“We’ll done for making it this far, but unfortunately we went with the other candidate”.


“Thanks for taking the time to apply, however we have decided not to progress any further with your application.”


Even writing these words evokes the pang of disappointment from past rejection. Well, their loss anyway!


When applying for roles, our safest bet is to ensure that we do all we can to put our best foot forward.


With the recruitment season for international schools now in full swing, I want to help you land that job. I’ve spent the last few weeks sifting through CVs, covering letters and job applications, and the best of them reveal what candidates can do to put themselves in a good position to be shortlisted. Also, having sat on the panel for numerous interviews, there’s a few tips I’d like to share that I think can help you to succeed at this stage. Consider the process as a game of two halves. The first half involves having a winning application which demonstrates all of your best skills and attributes. At this stage, employers have no idea who you are, so the details on the page should show you in the best light. The second half of the game involves the interview stage where you get to build on your application and really demonstrate your skills, knowledge and expertise.

Top tips for the application process:


  1. Ensure that your covering letter is crafted and tailored to each school. Generic templates will not do here. Show that you’ve done some research about your potential future employer. This could mean making reference to aspects of the school which have attracted you, say for instance its innovative curriculum, focus on academic rigour or any other feature which you feel is noteworthy.
  2. Building on from the first point, a few short paragraphs sparse on details won’t do for a supporting statement. Make the effort to elaborate without being too wordy. Some employers will stipulate a word length. In the absence of this, a minimum of 400 words should be sufficient. 
  3. Proofread your application. This may be a boring chore, but it shows that you have attention to detail and took the time to polish your work. Sloppy mistakes don’t reflect well on your character. If you have challenges with literacy, that’s okay. A school should never discriminate if you have dyslexia or are not a native speaker. If this applies to you, you could ask a colleague or friend to proofread your application before submitting. 
  4. Ensure that you state any gaps in employment. It’s fine to have gaps, but don’t leave employers suspicious by wondering why these gaps were not stated. A real human is reading your application and they are making broad judgements based on relatively small details. Take out the guess work for them.


Hooray! If you’ve been shortlisted and selected for interview, here’s how you can nail this process:


  1. The Irish writer, Oscar Wilde remarked, “be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. This is a great attitude to possess when interviewing. By all means take it seriously, but relax. Allow your personality to shine through. If they don’t like you for who you are, then so be it.
  2. Demonstrate your passion for the role. Be ready with a few examples of how you’ve made an impact, or a short summary of your raison d’être. I can recall a successful candidate who gave a powerful summary of what drives him to be a great teacher day in day out. 
  3. Enjoy the process. As ridiculous as this sounds, particularly for those who experience high levels of anxiety in formal situations, attempt to enjoy it. This may be a case of mental reframing. Replace ‘I am dreading this interview’ with, ‘I am going to enjoy this conversation with my future employer’. Smile!
  4. Have a few questions for the panel members. Although this isn’t a requirement, I think it shows a little curiosity in candidates and demonstrates an inquisitive nature. 2-3 questions is more than sufficient. 
  5. The final tip is a huge must! Ensure that you know about safeguarding structures. This can literally make or break an interview. With safeguarding being a top priority in any institution where young people are present, failure to understand basic safeguarding structures is a red flag for employers. You don’t have to be an expert, but at least understand basic lines of reporting, whistleblowing and making rudimentary assessments of scenarios.


If you are currently looking for a new job, I wish you the very best in your search. 


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