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Meeting the challenges: how to land your first teaching job


Becoming a newly qualified teacher (NQT) should be an exciting time, as each crop of graduates gets ready to step out into the world and put their knowledge into practice in the classroom. However, looking for your first teaching job can also be a challenging process.

Around 35,000 NQTs enter the job market each year, but statistics show that in England, 21 per cent of those who completed training in 2011 still hadn’t found a job by January 2012. Huge regional variations also exist. Figures from the Teaching Agency’s annual survey of NQTs in 2012 show that while 66 per cent of NQTs trained in London found permanent teaching contracts, only 25 per cent of those in the North West were in the same position.

At Hays our vacancies vary widely according to subject, with teachers of STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in demand, along with English teachers. However, for certain subjects such as PE, art and citizenship it might be harder to find a job, for every one PE position, we often receive over 100 applicants.

With challenging subjects, like PE and art, it is important to be flexible on location, and also on potential additional subjects that you could offer. It is also worth considering short-term contracts or supply teaching whilst waiting for the right position. You’ve should also consider different types of institutions and schools.

Whilst the majority of teaching posts are advertised from Easter onwards, there is another spike in vacancies after the end of May, following the deadline period for permanent teachers giving notice. This is a real advantage for NQTs as it gives them a really good opportunity.

Three top tips:

  • Carry out thorough research
  • Visit the school – does it feel right? Don’t just jump in.
  • Make sure that your covering letter is personalised to every school showing that you have done your research


Prepare for your first job – top tips and careers advice from an NQT

Stephenie Knight, an NQT who is in her first teaching post at Iqra Primary School in Bradford, also advocates thorough research and a school visit.

To help prepare for her job search, Stephenie took part one of our mock interview assessment day, which was run in association with one of our partner schools in the Bradford area. As part of the process, all participants had a mock interview with a head teacher, a process that Stephenie says was invaluable in preparing her for real interviews.

“Not every school will be right for you. You get a real feel for the school when you walk through the door, so go when classes are in session and the children will be there,” she says. “And as soon as you’ve finished the visit, make notes, about what you have seen and who you have talked to, and include those details in your personal statement. Show them who you are as a teacher, and what you think you can bring to the school.”

Stephenie also advises looking at Ofsted reports and the school’s website so you are aware of the schools specialisms, strengths and weaknesses, and any other relevant information.

“It was incredibly helpful to practice answering questions with examples of your work. It’s easy to quote theory, but interviewers want to know what you have actually done that meets their criteria. They will ask ‘How have you been successful?’”

“The opportunity to get detailed feedback and then discuss answers to questions made for a great day,” said Rebecca, another participant in the Hays mock interview sessions. “The feedback was really useful and highlighted points that I had not considered really valuable. It also gave me a deep understanding of what head teachers are looking for when interviewing.”

Using the STAR technique – leads to well rounded answers

You will find that interviews will all have similar types of questions, covering for example, behaviour management strategies, safeguarding, and monitoring and assessment. For each of these areas you need to think of an example experience that you can comment on. The sessions teach participants the STAR technique - situation, task, action, result – which leads to well rounded answers.

Hays Education

We work with over 4,000 schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK, giving you access to the latest teaching jobs. To help you prepare for the world of teaching – we hold mock assessment days and give you advice on how to write an effective personal statement and how to write an application that makes an impact.
To speak to a recruiting expert to help you find your first teaching job or to speak to speak to consultant for careers advice contact your local office.

Other related articles: FAQ’s for NQT’s