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Applications advice for those applying for international jobs....

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by SMTChina, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. I am currently sitting at my desk wading through the applications for teaching positions in my school that are starting to come through (it's that time of year again) and I thought I would take a break over lunch to offer some sound advice to anyone currently applying for jobs in an international school, as I am seeing some very poor applications (and some excellent ones too!)....I will outline what I expect to see in an 'excellent' application that goes on the 'A' pile and what goes on the 'D' pile...
    Make sure you provide what the school asks for in their application - all schools are different so a 'blanket' application won't wash...if they ask for a 'Letter of Application/Statement/Covering Letter' this is a letter (NOT a three line email), addressed to the Head/Principal/Director by name, outlining WHY you want the job/are applying for the job/feel you would be an asset to the school in question etc. There is NO excuse to put 'To whom it may concern/Dear Director/ Dear Headteacher/Dear Sir/Madam - this is lazy and again makes your application go in the bin or the 'D' pile. Make sure you look at the school website, look at their educational philosophy/values, curriculum etc., get a feel for the place before writing this letter. Also, if the school asks for a photograph, make sure you have one embedded on your CV or send it as an additional attachment. Contrary to some beliefs it is not for discriminatory, ageist, sexist or racist reasons schoool ask for this - when you have 150 applications that are long-listed spread out on the board room desk and when selecting interviewees and finally interviewing candidates, it is invaluable to have a picture of each candidate.
    Ensure your CV has the following things on it:
    Name, address, age (again this is not for ageist reasons but more for the fact that in some countries it is impossible to get a visa for a teacher above a certain age and it would be a waste of time taking the application further if this was the case)
    Marital status - again we need to know if you are married, have a trailing spouse, part of a teaching couple, have children etc. The most frustrating applications are ones where I assumed the applicant was single but then at inteview they announce they have a wife and two children - all schools have a limit on staff bursaries for dependents and this is a consideration when recruiting for most schools. Be honest and clear at the application stage - it is best for all parties;
    Landline and mobile phone number with all dialling codes (ensure they are correct! - last year I couldn't get hold of a good candidate as they had the wrong number - I kid you not);
    Skype address - many, many international schools, including ours, uses Skype video for interviewing candidates that are scattered around the world. Gone are the days of everyone flying to London at a great expense to all parties for an interview in a hotel in Kensington -Skype video is extremely important for most international school's recruitment (we used it for 85% of all our appointments last year). It is a virtual 'face to face' interview and beats telephone interviews which are poor. If you haven't got a Skype address get one - it is free. Get a decent webcam and if possible a USB phone that works with skpe - all in you're talking 50 sterling or cheaper if you are in Asia. It is a good investment. We state that candidates must give their Skype address so if you are applying for a school that asks for this and you don't have one, sign up before sending your application off. Even if you never use it at least you will have one for future use.
    DFE Number/or eqivalent - goes without saying
    I won't go into anything about the structure of a 'good' CV (as in qulifications, work history etc.)as that is another complete posting but if you ensure you have the things I have outlined above at least you are along the right lines in the first stage of application.
    In terms of what I personally like from applicants - it all depends on the jigsaw puzzle of recruitment...I may have my first choice candidate for art married to my second choice candidate for history and therefore I don't appoint my first choice historian...so don't get frustrated if you have a strong application and aren't successful in your applications, even if you thought you interviewed really well...I like to have a good mix teaching couples, families and singles within my school for a balance....I would never not recruit the best candidates just because they have a non-working spouse and have two children....families bring stability to a school and if you have a vested interest in the school as your children attend you often stay longer than a single person. I like a balance of new, young teachers and more experienced, older teachers.
    In short, remember that every school who is currently advertising goes through the same process - trying to find the right people for the right job and balancing the staff room well. It is important when you apply to make sure the school is right for you - don't just apply randomly for every school in China/Vietnam/Malaysia as they will all be different in many ways.
    Lastly, we had over 600 applications for 22 jobs last year in our school so the competition is fierce and getting harder every year as more and more teachers leave the UK/US/Australia to work abroad. As this is the case make sure your application puts you in the running and doesn't end up in the bin due to it being poorly written and put together. Case in point: I have just binned a half-decent application straight away as a diffrerent school was named in the letter of application - clearly a blanket application letter from someone not checking the finer details....
    I hope this has helped..

