»Looking for a teaching job in K-12?

+-Job Search Timeline

Because the school year is fairly standard (with the exception or year-round schools), you will find there is some general consistency to when teachers are hired; however, the following timeline is not precise.  Check with each district in which you have an interest, and keep notes on its process and critical dates.

First Semester of Student Training (Usually fall, but not always)

  • Begin to review websites that contain vacancy postings.  The information will familiarize you with what districts are requesting.
  • Identify the school districts/schools in which you have an interest, and review their websites for information about the specifics of their application process.  Be as geographically flexible as possible.
  • Search for local newspaper articles about schools in your selected communities to help you understand the issues faced by teachers, administrators, parents and community members of those school districts.
  • Identify potential reference writers for your Placement File.  In addition to required master teachers and university supervisors, you may wish an additional letter from a teacher or the principal at your school site (or you may want to wait for your second semester of student teaching when you feel more confident).
  • Create a resume.  It won't be complete (so don't make too many copies), but will be available should you need it.
  • Review this site's section on interviewing and start thinking about how you would answer the questions.
  • Learn about the services of the Career Development Center, in particular resume and cover letter critiques, mock interviews, career counseling, and education vacancy positions.
  • Create a job search calendar and note on it the locations and times of education fairs.


  • If spring semester is your first semester of student teaching, use the list above to get started.  Then, use this section's information as appropriate.
  • Fill out a generic application form (you can download one from a school district's website or use the linked generic form) to have detailed information available when you need to complete an official application for a district.
  • Attend education job fairs to make contact with school districts.  Follow up with notes of appreciation to school representatives you meet, and keep a record of those contacts (and what you learned at the fair) in your job search file.
  • If you are in your second semester of student teaching, update your resume to reflect this experience.
  • Again, consider the people from whom you will request references, and contact them early.  Identify additional references who could be listed on district application forms.
  • Some school districts will begin advertising job vacancies.  If you have researched your preferred districts, you will know whether they advertise through EDJOIN, on their own website, or on another website.
  • Follow the district's instructions for the application.  If you do not have all requested materials, contact the district to find out what their preference is.
  • Be sure to keep your job search file updated with all contact information.

May - Summer - into the Fall

  • This is when school districts begin searching and interviewing in earnest.  Hiring sometimes happens at the "last minute", so don't get discouraged!
  • Make sure your placement file is complete.
  • Contact districts regarding your application status.
  • Make yourself available for interviews (no extended vacations!).  Remember to follow up with thank-you notes.
  • Keep in touch with your network (people you met at education fairs, university faculty and staff, previous master teachers, education conference attendees you have met, etc.).  These people hear about openings and will be happy to convey that information to you.

+-Frequently Asked Questions

What / who are my resources throughout the application process?

Aside from useful websites which provide information detailing topics such as the job application process, teaching requirements, and standardized testing, make sure to use your professors, advisors, career center staff, student-colleagues, and past graduates as resources as well.  Many have a great wealth of knowledge about the process!

What is an Educational Placement File, and how do I go about creating one?

The Educational Placement File is a crucial career file required by many school districts that contains information about you!  Specific components may include:

  • Data Sheet (basic application information)
  • Candidate's Page (your personal statement)
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • College / University Transcripts
  • Your Résumé
  • Find out how to create an Educational Placement File (see below)

Whom should I ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

When selecting references, make sure to choose individuals with whom you have a good relationship, and who know you both personally and professionally.  Your references should be able to give your prospective employer a well-rounded view of you.  You might want to ask a previous employer, a professor, a colleague, etc.  Teachers who supervised you while student teaching are especially useful resources.  Also, if you have letters in your file from five years ago, you might want to have the writers update those letters or replace them with new letters, assuming these individuals are still in a position to evaluate your effectiveness as a teacher.  (Adapted from USC Rossier School of Education, 2006).

How long should my résumé be?

You should limit your résumé to one or two pages. Therefore, you should use as few words as possible to convey your meaning.

What does it take to be a teacher in California?

To become any type of teacher in California, the following requirements must be met:

  • Bachelor's Degree or higher from an accredited university/college
  • Teacher preparation program (e.g. credential program, including student teaching)
  • CBEST Exam
  • Developing English Language Skills (reading instruction course)
  • U.S. Constitution course
  • Subject matter competency (CSET, and college major)
  • Computer technology course
  • RICA Exam (only required for multiple subject & educational specialist credentials)

Where can I find teaching vacancy announcements?

