I recently received this job search question on this post about interview tips:
I am moving to Wisco this summer, and just finished my Masters in Special Ed…from my experience in student teaching in California, a lot of the hiring is based off who you know. Any tips to someone applying from out of state? Any tips that will make my resume stand out?
Here are my thoughts on that question…
Great question. I’ve been the out of state candidate three different times, moving from SD to NM, NM to IL, and then IL to WI. Searching for a job when you don’t know the area very well and don’t have many connections can be difficult. But, it can be done.
My first recommendation for the out of state candidate is to make sure you get your new teaching license as soon as possible. School districts have regulations they have to follow regarding licensing, and a common one is to have teachers licensed in the area in which they are employed. This is what is referred to as being “highly qualified.” If you know you are coming to Wisconsin, then apply for your license with the Department of Public Instruction even before you move. Even if you are granted a one-year license with deficiencies to clean up, it is much better than no license at all.
Who you know won’t get you a job, but it can help with getting you an interview. A large majority of teacher applications look pretty good. About 25% of them look great. Another 10% look fantastic. When it comes to narrowing down who to bring in for an interview, a letter of rec from someone I am familiar with can be more persuasive than a letter of rec from a person I don’t know. This isn’t always the case, but here is a tip for that out of state candidate that worked for me in landing an interview with people I didn’t know. When I was applying to my current district here in WI, I didn’t know a soul. My wife took a job in the area and I was the trailing spouse. My superintendent at the time (Jim Burgett, world’s best boss!!) told me to let him know when I had found my ideal job among all of them that I had applied for. I told him about the job I wanted and then he called the superintendent here to put a friendly voice to his letter of rec. He didn’t say anything that wasn’t in his letter, but the personal phone call added assurance to that piece of paper. It helped me get the interview, and I did the rest to get the job. I’ve done this same thing for top-notch teachers and student teachers at my school. A 5-minute phone call can highlight your candidacy. It might not necessarily turn into an interview or a job, but it will likely lead to the potential employer spending a little more time with your application materials.
You had asked about making your resume stand out. To me resumes are pretty boring, and the ones that stand out are those with spelling errors. The good and great resumes all look very similar. What stands out to me in an application packet are the letters of recommendation. You don’t write these, but you should be strategic in who you ask to write them on your behalf. Get letters from your team mates, your supervisor, and your principal (if not your supervisor). If your superintendent knows you, get one from her/him too. I also see some great letters of rec from parents of students.
Don’t be shy about asking your letter writers to comment on specific traits you have. If you already have a letter that speaks to your organization and teamwork skills, ask someone else to describe your enthusiasm or persistence with students who have academic struggles. Once you have them, turn them into color PDFs as those look so much better when districts use an online application system. DOC files sometimes get screwy and those wonderful words of rec for you can get distorted.
Hope this helps and good luck!!