  2. Jonha

    Jonha New commenter

    Very useful what you have written [​IMG]
    Having said that, I do think schools should also show mutual respect and if they know, as you say, they will not be taking on applicants of as certain age -whether for visa reasons or not - then say so up front.
    Sure, there are hopeless applications and rushed ones as you say, but I would be furious to find out I spent hours writing a careful and detailed application to you, yet it would be a TOTAL waste of my time as I would be binned for age reasons.
    For those applicants who take you seriously, you should do the same. If you don't expect us to waste your time, then please don't waste ours.
    In essence, international schools should stop pretending they are not discriminating or seeking a certain type of applicant - it would, as you also wish from this post, just save so much energy and time for us all.
  3. Hi Jonha
    Glad what I wrote was of some use...indeed it is sad that many international schools are not honest and upfront about the age limit issue - I was stating this from an 'open' perspective as one aspect of recruitment that hinders some schools and why it is important that applicants do state their age on their CV...for the record in China we have no such limitations for getting expert certication for our staff and as I always appoint the best candidate regardless of age, creed and marital/dependents status..though we are quite rare in that respect being so open minded I expect. It is worth remembering as well that the percentage of good/excellent international schools gloabally is probably only 20% of the circa. 6000 'international' schools if your lucky and a school's recruitment processes from the initial advert, acknowledging applicants to informing them of interview outcomes often relect this....
  4. 'globally' that should say before an eagle-eyed contributor corrects my mis-type :)
  5. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    Firstly, thanks for taking the time to make this posting. However, don't you think this is being a little bit precious? In the same way that you are inundated with candidates, some of them may be applying to quite a few schools (and I don't mean using the scatter gun approach). It will have taken them a while to read the school's website, and some time to word the email to which everything has been attached. Although Principals might like to think that their school is unique this is seldom the case. Most good schools will be very similar: good facilities, well behaved and motivated students, considerate and fair management, etc. And so an application letter will essentially be the same. So it is a matter of pragmatism, not laziness, if the letter reads Dear Principal rather than Dear SMTChina. Would you really reject a damn good teacher just because he didn't use your name?
    sabljak14 likes this.
  6. I totally agree and have managed to get interviews and jobs with a 'Dear Sir/Madam'. Of course it is better to use a name where possible, but it isn't the end of the world if not. You know sometimes I am of the opinion that if a school bins my application for such trivial thing then I really don't want to be working for them! You can only imagine how petty they are to work for!
  7. Would I 'bin' the application for not using the Dear Mr Smith - of course I wouldn't...a strong applicant is a strong applicant...the point I am making is what can you do make sure your application stands out and has the best possible chance of succeeding in getting you shortlisted. It takes a few minutes (if that) to find out the Head's/Principal's name for your letter of application. I am not refering to the email with your CV and letter attached as this is normally to the PA or recruitment manager - in this case Dear Sir/Madam is totally acceptable. I would argue that I am not being over picky or precious - think about this - would you apply to a position as an investment banker or laywer in a top law firm or as a suregeon in a top hospital with 'Dear Sir/Madam' - I don't think you would. Old fashioned standards of grammar and correspondence etiquette is fast disappearing in this world of email, sms and twitter. Am i petty to work for - I bloody well hope not and I know someone would tell me if i was! Anyway, was just trying to help people new to this business of internaitonal job applacations...it is just my own opinion and from my experience of being on both sides of the recruitment process.