There are four key places:

  • EDJOlN.ORG, an organization which many school districts utilize because it allows them to be paperless
  • An individual district's website (see the School District list)
  • Internet job listing sites (see Job Search Websites)
  • Chapman's Career Development Center (in job binders)

When should I start looking for a teaching job?

Many school districts begin advertising in the early Spring and continue through the Summer and into the Fall.  Of course, you will need to be completing your student teaching when you apply.

What if my Placement File isn't complete when I must start looking for a job?

Most districts won't consider your application complete unless you have submitted all required materials.  Contact the individual district to ask about submitting a partially complete file (i.e., if all your references aren't in).  If transcripts are required, offer to submit a transcript on which you have added the courses in progress (obviously without grades!).

My Master Teacher made some negative comments about me in my reference.  Can I remove the reference from my file?

A missing master teacher reference can look "suspicious" and may be more damaging if the hiring district locates that person and asks for a verbal recommendation.  How negative are the comments?  Are they the result of a misunderstanding?  Have you talked to the writer about those perceptions?  Is the individual simply describing strengths AND weak areas?  Is the reference 'damning?  If so, why?  If you have concerns about a letter, visit with a member of the Career Development Center staff to discuss its content.

How many references should be in my file and how do I decide what to keep or remove?

Most school districts expect to find three to five references in a file.  That's a number easily provided by a student finishing up student teaching.  In addition, you will want to have the names (not written recommendations) of additional people who you can list on an application form, should they be requested.  As you progress in your teaching career, you will add new references to your file and remove the older, less relevant, references.  A file should hold a maximum of ten active references (keep the old ones, just don't mail them), but fewer, well-written references is better than many mediocre ones.

Are Educational job Fairs useful?

Only if you attend!  And, only if you talk to the representatives.  This may be your first opportunity to have direct contact with a district in which you are interested - and a personal contact can get you so much further than a phone call.

It won't help you to just pick up the district's literature.  Ask them what they're looking for, ask about their typical timeline and process, determine if there is a way to make yourself more marketable in their eyes.  Follow up with a note - remember that each person you talk to can be added to your network.

Are there appropriate ways to "network" within the educational community?

Networking is a key job search strategy in any industry.  Making and maintaining connections with other educators can help you learn of district needs and find out about openings.  Education Fairs, conferences, personal introductions, university faculty and staff - all are ways to develop your network.  Pick up a copy of the Networking Guide at the Career Development Center to learn how to incorporate this important concept in your search.

Adapted from the California Department of Education (2004).

Have any more questions?  You may contact the Chapman University Career Development Center, or the Chapman University School of Education for more information.

+-Setting up a Self-Managed Educational Placement File

What is an Educational Placement File?

Most school districts require a file of your references and a record of data regarding your professional preparation before an interview is scheduled.  Typically an educational placement file will include:

  • Letters of recommendation, usually three to five letters of reference are included in your file
  • A transcript. Official transcripts must be requested from the Registrar, but school districts may accept unofficial copies of transcripts in your initial application 
  • Your resume

A Self-Managed Educational Placement File is one that you set up and maintain on your own. You will act as your own agent. You will not place this file with the Chapman University Career Development Center. The following are our recommendations to you on developing your own Self-Managed Educational Placement File.

Instructions for Developing Your "Self-Managed" Educational Placement File

A. Requesting Your Letters of Recommendation
It is recommended that you request three to five letters of recommendation to place in your file.  Ask the school districts to which you are applying how many letters they would like to see in the placement file.  Typically teacher candidates will request letters of recommendation from master teachers, school officials and supervisors, and/or a principal of a school at which they have worked.

Ask your recommender to write the letter on his/her school letterhead.  This is the most professional looking and credible reference.

You should request an original letter of recommendation with an original signature.  Keep these original letters in your file.  This way, you will always have original documents to prove authenticity.  You will photocopy your file to send to the school districts requesting it.

B. Request an Official Transcript
You must contact the Chapman University Registrar at (714)997-6701 to request official transcripts, as well as contacting other schools if you earned a degree elsewhere.  The Career Development Center does not maintain transcripts.

