Hints & tips | Teach First

Hints & tips

We recommend you speak to one of our experienced recruitment team before you submit your application: they’re here to provide support and advice. Taking it on board may make all the difference.

When you submit your application, it will be objectively assessed by two independent panel members before a decision is reached. The graduate recruitment officers you speak to throughout the application process will have no influence on this process, so remember that your application form will be the first impression assessors have of you.

To ensure equal opportunities, nobody at the Assessment Centre will have read your application form. They will be assessing your performance on the quality of the answers you provide on the day only.

Here are some quick tips to help you to succeed at application and you can learn more about the Assessment Centre here.

Use your best examples

The application is your opportunity to demonstrate some of the competencies which we think are essential for success on the programme. We recommend that you take time to consider what your best example for each question is.

Feel free to draw on professional, voluntary, personal or academic experiences. As our questions are competency based, we are more interested in the skills and behaviours you have demonstrated than the opportunities you have had. Be explicit, we cannot infer or assume.

Our screeners do not view your academic achievements until the competency questions have been assessed. The whole process is blind screened and no information is passed on from colleagues who may have spoken to you earlier in the process so it is important to demonstrate your true potential.

Remember that you are only able to complete one application per recruitment season – are you confident that your responses showcase your ability in these competencies? The first example that you think of might not be your best example.

Do your homework

We are looking for you to demonstrate strong enthusiasm and commitment as well as an understanding of our vision and the journey you will go on to become an effective Teach First ambassador. Read our website, search the web and make sure you fully understand what we do and why it’s important.

Double check that you've answered the question

Once you have written your answer, re-read the question to make sure you have fully answered it. The question will outline which competencies we are expecting you to demonstrate so check that you’ve addressed these in your answer.

The word count is not just a limit on what you are able to write – it is a general guide to the level of detail we expect to see within your responses.

You can effectively answer a question in under the word count – however if you are significantly below then you may wish to consider whether you have fully answered the question. If you have up to 150 words, are you confident that an answer of 45 words provides a sufficient level of detail to fully demonstrate that competency at a high level?

Try using the STAR structure for your answers

We’re looking for plenty of detail in your answers. To help you cover all the necessary points, try using the following structure:

S – Clearly explain the situation 

T – Detail clearly the task(s) involved

A – Tell us about the actions you took and the skills you developed

R – What was the result of the actions you took or skills used?

Don’t lie or exaggerate the truth

Never lie on your application form. You are likely to be caught out in the interview or later in the assessment process. If you are offered the role you will have to provide references and original certificates of your qualifications.

Check, check and check again

Applications with 5 or more obvious spelling and/or grammar errors will be failed. Proof reading should help you to see and correct any errors.

If you have written your answers in a word processing program and pasted them into the form, this is a chance to double check that you have correctly pasted answers into the appropriate question.

Proof reading is also an opportunity for you to reflect – do you think that you have answered each of the questions to the best of your ability?

Think of a time when you believe that you have effectively solved a problem.

2.1 What was the problem?

I volunteer at my local animal shelter, helping to exercise the dogs awaiting rehoming. The shelter is heavily supported by volunteers, both for animal care and general administration. Last winter, we were very understaffed. One of our most frequent dog walkers moved out of the area, along with her daughter who had volunteered on reception. Alongside this, another volunteer (Sue) broke her leg and was unable to care for the animals as usual. This led to a hugely increased workload for paid staff members, and dogs were only receiving two walks a day, rather than the usual three.

2.2 Which potential solutions did you consider?

I considered volunteering more of my time. I help out for 3 hours a week, but I thought about increasing this – I work part time and am studying for a Masters though so there was a limit to the amount of time I could provide.

I considered trying to attract new volunteers. I knew that staff members were already struggling to perform the necessary duties for the centre, so would have limited time to put to a recruitment drive or training new volunteers. I therefore considered instigating this.

I considered whether Sue might be able to provide reception support.

2.3 What did you do and what was the outcome?

I spent my usual 3 hours exercising the dogs, and additional time attracting new volunteers. I put up a sign advertising the opportunity in a local pet shop, as well as in the staff room at work. I also organised a lecture shout out for my course at university.

This generated three new volunteers, who I trained. I also spoke to Sue about whether she would be comfortable sitting behind reception, which she was happy to do. This sufficiently spread the workload, filled our voluntary vacancies and solved the problem.

Describe a time when you have shown commitment to the needs of other people. How did you ensure that these needs were met?

As a senior administrator I was tasked with making mass redundancies. The company had folded suddenly so consultation was not feasible. I had never fired anyone before, and was quick to consider the needs of those who would lose their job, as well as the needs of the inexperienced colleague assisting me. I listened to my colleague’s worries and provided support, highlighting the opportunity we had to act considerately, ensuring employees were treated with dignity and respect.

I decided not to call each employee in individually, as this might increase anxiety and prolong the experience unnecessarily. I invited all staff to a meeting and explained sensitively what was happening and why. I then arranged individual meetings so everyone had the chance to voice their concerns in confidence. I asked my colleague to create an FAQ sheet, including information about relevant opportunities elsewhere. I was thanked repeatedly for my considerate approach.

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