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Musings from an April Fools' Day Teacher Job Fair

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Our Teacher Job Fairs have a browsing session in the morning and structured interviews in the afternoon. The interviews are scheduled during the browse portion when school district representatives discover candidates who match their staffing needs and desired professional profiles.
As I monitored the afternoon interviewing process on April Fools’ Day it became strikingly apparent that almost all of the students and alumni who had scored afternoon interviews were very professionally dressed and groomed. Now, that may not come as a great surprise to many of you but I have been involved in teacher job fairs for over 20 years and have seen thousands of candidates present themselves to school districts in good economic times and bad. In all of those experiences, I cannot recall a time when this level of attention was paid to those personal image details.
I asked two of the recruiters about this observation and their replies were similar. First, with the exception of a few challenging teaching disciplines, there are many more qualified applicants than there are positions. This means that recruiters then need to look beyond basic credentials in order to narrow their choices. Professional presentation is one of the “other” criteria used in that process.
The second and more compelling reason they offered for the heightened emphasis on professional dress and grooming was an increase in the interactions between their teachers and the “public.” One recruiter stated that the days of teachers spending every day by themselves in their classrooms are history. In classrooms today and in the future, teachers are more likely to host visitors/observers and have meetings with supervisors, parents, board members, media members, business partners, etc. Outside of their classrooms they will be required to attend professional development events, PTA/O meetings, media events, community fundraisers, etc. The image projected by the teacher becomes a direct reflection on the district and the districts take that very seriously.
In short, it is not necessary to look like a GQ or Vogue model during your search for a teaching position but you don’t want to be an April Fool either. You should be professionally groomed and well-versed in the distinctions between business formal, business casual and other types of attire. The former will enhance your chances of getting the interview and quite possibly, the job that you desire, especially in difficult economic times and this era of transparency and accountability.

Curt Schafer
Director of Career Services
Texas State University

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