NOTE: Often school districts will accept an unofficial copy of your transcript with a placement file until an offer of employment is made.  At that time you will be asked to request that the Chapman University Registrar, and/or other schools at which you've earned a degree, send an official transcript.  Be sure to ask district officials if it is acceptable to initially file unofficial copies of your transcript.

C. Your Resume
Finally, you will want to submit a professional resume with your placement file when you apply for teaching positions.  The Career Development Center offers resume assistance by individual appointment and through special workshops.  Please look over our "Educator Resume" guide or ask us for a copy.  Be sure that your resume is current and updated each time you submit it to school district officials.

Until your interview, your papers serve as a substitute for you!  Your placement file represents your employment application and your candidacy for a position.  Employers will judge you, before they meet you, by the quality and content of your file.

School District Applications

On many school district applications, you will be asked to write a narrative summarizing your work experience and educational background as it applies to the teaching profession.  You may be asked to discuss your interest in becoming a teacher.  You must "sell" yourself to the prospective school by expressing your personality and intellect in the best possible way.  Some guidelines for writing this essay(s):

1. Explain Yourself
Define in your own mind who you are and why you are becoming a teacher.  Districts are looking for interesting, thoughtful, persuasive explanations of the applicant's choice to be an educator, as well as statements that serve to reveal the applicant and add dimension not available from other sources.

2. Be Specific
Your decision to be a teacher should be logical.  Back up your reasoning with specific examples.  A good essay should make it easy for the reader to ascertain the origin of your interest in the field of education and see growth of that interest over a period of time.

3. Tell a Story
Think in terms of telling a story as you describe your experiences.  Make your statements fresh and lively, and do not bore your reader.  Distinguish yourself through your story and set yourself apart from the other applicants.  Make yourself memorable.  If your story has a good dramatic edge, tell it.  However, do not exaggerate or tell things that are not pertinent to your career in education and personal development.

4. Concentrate on Your Opening Paragraph
Keep in mind that your opening paragraph is, in general, the most important part of your essay.  You must both grab the reader's attention and set up a general framework for the rest of the essay.  Introduce the elements most relevant to the story, as well as those which are most interesting.

5. Tell What You Know
Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field of education and use language professional teachers and administrators use in conveying information.  If you do not know as much as you thought, do research.  Be selective about what you tell the hiring personnel.  Think about yourself, your background, experiences and abilities - as well as what you know about education - and develop a strategy.

6. Review Your Personal History
Review your experiences and life very carefully for facets or experiences that reveal any unusual dimensions, relate to your professional goals, or could serve as evidence of your suitability for teaching.  Get help from family or friends to remember any relevant details of your life that you may overlook.

7. What Not to Include
Do not include references to accomplishments in high school or before unless there was an extraordinary event that greatly contributed to your life's choices.  Do not mention subjects that may be controversial such as religious or political views.  Do not include anything that does not relate to the rest of the statement.

8. Find an Angle
Find a unique angle in your life and use it.  Find a way to relate an achievement or story in your life to your future career in education.  This is a great opportunity to make your statement stand apart from the rest.

Try This Exercise to Help You Get Started
Pretend you have five minutes to speak with someone from a school district.  You must make a case for yourself and hold the listener's interest.  Answer the following questions.

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about your experiences?  What details of your life might help the district better understand you or help set you apart from other teacher candidates?
  • When did you originally become interested in this field and what have you since learned about it that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to teaching?  What insights have you gained?
  • If work experiences have consumed significant periods of time during your college years, what have you learned and how has the work contributed to your personal growth?
  • What are your long term career goals in education?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain? Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacle or hardships in your life?
  • What personal characteristics do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in education?  Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate and more successful in teaching than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the district to be interested in you?

It Must Be Perfect!
It is very important that your application be error free and that it is neat and professional in presentation.

  • TYPE all information 
  • Check all spelling, punctuation and style.  This is key!
  • Do not have stray marks or erasures - use only the designated space.

+-Educator Resume

Your resume is your opportunity to advertise yourself for a teaching position, the chance to sell your skills and qualifications to potential employers.  It is a "snapshot" of your education, student teaching, skills, honors, and accomplishments.  Your resume is also the tool you need in order to secure a job interview.

