The Art of Emailing School Directors

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Whether you plan to go it alone or attend a recruiting fair, there is an Art to composing emails in response to advertised international teaching positions. When it comes to promoting yourself via email, we think you’ll find the following Tips particularly helpful for “getting your foot in the door.” Posted to the ISR by an anonymous Director, the following emailing-insights are sure to benefit candidates and Directors alike:

Make the Subject Line of Your Email Useful: No one needs another email titled “Job Vacancy” or “Application.”  I already have 75 of each in my email folder, and it doesn’t motivate me to go back for a second look at any of them when I know it’ll take me forever to find the one I’m interested in. Put your name and desired position in the Subject line. At least then I’ll be able to find you when I realize I actually do need a math teacher after all.

Properly Name Your Credentials: Name them the way they’re written on the official document you were given. If you claim to have a “teaching certificate from the University of Pennsylvania,” I know you’re wrong. US Universities do not grant teaching certificates. Which means I have to decide whether you’re just being inaccurate (you did the courses at UPenn, and then the state of PA issued a certificate) or you’re making it up.

List Subjects You’re Qualified and/or Certified to Teach: It bothers me when candidates put down a laundry list. It’s not about what you personally feel capable of teaching, it’s what you’re officially recognized as qualified to teach. If you feel you can teach more, put it in your personal statement. That way we don’t get to the interview or even further along, and later find out it was all a waste of time because the country I’m in won’t issue a work Visa unless you have a legal credential.

Avoid Fluff and Filler:  Fluff and inflation bother me no end. When someone has a position for 1 or 2 years and they have 10-12 bullet point accomplishments, I get bored and move on when most of their “accomplishments” are just regular job duties. I know you taught classes, gave tests, met with parents and attended staff meetings. Those are not accomplishments.

Compose an Excellent Cover Letter: Give me a well-written cover letter, specific to my school. Don’t write a generic cover letter and then slip my school name and country name into a few blank spots–make it really specific to my school. I will love it if I can tell you did your homework, you checked out our website thoroughly, know our mission statement, noticed that we’re an EAL not an ESL school. You’ve possibly talked to some people who have worked here (feel free to name them). Show me you know some relevant bits about the country and culture, and do all this not by quoting the mission statement (trust me, I already know it), but by crafting a letter which incorporates key words and concepts and by stating clearly, directly, how your personal ethos and experience match up with my school’s ethos and direction.

Tell Me What Positions You’re Applying for:  Don’t tell me you want position x, y, z, p or q, because that just tells me you want a job above all costs. You’ll appear too desperate, even though it might be true. Pick one or two positions and stick to them. If I like your letter, but for some reason you can’t have the position you named, and your letter gave the impression that you might be flexible, I’ll contact you and ask if you’d be willing to consider a different post.

If  There’s Anything Out of the Ordinary, Discuss it Now: You have a spouse who isn’t a teacher? Explain what he/she will be doing while you’re teaching. What are your expectations? Most countries have some sort of limitations in terms of trailing spouses, so I need to know at the start if what your spouse is after will match up with my country’s reality.

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21 Responses to The Art of Emailing School Directors

  1. emmar69 says:

    Is emailing a school directly with an application (either an unsolicited CV and letter, or in response to a specific advertised post) as effective in securing a job as attending a recruitment fair?? I ask, because my current employer in SE Asia will NOT permit me to have time off work (even unpaid leave) to attend recruitment fairs…. meaning that my only chance of securing a new job in this region is to write to schools directly. I can make myself available for a skype interview, sure (as long as it is not during my working hours), but not a face-to-face one. I was very alarmed by Moving On’s comment of ‘no fair, and you’re put to the end of the list’😦

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  2. Allen says:

    It is simple. You e-mail the decision maker/makers. Some schools
    the principal, head master, school committee, and/or grade level
    teachers is/are the real decision maker/makers. How do you know? Many web pages provide names of staff members and e-mail addresses. Write and ask procedure.

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  3. penelopetrip says:

    Have re-read the above from the annonymous director. Do we really need to add so much to our email? I have never done so before, in my letter of application yes I add all that he mentions. Do I need all in my email? Advice appreciated from someone.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Talking of ‘fluff and flutter’; if recruiters clearly delineate selection criteria for their advertised positions, it will make life much simpler for everyone.

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  5. David says:

    I understand why they would like you to personalise your application letter, however, applying to numerous schools with their own application forms is time consuming enough and very draining.

