Applying and Interviewing

Learn more about applying and interviewing for jobs in a private school. Here we'll cover everything from cover letters to interview questions. Get tips on common application mistakes, how to ask good questions during your interview, and marketing yourself.
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It sounds simple enough, but one of the most important things you must do when looking for a teaching job is to make sure your qualifications match the requirements of the position being offered. If you don't make that crystal clear in your resume and cover letter, you might not even make the first cut when your application is opened and reviewed.

Let's look at a typical job posting and review how it should be handled. This is a real job posting. The name of the school has been changed to protect its identity. 
 
Upper School Mathematics Teacher beginning Fall 2013

Job Responsibilities

St Swithins seeks an energetic and committed Mathematics teacher for grades 9 - 12 to teach a range of courses in a comprehensive curriculum offering Algebra I through Calculus. This is a full-time, benefited faculty position.

Qualities of a successful candidate will include:

    * Ability to inspire students' love of learning
    * Enthusiasm for professional growth and academic excellence
    * Passion for Mathematics
    * Commitment to students with all learning styles
    * A commitment to participate broadly in school life
    * Experience applying technology in an educational setting

A Master's degree or Virginia teaching certification is preferred.

Academic Qualifications
Do you have a master's degree? If you do, it should be in mathematics, not classics. But as long as your first degree is in honors mathematics, the master's degree proves that you...
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It's tough enough getting an interview in the first place. So, why destroy your chances by turning up in the wrong attire? Why is the way you look important? The first impression an interviewer has of you is a lasting one. Indeed, many hiring decisions are made subconsciously as soon as the interviewer looks at you.

Dress to the Level of the Job Environment
Teachers are exemplars to the young people they teach. The way you dress sets an example just as your speech patterns do. That being said, it makes a great deal of sense to dress conservatively when you interview for a teaching position.

Men

What Works
The standard classic prep look is always acceptable in private school circles. A blue or white oxford cloth button-down shirt paired with an old school tie or rep pattern is understated and elegant. Add khaki or grey slacks to that together with black socks and a slip-on loafer style shoe and you are all set. If you wear bowties, then do so. Not the big floppy kind, but instead a conservative one in a rep pattern will make the right statement. A blue blazer is appropriate in cooler parts of the country. As a rule you should wear your jacket and only remove it if invited to do so. Your hair should be neat and trimmed.

Now, if at this point you are complaining that you will look like the headmaster, that's the point. You want...
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A couple of common mistakes will quickly move your employment application to the bottom of the pile. You may think that yours is the only application for that math teacher position at Shady Grove Country Day School. Unfortunately, in these very tough economic times, your application will be one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of applications for that coveted teaching job.

Think about how an administrator determines who should get interviewed. She's advertised the position in all the usual places. Every business day she receives dozens of envelopes from applicants. Why should your application go on the stack of applications marked 'interview' instead of the one marked 'reject'? Because when she scans your application, she sees most of what she is looking for. Remember: she's a very busy person. A lot is riding on her choosing the best candidate for the position which she has to fill.
 
Depending on how hands-on a person she is, she may delegate the initial scanning process to an assistant. Assistants can be very diligent and do things exactly as their boss specifies. Or perhaps not. For all these reasons that's why you need to avoid the following common errors.

1. Poor Initial Impression
Never fold your cover letter or letter of interest and the required supporting documents.  Always insert unfolded materials into a manilla envelope. Use a paper clip to keep documents together. No stapling please. On the bottom of your pile of documents put a piece of cardboard 8.5" x 11...
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Applying for a job at a private school is a little different from posting your resume on Monster.com as you would do if you were seeking a position in the business world. One of the things which is different is the presentation of your application materials.

Here are a couple of examples of the conservative, old-fashioned approach to applying for a job most private schools still use.

From Andover:

Director, Mathematics and Science for Minority Students or (MS)2

Applicants should send a cover letter, resume, transcript and two letters of reference.

From Hotchkiss:

Candidates for all faculty positions should send a letter of interest, resume, list of three references, and academic transcripts
 
Preparing the Cover Letter

 

The cover letter or letter of interest is always one page in length. It must be crafted carefully and free of typos.  Follow these guidelines:

 

 

  • Use a plain white paper. This does not have to be a fancy vellum or parchment type of paper.
  • Center your letter perfectly on the page.
  • The letter is typed using Microsoft Word or similar program.
  • Use a plain font such as Arial.
  • The font size should be 12 points.
  • Print the final copy using a laser printer as laser jet ink smudges.
  • Use the address indicated on the school's employment page.
  • Create a customized cover letter for each position applied for.
  • Put the cover letter and your documentation in a large envelope so that you do not have to fold the materials.

 

Here's an example...
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Applying for a private school job has some subtle differences from its pubic school counterpart. Here are five things you must do when applying for a private school teaching position.

1.  Make sure that your credentials are impeccable.  You will probably get looked at for that English position if your degree is in American Language and Literature from one of the better colleges such as Brown, Duke, Stanford or Cornell. If your degree is from Harvard, Yale or Princeton, go to the top of the list. A bachelor's degree is ok, but you better make the right noises during the interview about your plans to finish your master's. Private schools vastly prefer to say that 80% of their faculty have advanced degrees. If your degree is terminal, that's cool too, as long as you are not terminal too.
 
2.  Offer glowing recommendations. If one of your recommendations - and note that most schools will ask for 3-5 references - comes from somebody the headmaster knows personally, that's a big plus. If you are an unknown, make sure that your recommendations are solid, unequivocally glowing ones. Your references must be able to speak warmly and without hesitation during the inevitable phone call which WILL be made to check you out.

 

3.  Be able to coach prep school sports. Prep school sports have their little traditions and rituals. If you know these intimately, your resume will stand out from the crowd. It doesn't matter what the sport or club is which you...
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Jobs in Private Schools

APPLYING AND INTERVIEWING