Types of Resumes

  • Chronological - lists experience and education in reverse chronological order
    • Preferred by employers and recruiters
    • Showcases strong career progression
    • Highlights length of experience
  • Functional or skill resume - organizes experience according to skills or functions
    • Useful for people with little work experience
    • Emphasizes selected skills which are marketable and industry specific (e.g. to elementary education)
    • De-emphasizes dates
    • Not well liked by HR
  • Combination - a combination of functional and chronological
    • Useful for a candidate with little related professional experience
    • Good for career changers and first-time educators

What to Emphasize

  • What teaching position do you desire?  List your teaching area (secondary science, elementary with computer endorsement, etc.)
  • Do you have the education required for this position?  List your college education, identifying academic honors, minors, GPA if over 3.0.
  • Do you have the credentials required by the state?  Do not forget to list your teaching credentials.
  • Are you in the process of obtaining the required state credentials?  If you are in the process of obtaining credentials, list the expected date of completion. 
  • Quick Fact - The largest part of your resume should be detailed information about your classroom experience and additional experience with young people (tutoring, camp counselor, troop leader, etc.)

Resume Sections

  • Identify Yourself - Name, address, contact phone number, college address (include zip code and phone number), and email address (Be sure to have an appropriate voicemail and email address).
  • Professional Objective - Identify the position you are seeking.  Generate an interest by indicating what are you willing or capable of doing (you are most likely to be hired if your objective meets the employer's needs).
  • Certification - in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest) list the areas and level you are licensed to instruct.  Be sure to indicate the state, month, and year of certification.  Include only the certifications that are relevant to the position you are seeking.
  • Educational Background - New teachers should list their highest degree level first. Indicate your GPA only if it's above a 3.0.  Honors you've received can be placed in this section, or if you have several, can be highlighted in a separate "Honors" section. Experienced teachers may choose to place their "Professional Experience" section before educational background.
  • Related Experience - Include experience that directly relates to and supports your objective, teaching.  These experiences can include student teaching, internships, practicums, volunteer work, part-time and full-time positions.
  • Extra-Curricular Activities - Describe campus and community activities and organizations, including your achievements.  Make sure to highlight your leadership experience/skills here!

Optional Sections

  • Professional Affiliations and Activities - This section includes association memberships, leadership positions, conferences and in-services you have attended or presented, and publications.
  • Honors and Awards - List the educational and/or professional honors you've received.
  • Special Skills- Highlight other selling points such as language competencies, computer skills, interests, and talents, which support the position you are seeking.

Writing Style

Use words to demonstrate accomplishment.  For example:
  • Instructed a class
  • Managed a staff meeting
  • Conducted parent-teacher conferences
  • Solved conflicts
  • Supervised a committee
  • Counseled students
  • Chaired a committee
  • Coached a team
  • Evaluated a program
To assist with focusing on your achievements, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What challenge have I faced or what problem have I resolved?
  • What action did I take?
  • What was the result of the action I took?  Example 1:
    • Before:  Used Language Arts, Math, Writing, Art, and Social Studies in developing a thematic unit on "Community."
    • After: Effectively integrated Language Arts, Math, Writing, Art, and Social Studies through the development and implementation of a thematic unit on "Community," providing students with the opportunity to learn through diverse learning modalities.
  • What was the result of the action I took?  Example 2:
    • Before: Managed the classroom using various methods.
    • After: Successfully maintain effective classroom management by establishing clear and consistent behavior guidelines, creating an organized classroom, promoting mutual respect, and making learning exciting through engaging lessons and activities.


For resume production, use the following guidelines:

  • Limit your resume to one to two pages.
  • Use a word processor for quicker editing and revising.
  • Use laser jet quality print, not dot matrix.
  • Use high quality business letter stationery.  Use 20-lb. bond in white, off-white or beige.
  • Use a common font with a professional appearance. Suggested fonts are: Bookman, New York, Palatino, or Times New Roman.

What NOT to Include

  • Date of birth
  • Marital status
  • Photograph
  • Personal data (gender, ethnicity, height, weight, political affiliation, etc.)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Salary history (unless requested)
  • References ("References Available Upon Request")


When indicating references, use a separate sheet with the same heading as your resume.  Use the same paper as well.  List between 3-5 references, including phone numbers where your referenced can be reached over the summer (home phone numbers, home email address).