    Ultimately,including the criteria listed above in every application is very unrealistic, unless someone is only applying to a select handful of schools, and that in itself has it’s own drawbacks.

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    • Nikita says:

      I would like to know why schools that are listed on a recruitment service like ISS or SEARCH and when I am also in that same recruiting service still ask you to fill out the school’s application form. Talking about being efficient … not! It is time consuming and redundant for both sides; that’s why I joined a recruiting agency. Can someone explain?

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      • sushanna says:

        Even this morning I filled out a complete application form online for a school registered with SEARCH only to find that at the end there was no submission button. I had to copy the form over onto a Word Doc and of course all the information filled in to the windows on the site did not copy over so had to fill it out again. How frustrating.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed, I completed a school application yesterday and I think that is the last time i will do that. Schools should indicate on their app that prospective applicants who are registered with one of the main recruiters like search or ISS need not complete school applications.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate the director’s comments. It helps to see things from an administrator’s perspective.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I wish that schools would acknowledge the receipt of an application for employment. That could be set up even automatically with a reply form style email.

    I find it rude that most schools do not acknowledge that I sent them an application. I know they get lots and lots of applications but it is still no reason to be rude.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes, those are all good tips from the anonymous director. I would like to add that after candidates spend hours crafting a personalized cover letter it would be courteous to acknowledge its receipt. They should also remove vacancy postings as soon as the position is filled so that candidates don’t waste their time on positions that don’t exist or have already been filled.

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    • penelopetrip says:

      I completely agree with the above. There’s nothing more soul destroying than having spent hours on a personalised letter of application to find out the position has been filled. It’s happened to me a number of times. Also, the search button, does it really work? DO the directors get these emails? I am dubious……..

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      • moving on says:

        Yes, they do get them. I was able to sneak a peak.

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        • penelopetrip says:

          If they do read them and don’t reply I take it they’re not interested?

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          • moving on says:

            I really don’t know. Our school has a policy of replying in a somewhat standard letter. But they have a system that could mean that you don’t get contacted prior to a fair and they could still be interested. No fair, and you’re put to the end of the list.

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  9. Nikita says:

    SEARCH site has an email icon(directly to the school) click-on-it feature which looks/is convenient but I have yet to get anything but an automated response and sometimes within a minute! Thanks for the tips but I don’t think anyone is home out there. I have met most of the criteria above on my intro emails but thanks for the reminders.

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    • RD says:

      Nikita –

      It’s likely that the SEARCH icon just goes to a generic HR email or something to that effect. It’s best to go to the school website and find the grade level principal’s or headmaster’s (or both!) email address to show your interest.

      An example: I emailed the HR email from one school and got no reply. When a week later I re-sent all my info to the same school but to the middle school principal’s email (which took some poking around to find), I got a reply from the principal that same day which led to a skype interview.

      Give it a try. It’s not as convenient, but it’s more likely to get results (if only for the fact that you made sure it goes to the regular email that they check multiple times every day).

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      • Nikita says:

        RD, thanks that helps. I hesitated to do that because I didn’t want to irritate my contact person by not doing it the standard, expected way but I think you are absolutely right!

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        • RD says:

          I was a little hesitant myself, but after multiple people in the forums said that you definitely should make sure to email the relevant people, I did, and I had great success (I LOVE my new job, and part of the reason they wanted me was because I seemed so enthusiastic about the school, which all started with that initial email; plus I have several contacts now at other schools, all down to those direct emails). Good luck!

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          • penelopetrip says:

            what about if you see a position on the school’s web site, you apply and get an email from the principal saying it’s been filled but there is another position if you’re interested to which you obviously say yes you are. But then here nothing from them and see it advertised on the Search web site????? Writing this makes me think it’s obvious they’re not interested but a part of me thinks I should still give it a go – email them once again but then that may come across as desperate and they might be completely fed up with me by now. Any comments? Email them through the icon on search? Email then directly (again) or leave it and see them at the job fair?

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            • Nikita says:

              I would definitely write a cautious and short email back one more time and say that from the last communication you read there was another job you were qualified for and that you want to be clear that you are interested in that position too and you hope you could hear back from them. Push yourself forward to a point otherwise you just might get lost in the pile or worse fall through the cracks. Include a nice picture on your email right up-front to put a human face to the request for attention. If you have a good ‘associate’ who is working for you; also write them to put a plug in for you. I have no idea if the associate will do this but after all you are a paying ‘customer’. (I’m assuming)

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