The only problem was, the school districts in my area were extremely competitive to land a job in. Most of the teachers who were able to land jobs had used their network connections. Every position that was being interviewed had over 100 applicants each. Talk about intimidating odds!
Here is what I did...
1. I made sure that I was one of the first to inquire about the job.
For months I trolled the job opening boards of district websites for new openings. The very first day that a position was posted, I would make sure that I had an application profile already filled out with the district and immediately apply. I didn't stop there because I knew that was the same as tossing my hat into a sea of other candidates. I was not about to let my fate rest upon a program that scans resumes for buzz words and cross my fingers in hopes of being picked up.
2. I emailed the person (the school principal) doing the hiring directly.
Here is the catch... on some district websites, the email address for the principal of the school is not available on the site.
Here is a secret to getting that email address so you can sidestep the HR Department's screening process and email the principal (the person who chooses who to hire) directly... Every email address in a company uses a pattern. It might be firstname.lastname @nameofcompany.com or it might be first firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find anyone's email address from the same company/school district (usually you can find a few email addresses of district office level employees on the district website) and figure out what the pattern is. Then, apply that pattern to the principal's email address.
This strategy certainly isn't enough to land you the job, but it is enough to help you cut in line when more than 100 people are applying for the same position. A lot of people just do the online application and hope that their application will get noticed by Human Resources in the sea of applicants.
This email approach is also helpful because a lot of principals have their emails directed to their smartphones, which allows them to read their email at home. So, if you email in the evening after work hours, there is a chance that your introductory email may be read while your future boss is on the couch relaxing and watching baseball.
3. I found out who I would be interviewing with and then Facebook stalked them.
Okay, I know what you are thinking. That is creepy...
When I did get a call for an interview (and I got 5 of them out of the 20 principals that I emailed) I would politely thank the school secretary for calling me and ask "Do you mind me asking whom I will be interviewing with?" Four out of the 5 interviews I was notified of even the names of the people I would be interviewing with. Once I figured out who would be in the interview (reading coach, general ed teacher, sped, assistant principal, principal, etc) I was able to anticipate the questions they would be asking me and the answers they would want to hear.
Also, I was able to look up these people on sites such as Facebook, Linked In and even school website pages to find out their background and learn a little more about them.
Most importantly... I arrived at the interview with pre-planned questions tailored to each individual. So, not only did I have smart questions prepared for the predictable and last "Do you have any questions?" question-- I had a smart and specific one planned for every single person there to answer.
4. I used Kate White's "Go Big or Go Home" philosophy.
I have been reading the career and mystery books written by Kate White (former Editor in Chief of Cosmo) for years. In more than one of her books she explains the importance of either "Going Big" or "Going Home" with everything you do that matters. "Going Big" means doing everything you can to push the envelope and create that "Wow" effect.
The school that I ended up being offered a position at was going to be piloting a "bring your own technology" program when the school year started. Knowing this information I found a Powerpoint Presentation titled "32 Ways to Use an iPod Touch in the Classroom" online, brought printed in color copies for everyone I was interviewing with and offered to do a demonstration lesson during the interview.
I received a call with a job offer while I was driving home from the interview.
I would love to hear from you. What do you do to set yourself apart from the pack and nail that job?