As a recent graduate, applying for your first teaching job marks a significant step in your career. Amid the excitement, it’s common for early career teachers (ECTs) to feel a bit overwhelmed. This phase marks not just a job search but a significant transition from the academic world to the practical domain of education.


In this guide tailored for ECTs, we’ll delve into the intricacies of applying for your first teaching job, offering insights, tips, and additional information to those just starting in the education field.

The importance of self-reflection


Before immersing yourself in job applications, take a moment to reflect. Delve into your teaching philosophy, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and articulate your career aspirations. This self-awareness not only strengthens your job applications but also serves as a guide as you begin on your teaching journey.


Early career teachers often struggle to clearly define their teaching philosophy and goals. Consider what inspired you to become a teacher, what principles guide your teaching style, and how you envision contributing to your students’ development.

Navigating the job hunt


Searching for the ideal teaching position can sometimes be a difficult task. There are several ways to go about finding your first teaching role. Many fresh graduates opt for supply teaching initially, providing opportunities to hone skills in diverse classroom environments and develop confidence before committing to a permanent position. This exposure to different teaching environments is crucial for ECTs as it helps them discover their preferred teaching styles and grade levels.


For those seeking supply roles, recruitment agencies offer a seamless route to find suitable teaching positions. CER collaborates with several Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) across the UK, connecting you with tailored opportunities. To explore our latest teaching roles, visit our job search page. We can find roles that suit your skills and preferences.


Beyond supply teaching, consider alternative job-finding avenues, such as Indeed, teaching vacancies on, Reed, Tes jobs and local authority websites. School websites, social media platforms, and LinkedIn also prove valuable for networking with fellow educators. Early career teachers might find these platforms beneficial not only for job hunting but for establishing connections with mentors or other ECTs, creating a supportive professional network.

Tailoring your job search


While it can be tempting to apply to every available teaching position near you, it’s vital to assess whether the role aligns with your aspirations. Utilise your skills and experiences effectively. According to NEU, teachers are most likely to be successful if the role they’ve applied to is close to the age range or subject area that they have previous experience in. Reflect on grade levels, subjects, or educational settings that resonate with your teaching style.


Early career teachers may find it beneficial to seek advice from experienced educators or mentors during this phase to help navigate the complexities of aligning personal values with potential job opportunities.


Prioritise applications for positions that genuinely interest you to increase the chances of thriving and making a meaningful impact. For ECTs, focusing on roles that align with their professional development goals can set the stage for a fulfilling career in education.

Identify the right school


When pursuing your first teaching role, consider the type of school environment you’d like to work in. Is a small or large school more appealing? Are opportunities for career progression a priority? Align with the school’s culture and assess the availability of high-quality resources, teaching materials, and technology.


Early career teachers often face the dilemma of choosing between different school environments, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities. Engage in conversations with experienced educators, attend networking events, and leverage online forums to gain insights into various school cultures and teaching environments.


Compile a list of criteria and research the school’s mission and values before applying. This knowledge not only helps in deciding on a potential workplace but can be beneficial during interview preparation. For ECTs, understanding a school’s approach to professional development, mentorship programs, and support systems is crucial for a smooth transition into their teaching profession.


Unsure about a school’s fit? Get in contact with the school and enquire about their principles, expectations, and challenges. Early career teachers can use these interactions not only to assess the school but also to gather information that can guide them in their interview preparation.

Customising your job application


Your CV is the key to securing a spot on the shortlist. Highlight relevant experiences, qualifications, and educational achievements outlined in the person specification. For ECTs, this is an opportunity to showcase any specialised training, coursework, or practicum experiences that set them apart. Where possible, incorporate examples from training and other scenarios to give life to your application.


Craft a resume that reflects not just qualifications but also your values and passion for teaching. For tips on crafting a compelling CV, click here. If required to submit a supporting statement, demonstrate how you meet the essential criteria. Successful applications showcase alignment with criteria through knowledge, skills, and experience. Keep it concise, engaging, and make it no longer than two A4 pages.


Identify what sets you apart from other candidates and emphasise your fit for the school and role. ECTs can use this opportunity to discuss their commitment to ongoing professional development, enthusiasm for embracing new teaching methodologies, and dedication to creating inclusive learning environments.

References and DBS: pre-employment checks


References and DBS checks may be requested early in the application process. Be prepared to apply for an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC) through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). If you’re working through an agency, they will process the application form for you. If you have any queries or concerns about the accuracy of the checks, you can visit this GOV.UK page to make a dispute. Be sure to report the mistake 3 months within the date on the certificate.


Provide two references during the application process, with one able to comment on your teacher training experience. Seek permission before including referees in your application. Early career teachers should approach their teacher training supervisors or mentors for references, emphasising their teaching performance, adaptability, and commitment to professional growth.

Submission and post-application strategies


After completing the above steps, it’s time to submit your application. Ensure that you are using a professional email address. After submitting your application, relax and refrain from overthinking whether or not you will be invited to an interview. Use this waiting period as an opportunity to engage in additional professional development. Attend relevant workshops or webinars, and further refine your teaching philosophy.


Use unsuccessful applications as an opportunity for development. It can be useful to request feedback about your application, but make sure you go about this politely. If successful, gear up for the interview using our interview tips. Early career teachers can benefit from mock interviews, seeking guidance from mentors or experienced educators, and reflecting on their teaching experiences to effectively communicate their readiness for the role.


Good luck to all early career teachers throughout their application process!


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