Helpful Hints

  • Student teaching experiences are of utmost importance.
  • Education resumes can be two pages.
  • Organization is important in formatting.
  • Communicate effectively - stick to the point!  No typing, spelling, or grammatical errors.
  • Be specific! Include measurable statements, if possible.
  • Flexibility and willingness to relocate will be a big factor when seeking employment.
  • Resume handouts are available in the Career Development Center.


+-Interviewing for a job

You have invested a great deal of time and effort preparing to teach. Even the best qualifications, however, will do you little good if you cannot market yourself convincingly to a prospective employer, and each interview is an important encounter in this process.

 How do you stand out in an interview?

  • BE PREPARED - practice interviewing ahead of time
  • Answer the question asked, and answer it fully, but concisely, without rambling
  • Be able to tell the interviewer why you decided to become a teacher and your philosophy of education
  • Identify what makes you unique from other applicants
  • Show enthusiasm, respect, and willingness to listen
  • Speak clearly and distinctly
  • Keep the tone of the interview positive at all times
  • Maintain good eye contact during the entire session
  • Have some good questions to ask the interviewer
  • SMILE!

First Impressions

  • Your clothing: Dress as you would for an important day at school.  Wear clothes that look good and are comfortable so you can forget your appearance and concentrate on the interview.
  • You hair: Make sure that your hairstyle is appropriate for the professional arena - not on your college campus.
  • Your shoes: Your shoes should be clean and polished.
  • Your fragrance: In general, avoid using cologne or perfume.  Many people are allergic to scents, or find them irritating.
  • Your accessories: Avoid anything that jangles, dazzles, or attracts more attention than yourself.
  • Your glasses: Eye contact is important during an interview, so make sure your glasses are clean.
  • Your pen: Buy a fresh pen for interviewing.
  • Your portfolio: You need to manage your portfolio and other items that you may carry in such a way that they are assets, not detractors.

Frequent Interview Topics

  • Classroom management
  • Student teaching
  • Strengths/Weaknesses
  • Teaching philosophy
  • Future plans
  • Teaching style
  • Motivational theories
  • Employment history
  • Lesson planning/design

25 Possible Interview Questions

The best way to prepare for your interviews is to PRACTICE! Participating in mock interviews is a good way to prepare for real ones. You can practice with a friend or with a career counselor. The old saying, "Practice makes perfect," truly applies.  Use these questions during your practice sessions. Call the Career Development Center for more information regarding mock interviews.

  • Why do you want to teach?
  • What is the greatest attribute you can bring to a class of students?
  • Describe your student teaching experiences.
  • How should a student's educational achievement and progress be measured?
  • What do you expect from your supervisor?
  • How and when do you discipline a student?
  • Describe an ideal classroom.
  • How do you individualize your teaching?
  • Let's pretend it's the first day of school and you are a first grade teacher.  How would you prepare your classroom?
  • How would you motivate parents to be involved in the classroom and in their child's education?
  • Describe your philosophy of education.
  • How would you set up an after-school program?
  • Some of your students always finish their assignments early.  How would you deal with the free time that they have?
  • Are parent/teacher conferences important?  Why or why not?
  • Why do you want to work in our district?
  • How would you work with students who perform below grade level, especially those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How would you handle a discipline problem?
  • What would you do if a kid spilled red paint all over your new skirt/suit?
  • What grade level do you prefer? Why?
  • What are the qualities of an excellent teacher? Which of these qualities do you have?
  • What was your biggest problem in student teaching? How did you resolve it?
  • What do you plan to be doing in five years?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Would you like to be involved in school (community) activities?
  • What do you know about our school district?

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

  • What is the teacher/student ratio in your district?
  • Do you encourage teachers to earn advanced degrees?
  • How many classes a day will I be expected to teach?
  • Do you have teachers serving in areas for which they do not have full certification?
  • Tell me about the students who attend this school.
  • What textbooks does the district use in this subject area?
  • Do teachers participate in curriculum review and change?
  • What support for staff members are available to help students and teachers?
  • How does the teaching staff feel about new teachers?
  • What discipline procedures does the district use?
  • Do parents support the schools?  Does the community?
  • Does your school use teacher aides or teacher volunteers?
  • What allowances are provided for supplies & materials?
  • Does the administration encourage field trips for students?
  • What is it you're seeking in a new teacher?
  • Does the district have a statement of educational philosophy or mission?
  • What are prospects for future growth in this community and its schools?
  • What support does the school/district give new teachers?
  • What are the next steps in the selection process?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?

