We sat down with Jon Downing, HR Systems and Development Manager for Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, to gain an insight into the main mistakes from potential further education (FE) teaching candidates that he encounters in his role.
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“The main one we get is if people haven’t prepared. I can't tell you how many applications that people just don't spend time on completing; they don't look at the person spec, they don't spend time in doing it.” He adds that the judging from the work history or education “there’s a good chance they’d be a really strong candidate but they just haven't allocated the time to really nail the person specification.”
He mentions that his institution is no different to many in that they are “having a bit of a tough time recruiting for engineering”. He says that “the industry classic is just to send a CV in. So they're expecting that their application process, at that point, is not much more than dropping a covering letter in an email. Whereas, we are asking for more time investment that maybe people in industry are used to”. It is the time investment and showing that you have engaged with the person and job specifications that can sometimes trip up candidates who have come from industry and perhaps don’t have the grounding in the teaching profession.
Jon explains: “We get so many applications where I think people could get themselves an interview and just miss the mark on. And if we get a decent bunch of applications, unfortunately, someone that has made that bit more of an effort, even though potentially they might not be the stronger candidate, but they do rise to the top of the shortlist.”
Once your application for a FE teaching role has been successful, it is but the first hurdle that has been navigated. It’s all well and good being prepared for the best-case scenario, but there are practical elements that need to be considered.
Jon says that at interview stage, the best thing to do is to try and build on the answers they gave during the application stage.
Being detailed in your answer can only be a plus point for candidates. Jon advocates for building substance around an answer, so that the interviewer can be under no doubt of a potential teacher’s expertise and experience. Jon says that “the more they can put meat on the bones with any answer, including interview, the higher they are going to go through the process”.
Being a successful teacher in the FE sector is about managing the inevitable peaks and troughs. It is such a given in the sector that the Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group focus quite a lot of their adverts on it. Providing examples of where a candidate has managed peaks and troughs at university, or in the workplace, are crucial in the interview. And don't be shy in expressing times when things went badly.
The key is to not be put off if you’re not unsuccessful. It may not be a reflection on you at all, it may just be that you were pipped at the post. So persistence is a vital ingredient if you don’t quite make the cut. “If you feel you’re a strong candidate, sometimes there might be somebody there that’s got 20 years’ experience and they get the job and are very good.”
Jon adds: “I wouldn’t be dissuaded. If you were wanting to move into teaching from industry, for example, and one position didn’t become available, I would just get the feedback. If the feedback was ‘I really don't think this career is for you, stick to being an engineer’, if it was really tough for them or the students gave them a bit of a hard time in the micro teach, I get that’s a little bit different!” On many occasions, the interview and the micro teach may well have been very good, just believe in yourself and there’s always next time!