Securing your first job in teaching

Every year, thousands of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) enter the job market for the first time.

This should be an exciting period, as each crop of graduates gets ready to put all their training into practice in the classroom. However, looking for your first teaching job can be a challenging process.

In many ways, looking for a teaching job is no different to searching for any other graduate job. But there are unique nuances. Here are our tips to securing that all-important first role.

Plan ahead

You should be thinking about your first job while you are still studying as an NQT. Paul Matthias, national specialist director for Hays Education says:

“We started to make permanent placements for September with NQTs as early as January. There will also be another spike of vacanies posted at the start of June, following the teacher notice deadline at the end of May.”

It can be worth speaking to the schools that you did your placements with (if you had a good experience) to see if they have any vacancies.

Also consider your online profile – today’s digital age mean many candidates will be Googled prior to interview.

  • Are your Facebook and Twitter pages private?
  • Do you have an appropriate profile picture?
  • Is your Linkedin page up to date?

“We started to make permanent placements for September with NQTs as early as January. There will also be another spike of vacanies posted at the start of June, following the teacher notice deadline at the end of May.”

Focus your efforts & your application

Many NQTs will want to spread their CV far and wide to maximise the chance of finding that first teaching job. But such a scatter gun approach can be counter productive. It is quality, rather than quantity that is key.

Take the time to tailor your covering letter to each application, with reference to the job description and ideal candidate requirements. Read it, and read it again. It’s all too easy to send an application that mentions the wrong school, or includes typos and silly grammatical errors. Ask your mentor to read over it for you and make any suggestions.

Peter Smith, assistant headteacher from East Bergholt High School in Suffolk has this advice: “Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want. Don’t apply thinking ‘it’ll be good for experience or anything like that. You don’t want to end up at interview questioning whether you really could work there.”

But be as flexible as you can

In a regionally fragmented market, a willingness to move closer to where the work is available is a real advantage. Around 75% of new teachers who find work do so near to where they trained. But if you’re not tied down, you can target vacancies in areas of high demand: the major UK cities and south-east England are particular hotspots. The wider you cast your net, the more chance you have of landing your dream job.

Don’t dismiss the idea of supply teaching if September rolls around and you have yet to land a role. It can give you a good breadth of experience and insight into your own needs so that, when you do find a permanent job, it’s one that’s just right for you.

Sadia Bashir, a teacher at St Margaret’s Primary School in Manchester, says “Supply gives you a fantastic range of experience, helps builds up your resilience and strengthens your behaviour management skills.”

It can also be worth considering secondary subjects or age groups that are beyond your immediate experience, or indeed teaching abroad. There is a high demand for British teachers in other countries.

In such an early stage in your career, “don’t miss any opportunity to learn from working with so many different teams,” says Bashir.

Everyone likes a show off (within reason)

As ever, it is important to hone your interview skills and polish your CV. Demonstrate the value of what you bring to the table as an NQT. Don’t shy away from sharing what you can do and what you have done – that’s in-class experience, as well as managing any school clubs or other practical experience with children outside of school. Headteachers are looking for new energy and ideas.

Andy Shakos is the headteacher of a large Manchester secondary school and has a lot of experience of interviewing NQTs. “I always say to candidates, blow your own trumpet”, he says. “But that’s not just telling someone how great you are.

“Your application needs to show how you meet every aspect of the person specification, or how you’ll address it if not.”

Once you’ve secured an interview, be positive and show enthusiasm for teaching and your subject. Be confident in your ability and your motivation to teach, but also show awareness and a willingness to learn.

You are not yet the finished article.

Do your research

Schools are vibrant places and you get a real feel for the school when you walk through the door. Make sure that you plan your visit when classes are in session and the children are there, rather than in the evenings when everyone has gone home. Make detailed notes about what you’ve seen on the visit and who you have talked to so you can revert back to them later if need be.

Make it your business to understand the school’s local community and news. If it’s an academy, find out why it became one and the implications. Does it have its own take on curriculum areas? Does it have links with local businesses and how could your teaching benefit from or add to that? This local insight may help you stand out at interview and ask relevant questions about the school and pupils. Be able to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.

Andy Shakos, Headteacher Parrs Wood High School says “I’m looking for teachers with a passion to be with our students. I want to see them demonstrate the desire and resilience to work with young people and understand the school they will be working in as well.

“It’s not about an applicant wanting to be a teacher. It’s about wanting to be a teacher at Parrs Wood and work in a large, vibrant and diverse community.”

It’s all about the right fit

Make it your mission to find the right school for you and avoid accepting the first role on offer if it’s not right. During the interview ask about the mentor structure at the school, get information about what your timetable will look like, and be polite to everyone that you meet.

Prepare answers to the key questions that you are likely to be asked.

  • Why do you want to work at that school?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you bring to the table in terms of background and experience?
  • What support can you offer for extra-curricular activities?
  • What is your personal teaching ethos and how does it fit for the school?

Finally, if your gut instinct is not happy, listen to it. You should be able to see yourself teaching there in the long term.

You can download and print a PDF of the full guide below.