My top teacher tips for landing your first teaching job

So, you are coming up to the end of your degree and it’s that DREADED, totally EXCITING time, where you begin applying for teaching positions! Or maybe you are still completing your teaching degree but want to get ahead in finding a job? The big question on every grad’s mind …


BFF, you are not alone in wondering how and where to start in this crazy process. The first thing to know is that everyone goes through this at some point regardless of their career or study choices and there are people like me with years (too many to count) of experience to share.

With that in mind, today I’ll be sharing my top tips for applying for teaching jobs – from someone who has applied for many jobs, made some mistakes and also learned a lot along the way.

5 tips for applying for your first teaching position

Chantelle reading a book about teaching.

1. Hold on to your resources from uni or college

My first tip is to keep EVERYTHING! You should be keeping everything that you have accumulated over the years you have been studying and holding onto all the work from your student teaching rounds. I know us teachers like to hold onto things (and may have the potential to hoard) but seriously… It's for good reason!

Create a folder/binder with all your bits and pieces – practicum reports, letters and cards from students, work samples, lesson plans you have taught and/or created, reflections and any teaching resources that your supervising teacher has given you.

Take photos of your classroom displays, students’ work samples, and student activities and ask your supervising teacher to take photos of you whilst you are teaching and keep them in a safe place.

This will become more clear as to why, later on in this post…

A digital portfolio

2. Create a portfolio

As well as a resume and cover letter, you also should create a portfolio. Your portfolio is designed to reflect YOU and can assist you in the interview process with practical examples of your work. Some teachers choose to create a digital portfolio, while others prefer to create a physical folder/binder.

I chose to create a folder when I was at uni, however, in recent years I have used my iPad to create a digital portfolio.

The front cover of Chantelle's first teaching portfolio
My very first portfolio way back when 😂

3. Key selection criteria (KSC)

For those of you who are familiar with the key selection criteria (KSC) required to apply for teaching job openings, you will know that it is not something that you can create in one go or even one weekend! Allow yourself PLENTY of time! (I know it’s painful but it’s just one of those things.)

It took me WEEKS to perfect mine. But never fear, once you have completed it, you will be able to use it for years to come as the questions very rarely change. Plus, as you gain more teaching experience, you will have more to add as you grow from a graduate to an experienced teacher.

Don’t forget to alter your KSC to suit the school you are applying for.

Selection panels DO NOT want to read generic KSC, nor do they want to see that someone has accidentally forgotten to change the name of the previous school they applied for.

Do your research

When you’re applying for teaching positions, be sure to have a long look at the school’s website. Read their mission statement. What is the school currently working on? Do they have any programs that make them unique? Refer to this in your cover letter or KSC. Tell them that you are excited at the prospect of working at their school and implementing such programs as you have had experience with this before, or that it is something that you are interested in.

Don’t be afraid to use dot points

Think of the person reviewing your application. Reading large slabs of information is tiresome and difficult to scan for key pieces of information. Make your KSC stand out by putting keywords in BOLD or using italics and break up information with subheadings. Dot points are great for listing examples of how you have achieved each standard without overloading the reader.

Proofread it!

Or get someone else with a fresh set of eyes to go over it a few times before you send it. There is nothing worse than someone addressing their cover letter: ‘To the principle’ instead of ‘PRINCIPAL’ 😳​

Don't copy your friends

When applying for teaching positions, you want your KSC to stand out from the rest. Make it unique! Make it YOU! Talk about YOUR philosophy and experience and what YOU believe in, not your mates!

Remember, you are very likely to be applying for jobs in the same region as your uni mates/teacher friends. You don’t want to get caught out with the same KSC as other applicants. It’s not a good look and more than likely won’t get you through to the interview stage.

4. Go on a tour of the school you’re applying to

Ring up and ask if they will be conducting any school tours, before the KSC is due. This is a great opportunity to meet the principal or AP in an informal setting and find out more about the school. It also allows you to eliminate the school if you don’t like something about it.

Recruiter looking at a portfolio

5. Nailing the interview

Well done! You’ve made it this far. At this point, you have received a phone call asking you to come in for an interview. Apart from the obvious, (dress smart, turn up early and BREATHE) here are some tips to help you get prepared:

Take something with you; an iPad or portfolio

It’s often easier to talk about something when you have it in front of you. This is where your portfolio will come in handy. Bring it with you to the interview and refer to it when appropriate.

In one of my interviews (many moons ago), I used my iPad. Prior to the interview, I created some folders with photos and examples of each key area and referred to it when questions came up. This is why taking photos and keeping everything is so important whilst at uni.

Create a list of possible questions and record some answers to them

The interview questions you will get asked are usually very similar to those that you have just answered in your KSC. There will usually be one about Assessment and Data, Literacy and/or Numeracy, Behavior Management, Differentiation and catering for the varying ability levels in a class and then some more personal ones like ‘What are your strengths/weaknesses?’.

Write down a list of possible questions potential employers will ask, record your answers to them and listen to them back. This will help cement your answers in your mind. Chances are, you will be asked them on the day and you’ll feel better prepared to shine in the interview.

Have examples ready to go

As you prepare for the interview, think of scenarios and examples that you have had for each of the question areas and write them down. This will come in handy later on and will minimize chances of you being put on the spot and drawing a blank in the interview room.

Ask questions – better still have one ready to go

This is your time to show the panel that you REALLY want this job and you have done your research. Talk about things you have noticed on their website and from your tour and ask questions about them. Show you care and demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in working at their school.

Prepare some questions to ask in your interview

And finally, when applying for teaching positions…

Be YOU and don’t give up! It may take you 5 tries or it might be more than 20, but I promise BFF, it will be worth it in the end. And while rejection is hard (I won’t sugar-coat it, it truly sucks) I encourage you not to be disheartened. 

If you feel like you’re getting nowhere – like not getting to the interview stage – chances are you need to take another look at your KSC and give it a tweak. If you have some friends already in teaching positions, ask them to have a read of your application and get some feedback. It’s tough competition out there. 

Remember, for each position, there are probably an average of 50 or so applicants, so that is all the more reason to personalize and make yours stand out!
Good luck! And please, DM over on Instagram with any questions you have about applying for teaching positions – I am happy to help!


My top teacher tips for landing your first teaching job - Miss Jacobs Little Learners

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