  8. Anyway reading my last post I can see my spelling is shot to bits after a day looking at Dear Sir/Madam letters so I am going to the pub :)
  9. SMTChina - thanks for your advice and thoughts on the application process...I must say I agree with you completely on the Dear Sir/Madam argument and I don;t think you're being precious or up your own **** ...I had a similare debate in the pub once with my colleagues and this is definitely a 'matter of opinion' thing...but anyway your general pointers will be helpful to newbies applying for the first time abroad and also to some old timers i know who use the same CV style they used 20 years ago haha enjoy the pub
  10. Your advice is very much appreciated and you are correct that applicants should try and be exact. It's just that I despair when I think of applicants who have great experience, superb ability, great references being 'binned' all because of a simple triviality [​IMG] I feel that any school that ignores such a candidate and opts for an inferior applicant all because of this, is a bit, well strange! Like I say, I wouldn't want to work for them but then thats me.
    When looking for a new job (as I am), although keen to be hired I do think it is important to also realise ones own worth. It is a two way process. Presently schools can be fussy. Often, after the fairs are over if schools haven't found a decent applicant suddenly the schools become a lot more interested.
  11. Hi Zokaya1 - indeed any school that would reject an outstanding application and employ a worse one because they used the 'Dear Sir/Madam' need fto be avoided at all costs (I think I know a Head like this actually from my days in the UK - he was a very pretentious man indeed who wore his graduation colours in assembly haha)...what I was actually doing in my original post was 1) being slightly flippant with regards to this particular piece of advice but also 2) trying to make candidates think about how their application looks when put next to the other 599...I am definitely going to the pub now - good luck in your search for jobs :)
  12. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Excellent advice by the OP so why waste time nitpicking over minor details? It's a highly competitive market so leave no tern unstoned.
  13. From the point of view of an applicant ( went through the process again last year and I'm now on International Sch. number 3). The cover letter is invaluable and I've generally found elements of my cover letter were discussed in more detail than parts of my CV.
    The joy of computing now makes it very easy to tailor a Cover Letter to a particular school. I had a standard outline which I then make minor edits to depending on what I learn about the school through the website and through conversations with others.
    I think if you have a clear idea of the type of school you want to work in, this is much easier as you already have most of the 'language' included.
    As the Previous Poster indicated, it's in the best interests of the applicant to create a 'vision' in the mind of the interviewer of what they could expect to see in the applicants classroom. If I were to apply for a teaching post in the UK, I could expect to spend time planning and preparing a model lesson. There isn't the option of doing that in International Schools and so the time must be invested elsewhere.
    hitherejen likes this.
  14. bbibbler

    bbibbler New commenter

    I am with SMT *** on this, if I had to look through 150 applications, I would use a petty excuse to leven the pile of forms.

    I would probably do it several times until I had a small enough pile to deal with.

  15. bbibbler

    bbibbler New commenter

    I am at a loss to understand the word filter on this site.
  16. I used to work for an employment agency years back. I didnt find it that difficult to quickly skim read hundreds of CVs to see whether the applicant was suitable or not. It was easy to throw away the ones that weren't. To throw away applicants on the basis of someone writing a 'Dear Sir/Madam' is a bit much though. Fair enough if two applicants are equal, but come on [​IMG] If your job involves picking good applicants for the benefit of the school then surely a person who is so petty and ignores otherwise good applicants over inferior isn't doing a proper job! Which, as I say is a warning sign to me about that school.
  17. The original post gives excellent advice. If you want a good job you need to put in the effort. I do disagree that maybe 20% of intenrational schools are good to better. I don't think there are many more than 20 I'd want to work in.
  18. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Let's accept, Schomberg (congrats on a great nickname) that you have managed to become truly well-informed about one hundred international schools. You know enough about all these to make a judgement worth sharing and explaining.
    100. A formidable total, hats off to you, centurion. I can only say the same of perhaps 30 schools.
    Of those 100, there are, you opine, around 20 which would be worthy of you.
    That's 20%.
  19. I have a feeling that the OP suggested that 'Dear Sir/Madam' was indicative of a lack of effort because it showed that the person didn't know whether they were writing to a man or a woman. It's not that 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam' are inappropriate, it's just that using both together suggests that the applicant doesn't know the school very well.

    Of course, in a few cases, the school website does not indicate whether the addressee is male or female...
  20. can i ask then, i am applying to an nqt pool, therefore i do not know who i should be addressing it to. should i write 'dear sir/madam'. any help appreciated

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