Finding your first teaching job

Some tips and hints to help you secure your first teaching job

While you are unlikely to find a permanent or full-time teaching job straight away, fixed-term and part-time teaching roles regularly become available and these can lead to permanency. More and more full-time roles will arise over the next number of years as the numbers entering second-level education grow.

Searching for work

Second-level teaching jobs are advertised on or in newspapers. A post for a period in excess of 24 weeks must be advertised nationally and filled through a formal recruitment process including an application and interview. Schools may also employ substitute teachers for short-term work. From November 2013, all those employed to teach must be registered with the Teaching Council.You should begin the registration process a few months before your final exams - find out more.

You don’t have to wait for a job to be advertised; if there are schools in your immediate area, or a school you particularly want to work in, you can always drop in a CV and cover letter on spec to register your interest in temporary or substitution work.

You can also join the ASTI substitution service which matches suitable substitute placements with available teachers. This service allows you to find substitution work, gain valuable experience and become familiar with schools and school staff in your area.

The ASTI website is a great place to prepare for interviews. It has comprehensive information on every aspect of being a teacher and second-level education. Find more resources to help here.


To apply for a teaching job, you’ll usually have to send a letter of application, a CV and contact details for your references. Make sure to let your referees know you have listed them, and to expect a call.

Make sure your CV creates the right first impression. It should be neat, well laid out and easy to read. You should list your contact details, professional experience, voluntary experience, and education history. Bullet point your key skills and experience for clarity. Tailor your CV and cover letter to each application. It may be tedious but it will pay off!

As a general rule, CVs should be 1-2 pages, and cover letters about one page long. Read and reread your CV and letter to check for errors. It’s a good idea to have a friend check it over too – your own work is often the most difficult to proof read.

Preparing for interview

Take time to prepare before each interview. Get to know the school, have a look around its website, and read school inspection reports if they are available. Local newspapers can be an excellent source of information on the school, its staff and students and achievements.

Plan your journey to the interview to avoid any extra stress on the day. Make sure you look your best and dress professionally but wear clothes you feel comfortable and confident in - an interview can be awkward enough without adding 5 inch heels to the mix!

Interview technique

You want to show that you are confident in your ability to take on the position, that you have the right skills and experience to make a valuable contribution to the school, that you are enthusiastic about the role, and that you would be a great fit for the school and for the job.  

Bearing this in mind, think about what you would like to communicate in response to likely questions. Don’t learn your answers by heart, but know how you plan to answer certain expected questions and have a list of things you want to mention in your responses. Knowing you have this reserve to draw on will put you at ease for any unexpected questions thrown your way.

Some likely questions:

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Why did you apply for this position?
Tell us about your teaching experience?
How would you deal with a certain kind of classroom behaviour?
What are your career goals?
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
What makes you stand out as a candidate?

As well as questions about your suitability for the specific role, you may also be asked about current issues in education. The ASTI website is a great place to keep up to date and offers you comprehensive information on every aspect of being a teacher, school operation, curriculum and assessment.
Never bluff or waffle. If you don't understand a question, ask for clarification. If you find yourself caught up in a wandering train of thought, stop talking and own up to it. You’ll get more respect for being honest and the longer you talk the more likely you are to say the wrong thing!

If you’re nervous, pause to gather your thoughts. If you feel you made a mistake or forgot to mention something, try not to get caught up about it. Concentrate on the next question and your next answer. You can always clarify or add to an earlier answer at the end of the interview, if you feel you should.

After the interview
If you are offered the job, but you’re not sure you want to take it you can ask for some time to consider. If, for example, you are waiting to hear about another position, or you are unsure about the location of the job; just explain the situation and ask for some time to consider your options.

Whether successful or not, all interviews are great experiences to learn from. Nobody welcomes a rejection letter but the more interviews you do, the more experience you have to draw on in future and the less nervous you will be the next time round.
If you don’t receive an offer, you can ask for feedback on your application, which may be useful to you in future. If you're unsuccessful but keen to work at the school in future, it may be worth contacting the principal to follow up on your interview or application, and to make it known that you are available for substitute work.