Friday, 5 February 2021

Job rejections

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There are people, I know, who secure immediately every job they apply for. I am not one of those lucky people. I know as well as anybody the sting of disappointment that accompanies a rejection email. The sting gets worse, of course, the further along the process you get; the most painful rejections come when you've been to two or three interviews with a school, taught a lesson, done a presentation and even started to get to know some of the staff. 

Right now we're in the process of recruiting for roles at Malvern College Switzerland and so I have found myself on the other side of the fence, having to disappoint people. If you're one of those people, I feel your pain; this little post is for you. 

I've tried to list the reasons why people's applications failed to get through to the shortlist stage. This, I hope, will give a bit more insight into the process than the: 'It was a strong field' brush off that is rather too common in job application correspondence, but that helps nobody. 

You may have failed to make the shortlist because your application displayed one or more of the problems listed below. Only a tiny handful of these mistakes are immediately 'fatal' but when placed in a pool of applications without them they place your application at a disadvantage; and that, in a large field, is all it takes not to make it to the shortlist. So here we go:

Things you can fix:

  1. Not following the rubric. We said we didn't want CVs and yet you attached one. We asked you to apply by the TES and yet you emailed us direct etc.
  2. Sloppy spelling or, more common, sloppy capitalisation. This affected more applications than, as teachers, we should be happy with. I think people have become inured to a sort of digital slang that is seen as acceptable on an online form. It leaves a bad impression.
  3. Asking questions like: 'Will my sofa fit in the flat?' before having even been contacted by the school. Questions like this (and I put in this bracket questions about money) give the impression your primary interest isn't the role itself.
  4. Asking questions that are answered in the applicant pack and/or on the website.
  5. Copying and pasting a personal statement that was clearly made with another school in mind.
  6. Writing a perfunctory personal statement of only a couple of sentences in length.
  7. Not writing a personal statement at all and instead saying something like: 'My CV speaks for itself.'
  8. Leaving gaps in your employment history. However long and tedious, this part of the form needs to be filled in assiduously. You're applying for a role in a school, there will be lots of children about, so there's a non-negotiable safeguarding element to this.
  9. Not providing references at the outset. Asking us not to contact them before deferring to you is fine, but leaving that section of the form completely blank rings alarm bells.
  10. Denigrating - even obliquely - a former employer. Maybe they were horrible and you firmly occupy the moral high ground but we haven't met you yet and so for us, it's 50/50. Those aren't great odds.
  11. Leaving other gaps on the application form. If a section really doesn't apply write N/A. A blank leaves you open to the suspicion that you haven't taken sufficient care.

Things you can't (immediately) fix, but that nevertheless, all other things being equal, did factor in decision making:

  1. Not offering the right level of flexibility in terms of additional subjects taught. 
  2. Not having A-Level and GCSE experience (or having less than an otherwise equivalent candidate).
  3. Not having boarding experience (or having less than an otherwise equivalent candidate).
  4. Not having the requisite co-curricular and extra-curricular experience, or not showcasing this sufficiently.
  5. Having a career history that suggests you've moved around rather too often, never staying put anywhere for long.
  6. Not having the necessary experience of KS4 and 5. We had a lot of applicants who were excellent, but had never taught post-16.
Finally, as a startup, we have been very keen to 'get the right people on the bus' as quickly as possible so that we can begin planning for the tasks that lie ahead. This has meant that we have shortlisted for some positions - as we said we would in the application pack - before the application deadline. Annoying though this is, it is just possible that you were a perfect candidate but that we never got to see you because we'd already appointed by the time your application was submitted. Also, the need for some positions diminished, with the recruitment of teachers able to teach multiple disciplines.

So there you have it. Helpful, I hope.


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