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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An employment application is no place for half-truths. You have to understand that private schools have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. They cannot afford to hire somebody who might jeopardize the school's reputation or, worse yet, cause harm to students. That is why it is so important to answer all the questions on an employment application truthfully.
Background Checks
Most private schools will use a service to do background checks on any potential new hires. They will not run the background check until they have interviewed you because background checks are expensive. That's another reason why you need to be truthful about anything in your resume which will arouse probing questions and nix your chances of even being interviewed. Here is what is involved in a background check.
What the background check really examines is your criminal and credit history. If you were charged with a criminal offence or have bad credit, that will show on your background check. Take the offensive and point out that your credit was destroyed by huge medical bills as a result of your mother suffering from Alzheimer's. Don't be creative. Just tell the truth.
Expect a drug test at some point in the hiring process. Since views about pot and even alcohol vary widely from one part of the country to another, make sure those tests come out clean. If you have been prescribed a controlled substance which will show up in a drug test, mention it proactively and file a
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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.


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 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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