The Resume Revamp: How To Tailor Your Resume For A Job In Education

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Competitive and downright hostile hiring markets in the field of education have made landing an interview for the teaching profession more difficult than ever. It all comes down to your first impression on paper. Getting your potential employer to notice your skills and experience is all about planning and marketing. Here are the tips and the tricks that will get your resume to the top of the pile, and get you to the front of the class.

Tip # 1: Know yourself

Invest time in figuring what it means to be a participant in your profession, and more importantly, where your strengths and weaknesses lie in this sphere. Since it can often be very difficult to find our weaknesses (being too hard working, or being a perfectionist are not honest weaknesses), it is a good idea to ask people in the field who you trust, and who know you well, for their honest opinion.

Planning Tip: Consider categorizing your work and learning experiences, as well as the skills which you gained from these under main headings, and market those areas in which you are strongest. Suggested headings include: analytical, creative/artistic, communication, data management, leadership, organizational, physical, and technical.
Marketing Tip: When describing your skills and experiences, avoid using cliché terms that vaguely address your actual competency. Phrases like “excellent communication skills”, “strong work ethic”, and “personable presenter” don’t clearly express your expertise, and undermine your abilities by using vague qualitative terms that are hard to quantify.

Tip #2: Know your potential employer, their strengths, and their needs

When a school or school board is interviewing candidates, they often have specific positions in mind. Be aware of what exactly the employer is looking for and use your resume as a way to promote how your strengths and experiences can help supply what is lacking. A general resume fails to address this key factor by providing a little bit of everything, rather than a lot of what is being sought out.

Planning tip: Most employers look for skills in 4 key areas. Identify the primary categories in the position you are applying for, and market your skills in that area.

  1. Technical: Career specific skills that are necessary to carry out the job (curriculum knowledge, specific learning/teaching strategies, additional qualifications or specializations)
  2. Fundamentals: The ability to communicate, manage linguistic and numerical information, and problem solve.
  3. Personal Management: Demonstrating a positive work attitude, behaviour, responsibility, adaptability, and desire for professional development.
  4. Teamwork: Having the ability to collaborate, lead, and co-operate within a variety of settings and tasks.

Tip #3: Know the current climate

Be knowledgeable not only about the position, but also about where the position will be filled. Be aware of the school or school board, their mandate and their mission statement, and echo them in your Career Objective at the top of your resume. Also, consider external factors that could affect your teaching practice (i.e. geography, demographics, or recent infrastructure changes to programmes or curricula), and adjust your experiences and skills to reflect competency in dealing with these possible conditions.

Marketing tip: Keep your ear to the ground and be in tune with the relevant issues and changes that your potential employer is dealing with. Watch the news, visit school and school board websites, and be sure to address the most current changes and initiatives being made by your potential employer by emphasizing how your practice support their efforts.

Tip # 4: Being seen is all about being heard; just make sure to use the right voice

The style in which you write is just as important as what you are writing. Opt for the active voice rather than the passive voice, and strengthen this tone by starting your sentences with action words that clearly point out what you have done. Remember, teaching is all about doing; your resume should suggest active participation, rather than passive inclusion.

Marketing tip: Avoiding the passive voice is easy, if you remember to talk about what you have done, rather than what has happened to you. Not only will you sound more assertive, but your resume will reflect the control and expertise that employers are looking for. For example, instead of: “Recognized for planning and executing a school wide fundraising campaign,” try: “Planned and executed a successful school wide fundraising campaign.”

Tip #5: Customize to optimize

The positions you are applying for are not all created equal, so why send out the same resume every time? Putting in the extra time to customize your resume allows you to optimize your skill set by addressing the particularities of the position. Your experience and abilities are more meaningful if they are relevant, so make sure that your resume is targeted towards what they need. This is not the time to brag about your accomplishments, so limit your entries to career and skill specific experiences suggested by the job description.

Organizational tip: Use a general resume that includes all of your experiences and skills as a starting point, make a copy and edit it to suit the job description. Update your general resume often to ensure that you always have a current representation of yourself as a professional.

NOTE: Customizing does not mean reinventing the wheel when it comes to content. Regardless of what your potential employer is seeking, your resume always needs to include these standard headings:

  • Personal Information
  • Education
  • Languages
  • Work Experience and Accomplishments
  • Activities and Interests
  • References

Tip #6: Get the “write” look

The layout and design of your resume is like the packaging outside of a product. Though this is a purely cosmetic component, it is important, as it sends an unspoken message about the product; you. Considering that resumes usually only get an initial 20 second screening, having a well organized and eye catching resume could be the difference between the top and the bottom of the pile.

Organizational tip: The OISE Teacher Employment Handbook suggests using this checklist to make sure that your resume layout makes the cut.

  • Is it written in an easy-to-read type?
  • Is it written in font size 12?
  • Is it printed with a laser printer?
  • Is it printed on good quality white paper? (Many letters and resumes are scanned for electronic distribution throughout the school district, good paper will ensure that your resume transfers well)
  • Does it contain enough white space?
  • Does it contain one inch margins?
  • Is it well spaced? (Not cramped or dense looking?)
  • Does it make effective use of emphasis (bolding, caps, and bullets)?
  • Is it no more than two pages?

Tip #7: When you have to send a resume that is plain and simple…

Many school boards and private schools request that applicants submit their resumes and cover letters electronically, or through an online portal. In this case, it is suggested that applicants send plain text documents, to avoid a resume that is fragmented and split amongst various text lines. Most email programs limit the character count to 65-72 per line, so keep this in mind when formatting your content and layout for e- resumes. Also, be aware that bolded text, italics, bullets and many types of font will not be recognized in plain text format. *FYI: The plain text resume (or ASCII resume) is an online document constructed without formatting in plain text file format. In plain text documents, lines are broken up so they won’t run past the edge of the recipient’s email viewer. This was more common a few years ago, when many email providers had length-of-line restrictions. (From Resumes for Dummies) How to: When saving your document, select the “Text Only” option by clicking on the “Save As” command. It will be saved with a “.txt” extension.

Do you have any additional tips for creating a stellar resume for your education career? Share your advice below!

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