Questions NOT to Ask Your Interviewer

  • Do NOT inquire about pay, salary, or pay scale during your interview.
  • Do NOT inquire about fringe benefits (e.g. healthcare) during your interview. 

After the Interview

  • Proper follow-up is extremely important. You have an opportunity to reinforce your interest in the position, and to express your thanks for the interview. Here are some suggestions for what to do following your big interview:
  • Write a thank you letter - Only a small number of candidates send thank-you letters to their interviewers. Try to mail your thank-you letter the same day as your interview.
  • Keep a job-search journal - Take consistent notes about your progress on each job opening. After each interview, summarize in your journal what transpired, who you met, and any other thoughts for future reference.
  • Relax! - The interview is over! Don't be surprised if you do not hear from the district following your interview for a while. You must take the responsibility for your own job search; if you do not hear from a district within two to three weeks, pick up the telephone and call to inquire about your status.
  • Don't burn your bridges - If you do not get an offer now, courtesy and professionalism may keep the door open for a future opportunity.

Fascinating Facts for First Time Teachers

In 2000, the American Association for Employment in Education conducted a survey to learn more about the hiring procedures used when employing first-time teachers. Each query has responses listed according to frequency, from most frequent to least frequent. The survey was conducted in Montana, and was published in the 2006 AAEE Job Search Handbook for educators. Here are the results:

1. Employers evaluate first-time teachers’ job applications for:

a. Letters of recommendation from public school personnel;
b. A mentoring teacher’s evaluation;
c. Examples of teaching skill and classroom management skill;
d. Experience with specific programs used in the school district;
e. Number of certifications which the candidate holds (e.g., elementary and special education).

2. Employers evaluate first-time teachers’ academic preparation for:

a. Knowledge of subject matter;
b. Success in student teaching;
c. Computer knowledge and skill.

3. Important factors about candidates’ work experience in paid employment not related to teaching include:

a. A positive work ethic;
b. Punctuality
c. Good quality work
d. Low absenteeism

4. The following factors influence the decision to invite an applicant for an interview:

a. Correct spelling, punctuation, and English usage of the candidates application;
b. Letters of recommendation from those who have seen the candidate work with students;
c. Neatness of the applicant’s materials;
d. Evaluation from the mentoring teacher.

5. Employers use interview questions to assess the ways in which first-time teachers respond to:

a. "Real life" and "What if" situations;
b. Classroom management issues;
c. Enthusiasm about teaching;
d. Demonstrating and evaluating their own strengths;
e. Structured questions that range from impersonal to personal.

6. In evaluating interviews, employers look for the following:

a. The candidate’s commitment to teaching;
b. Knowledge of the teaching field;
c. Interpersonal skills;
d. The candidate’s understanding of the role of a teacher;
e. Professional judgment.

7. Individuals who participate actively in interviews and selection of new teachers are:

a. The superintendent;
b. The principal or program director;
c. Teachers, department heads, or curriculum directors

8. Professional traits which employers use as criteria in hiring first-time teachers include:

a. Interpersonal skills (enthusiasm, likes working with students, caring, outgoing);
b. The ability to motivate students;
c. The ability to provide a positive emotional climate in the classroom;
d. Professional integrity.

9. Personal traits which employers use as criteria in hiring first-time teachers include:

a. Enthusiasm;
b. Dependability;
c. The ability to work well with others;
d. Emotional maturity;
e. Self-motivation.

+-Cover Letter

The Purpose of Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is often the first contact with a prospective employer and serves as an introduction of yourself and your background experience. Many employers will not look at a resume that arrives without a cover letter. The cover letter is a marketing tool - it communicates to employers that you are interested in their position and their company, and that you have something valuable to contribute to the job and the organization. In certain situations, a well written cover letter can be a more effective job search tool than the resume itself.

