For the past two weeks, this has been on my mind as I have received applications for the position that is open in my department. I’ve spent more time on the other side of table applying for jobs than choosing who should get a job. I have great sympathy for the people applying for this job. Searching for a teaching job is very difficult and it takes a lot of perseverance and stamina.
When I’m looking through there cover letters and resumes trying to decide who should be brought in for an interview, I can’t help but think of the almost hundred time that I didn’t make it through this step. I remember thinking, if they only give me five minutes to talk to them and three minutes in front of a group of kids, they would see that I was the right person for the gig.
The funny thing is that now that I’m on the other side of the table I want the same thing. I would love to chat with each person for five minutes and see him or her in front of kids for a couple minutes. That time would tell me far more about who they really are as a teacher. However that’s not the system we live in and practicality prevents us from actually choosing candidates this way. Instead we read cover letters and analyze resumes. I realized that I had to stop getting frustrated at what this process was not and embrace it for what it is.
A cover letter is an expression of care and desire. If a cover letter is carefully written and personalized to the school then it shows that he or she is a conscientious professional and took time to learn about the position. On the flip side, misspelled words and cover letters that are clearly not personalized to the school show a lack of care and interest in the job.
A cover letter and a resume expresses what the candidate values and feels is important in teaching. These documents also express what they think the school values. If they write in the cover letter that they have won a lot of competitions, this tells me that they value competition.
I would prefer that candidates are real and express not what they think I want to read but what they actually believe about teaching. This is really difficult to distinguish in a cover letter, which is why you can’t base all of your decision-making on those couple paragraphs.
The resume, oh the resume. There are so many articles out there and tutoriasl on how to make a good resume. After sorting through resumes this week, here’s things that I’ve noticed
- Four pages is too long. Two pages maximum.
- I don’t want all of your job experience. I want to see relevant experience. If you have taught for ten years, your high school jobs are no longer relevant.
- Don’t be creative in your formatting. Clarity is the most important thing. No fancy fonts or weird borders. Have clear headings, concise descriptions and dates.
- Tell me about yourself. I find it interesting when people tell me about their interests and activities. This is a nice reminder that there is a person behind this resume and shows that you are well-rounded.
This is really fascinating and exciting process. It’s difficult and I wish I could help each one of these candidates find a job, but the reality is that not all of them would fit at my school.
The next step is going to really interesting. I'm not choosing which candidate makes it to the interview by myself. We're going to do this as a music department.
More on that next week . . .