NQT job tips: how to get that first teaching post

Teachers and heads share advice on nailing your application, getting the right mentor and how to make an interview panel fall in love with you. This is from the Guardian…

Eugene Spiers, NQT mentor and assistant headteacher, John of Gaunt School, Trowbridge

Always tailor your application to the school. Too many applications end up being discarded due to lazy errors, so at least get the school name right. Make it hard for them NOT to interview you and in addition to your supporting statement/letter copy the job description and then put corresponding bullet points about how you meet the criteria next to each point.

Ask about the mentor, they are the most important thing. A great mentor is more important than the school in your first year. Try not to give into fear and try to resist taking the first job if it’s not the right job. Also try to get as much clarity about your timetable as possible, teaching your own subject will keep you busy enough so try and avoid teaching something else too.

If asked to do a lesson as part of the interview then keep it simple and do one or two things well instead of doing lots of things badly. Have a plan B in place in case the technology doesn’t work and try and ‘hook’ them immediately. Also use some of the names of the students.

Ellen Ferguson, former teacher and online safety adviser

These days your application form and CV aren’t the only way a school can weigh up your teaching potential. Many interviewers are choosing to do online searches to help whittle down the competition. Irrespective of your shining references, exemplary lessons and super slick interview technique; if a school comes across questionable online content about or featuring you it’s likely that you won’t make the cut. On the flip side, if you have a positive digital footprint featuring successful teaching projects with pupils, it is likely to help you stand out as a candidate.

No one is saying that teachers can’t have a private life. You have as much right as anyone to have an online presence. But, as part of your application preparations it’s a good idea to Google yourself; make sure to check images too. Evaluate your digital footprint, chat with your friends about the sorts of photos you are happy to be tagged in and lock down privacy settings where appropriate. If you are unsure of how to do this a Google search will bring up plenty of step-by-step instructions. It all comes down to control. Always think before you post and check out the UK Safer Internet Centre’s (http://www.saferinternet.org.uk/) website for further information. Good luck.

Peter Smith, assistant headteacher, East Bergholt High School, Suffolk

When applying


• Show what you’ve learnt from your training. Give a sense that you reflect on your teaching and can learn from your experiences.

• In your letter show that you are committed to wider school life – tutor group, trips, extra curricular clubs. Schools want someone to contribute the school community not just in the classroom.


• Claim to be the finished article. Even if you think you are. All new teachers are a work in progress, and should be willing to develop further. If you’re that good your references will tell the story.

• Send a CV unless it is asked for. Follow the instructions on adverts. If it says two sides, don’t write four.

• Write endless paragraphs on your educational philosophy. If you must do one, then use the rest of your letter to show what you’ve learnt and how you’re a reflective practitioner.

At interview


• Remember you’re on interview the minute you arrive. Every person you encounter may well be asked for their opinion on you, so be polite to all.

• Spend time getting to know the school. See an interview as a chance for you to audition the school, as much as how they are auditioning you. Is it right for you? Could you work there happily for the next five years?

• Have an answer ready for “Why do you want the job?” Make sure the answer doesn’t involve a reference to money or the distance to where you live.

• Wear good shoes. That are clean. And match.


• If you have to teach, don’t try to teach someone else’s lesson – it never works. Plan a good lesson yourself and beforehand go through your lesson with a more experienced teacher. Practice if you can with one of your other groups.

• Sit in the staff room all day when not occupied. Get out, walk around, talk to the caretaker/dinner ladies and most importantly the students.

• Take notes into interviews. Let answers be honest reactions not pre-planned speeches

More head and teacher advice at:  NQT job tips: how to get that first teaching post

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