Writing the Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be written in a business format and written from the perspective of the employer.  Letters are always written specifically for each employer.

Step one: The Introduction
Indicate why you are contacting the employer, the position you are applying for, and how you became aware of this position. If you are responding to a classified ad, mention where you saw it. If you were referred by an individual, mention his or her name.

Step two: The Employer's Need, Your Experience 
Highlight the best evidence of your qualifications for the position. Convince the reader that what you have is exactly what he or she wants. Be specific about your background and skills, but do not copy your resume.

Step three: Conclusion and Contact
Emphasize how the position and your qualifications are a direct match. State that you are interested in having an interview to further discuss your qualifications. Include where, when, and how you can be contacted. One technique is to be pro-active by telling the employer exactly when you will initiate your follow-up telephone call, and stick to this date.

Step four: Review and Finish
Polish and proofread your cover letter. Check for proper spelling, grammar and syntax. Get constructive feedback from such individuals as a former employer, internship supervisor, faculty member, or a staff member in the Career Development Center.

Business Format

A business format is the most recommended form for the cover letter. Hand-written notes are not appropriate.

Address your cover letter to the individual or business function most closely related to the position for which you are applying. Always try to get the name and job title of the hiring manager. Your letter and resume are most likely to be read if you are sending them to someone specific. Cover letters that are sent to HR Departments or employment representatives usually do not get read.

A business letter format is a block style format with all text beginning at the left margin. Paragraphs are not indented. Center your cover letter on the page.  This sometimes requires that you adjust margins and spacing to balance the finished letter on the page.

Writing Style Guide

  • Keep your sentences ten or twenty words long. Shorten any sentence with more than twenty words, or break it into two.
  • Limit paragraph length to five to seven sentences.
  • Use powerful action phrases to describe your experiences and accomplishments in a clear, concise way.


For letter production, use the following guidelines:

  • Use laser jet quality print, not dot matrix
  • Send a clean original signed with black ink
  • Use the same high quality bond , white of off-white, paper as you do for your resume
  • Stay away from bright colors. You may be asked to fax a cover letter and resume, with darker colored paper, the transmittal quality will be poor
  • Use a common font with a professional appearance.
  • Keep a copy of your letter on file for future reference

+-Optional Items

Your resume and placement file are ready to go... what more could you need?  Here are some things that a school district will occasionally request.  If you have gathered them together beforehand, you will be prepared.  Don’t inundate the district with lots of paper... just send what they request and offer to provide more if requested.  This indicates you know how to follow application instructions.  Plus, some districts are proud of the fact that they are paperless (they use EDJOIN.ORG or their own online process) and will just return (or throw away!) unwanted material.

A Personal Statement

A district might ask you to submit a personal statement separately, or it might ask you to fill in a space on the district's application form (something like: "In your own handwriting, please write a brief statement explaining why you chose to enter the teaching profession.").

Typically, this is a statement conveying your interest in teaching, perhaps how you developed that interest, special skills or abilities you bring to the profession, and any other information that conveys who you are as a person and why you might "stand out" from other applicants.  Can you tell a story?  Can you make this narrative engaging?  Will they want to read about you from the first sentence?  Aim for a statement that is no more than a page long, and save it for when you need it.  If you are asked to write a statement on the application form, you can copy (with any modifications necessary) from this pre-written statement.

College Transcripts

Some districts request a copy of your college transcripts during the application process, usually to determine where you would fit on their salary schedule.  At that initial stage, an unofficial copy will do (unless the district specifically states "official transcripts").  Later, when you accept a position, the district will request an official copy mailed directly from the university Registrar's office (add pending classes if necessary) and provide a photocopy for  each district that requests it.


If you've received your credential, make some photocopies to provide to school districts which request a copy.  (If you have not yet received your credential in the mail, district application forms typically ask for the date you applied for it.)  Other forms of certification (for example CBEST, CSET, No Child Left Behind) should also be photocopied or at least kept handy to provide as needed.

A Completed Generic Application Form

School district application forms may be very similar, but that does not mean you can use a generic form for every one of them.  Having a completed generic form available means you have all the dates, location information, names, addresses, job descriptions, references, etc. at your fingertips for those times you are filling out the district's application.  Do not send a copy of your generic form – the district will want your information in THEIR format, and they may have questions on their form that are not on the generic one.  As with all application forms, DO NOT write comments like "see attached resume" in the spaces.

