think about:
- Make absolutely sure that your application is mechanically perfect and thoroughly professional. I've seen them written in pencil and even what looked like crayon; I've seen them with smiley faces and hearts drawn on them; I've seen them with coffee cup rings; I've seen them with numerous spelling errors. Those applications go directly into the trash.
- Fill out the application form completely and honestly. The questions are there because the district wants that information. Once, where the applicant was supposed to list past employment, he wrote, "I don't live in the past, and neither should you!" Another time, I was amazed to see that an applicant had been head baseball coach at my old high school; in reality, a friend of mine was the coach there during that time.
- NEVER claim you can do something you can't actually do. For example, if you say you have publications experience, you might end up assigned to advise the yearbook. Telling your new principal that you lied about your experience won't be a good career-starter.
- Unless it is specifically requested, DO NOT send big notebooks of lesson plans and outlines, photo albums of your student teaching classes, video tapes of you teaching, needlepoint samplers with education slogans on them, or boxes of cookies(!) with your application. We toss that junk in a big box and file the actual applications in the folders the principals need to see. If you're invited to an interview that's when you might consider bringing your physical exhibits.
- If you write a cover letter to a district or building official, be sure you spell his or her name correctly. If you don't know it, research online or call the district.
- If you attend a job fair, make a good impression on the district representatives you talk to. When ours give someone an application form, they write a code letter on the back which indicates their first impression of the prospective candidate. You don't want to look like you were stuffed into the trunk of a car and dumped in front of the job fair, but a surprising number of people do just that.
- If a district representative at a job fair gives you a business card, be sure to follow up with a note or call to that person. Everyone who asks gets an application form, but only people who seem very promising get a card. Make something of it.
- When you interview, be professional. Be on time, dress neatly, have everything you were asked to bring, do enough research about the district and building that you can ask intelligent questions, stay attentive, and respond to all questions. I've seen people look bored during interviews and say, "Huh?" after questions. Not good.
- Don't try to BS if you don't know the answer to a question. An interview isn't a pop quiz, and it's not likely that someone with little or no experience will know everything. So, if you don't know, just say so, go on to say something thoughtful about the general issue and indicate a willingness to learn more.
- Don't argue with anyone on the interview team. I've seen people heatedly argue literary theory with English teachers, and I once watched a candidate tell our high school principal that our attendance policy was wrong and she would not enforce it in her classes. Not good.
- Don't apply just anywhere at all; have an idea about whether you really want to be in that town, in that district, at that grade level, etc. Believe me, it's easy to see the difference between someone who just wants a job and someone who wants the particular job we are offering.
It all boils down to being smart about the application and interview processes. If you are, you'll at least be seriously considered for the jobs you apply for. That doesn't mean you'll get them, but you will have done all there is to do.
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