List of References

While your Placement File contains references of your teaching experiences, a district may ask you to list references on the application form as well.  If you have the names and contact information of these individuals handy, it will be easier to fill out the form.

Read that section of the form carefully, as there may be certain criteria the referenced person must meet (i.e., "include principals and supervisors for whom you have most recently worked, and one additional person who can vouch for your character and qualifications").  It is usually acceptable to list the same individuals who have submitted references for your file.  On the application form you will need a complete address and phone number for each person, and you may want to indicate where they can be contacted during the summer months.  (Do not write "see Placement File” in this section.  Also, check the reference instructions – the district might want more references than are in your file.)

Cover Sheet

If you are sending a stack of papers to a school district, you might want to staple or paperclip them together with an added cover sheet and say something like:

Professional File
Gabriela Estudiante

...centered neatly, bolded and in large font on the page.  In addition, however, make sure YOUR NAME appears somewhere on each page you are submitting.  Files occasionally get separated and photocopied, and you want to make sure your submitted papers are identifiable as YOURS!  In addition, if you are sending more than two or three pieces of paper, consider using a large manila envelope so your paperwork will arrive at the district office in better shape.

Your Job Search File

It is helpful to keep a file on each district to which you apply.  In that file, include a copy of the cover/application letter you sent, a list of materials the district requested, and the dates you sent those materials, notes about when you had contact (in person, telephone, or mail), and what you discussed, notes about interviews, etc.  After you have applied to two or three districts, the specifics of each situation may become blurred, and a job search file can keep you organized.

A Job Search Calendar can also be helpful.  On it, note when you are to follow up with telephone calls or other forms of contact, when you have interviews, dates and locations of student fairs, etc.

+-Job/Career Fairs in Education

How to Make Education Job Fairs Worth Your Time

Let's face it, your time is valuable - extremely valuable.  Therefore, make sure that you invest it wisely and carefully.  This applies not only to education job fairs, but the entire job search process! Here are some suggestions to help ensure that your job fair experience is a pleasant and beneficial one:

Preparation Before the Fair

  • Evaluate the employer list of the event you are considering attending.  Would you work for any of the employers who will attend?  If so, dedicate time to research each of them. Are there job openings?  Is the school reputable?  Are there senior instructors who can serve as mentors?  Is the salary schedule reasonable?  If you don't show an understanding of the schools in which you are interested, the representative probably won't show an interest in you.
  • Practice you handshake.
  • Prepare a 30-second "sales pitch," and develop/rehearse questions you will ask employers.  One of the best ways to practice is in front of a mirror.  Say out loud what you intend to say the day of the event.  Remember: smile and look the employer in the eye.
  • Check your resume to make sure it is up to date and tailored for the day.  Make five more copies than you expect to hand out.
  • Bring writing instruments, and don't forget to practice your handwriting!
  • Schedule a practice interview with the Career Development Center.
  • Draft an e-mail thank-you letter and save it on your computer.  You will want to send it right after the fair (with some personal additions from after your visits) to those schools in which you have an interest.

Do's and Don'ts for Job Fair Success

  • DON'T show up at the event unprepared.  Arrive within the first hour when all of the exhibitors are there, anxious to visit, and animated.
  • DO have a priority list of those employers you must visit and the order in which you will meet them.  Verify their locations on the map of the fair and go to work!
  • DO locate the restrooms and refreshment areas.  A job fair can be a long, tiring experience. If possible, eat something before you go.
  • DON'T stand in a line at an employer for more than ten minutes.  Use your plan, move on to the next employer, and come back when the line is shorter.
  • DO be prepared to fill out a school district's application.
  • DON'T bring a backpack, large purse, or anything that "yells" student.  Come dressed cleanly and conservatively and avoid heavy cologne/perfume.
  • DO forget the gum!
  • DON'T ask, "Do you want to see my portfolio?"
  • DON'T be bashful.  A job fair is a great chance to see and visit with many districts in one day in one place.  Take advantage of them.  School districts wouldn't be there if they didn't need teachers!

-Adapted from the 2006 AAEE Job Search Handbook.

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