Many of us remember our favorite teacher. Mine was Mrs. Poole, who introduced me to poetry, encouraged me to keep writing short stories, and indulged my fascination with the Gold Rush. She even let me play Oregon Trail at lunchtime. (Yes, I was that kid.)
But students never give much thought to how teachers get a job. In fact, when I was in kindergarten, I thought Ms. Murphy lived in her classroom! Thankfully, I was wrong. Obviously, teachers don’t literally live in their classrooms, but when you’re knee-deep in lesson planning, parent conferences, and test grading, it’s hard to imagine having the time to look for a job, let alone write a competitive, compelling teaching resume that captures the full breadth of your abilities.
“Some teaching job openings will receive hundreds of applications depending on the school district. Your resume must wow the reader within five to eight seconds of them glancing over it,” says Daryn Edelman, a middle school teacher turned Certified Professional Resume Writer. That’s a lot of pressure for a busy teacher. How do you go about writing a resume that’ll capture a superintendent, principal, or HR specialist’s (depending on the district) attention in a matter of seconds? Luckily, it’s not quite as daunting as it sounds. You simply need to follow a few golden rules.
1. Highlight Your Relevant Education and Certifications
It won’t surprise you to hear that your degrees, credentials, and certifications will play an important role in landing your next teaching job. “The first thing I look for when I’m reviewing a teacher’s resume is their education and licensing,” says Dan Swartz, Managing Director of Resolve Talent Consulting, an agency that specializes in talent management for school districts and educational programs. “I’m of course very interested in teaching experience too, but if I can’t tell whether an applicant is properly licensed, determining whether they’re qualified will be a challenge.”
And these licensing requirements will vary from state to state. “A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement in most districts and states for obtaining a teaching license,” Edelman says. “Depending upon the job, you may need to show specific credits in the subject matter you want to teach. Many states require completion of either additional certification credits for special education and/or a master's degree in either teaching or special education.”
So you’ll first want to confirm what the educational requirements for your district, city, and state are—you’ll likely find these listed in the job description, but if not, a quick Google search should do the trick. If you meet the minimum requirements, be sure to include all the relevant details on your resume. “If you’re new to teaching, include your licensing details at the top of your resume,” Swartz recommends. “Otherwise, it can go toward the bottom below your classroom experience.”
2. Write for the Job You Want
While it can be tempting to go into great detail about all of your experience and accomplishments, it’s important to remember that your resume is meant to convey the ways in which you’re qualified for the specific job you’ve applied to. As Edelman puts it, your resume should communicate “why you are the ideal candidate for this job.” That’s why tailoring the content to reflect each job description is so essential.
Hiring managers use your resume to determine whether your experience will be a match for their current needs. “You can generally tell the priorities of a superintendent by the order and emphasis of the posted job requirements,” Edelman says. “Is the first requirement three years teaching at the high school level or a STEM degree from an accredited university? This will be one of the first things they will look for on a resume.” So make sure these important qualifications are on your resume and easy to find.
Teachers are busy, so I know that tailoring your resume for every single job posting might seem overwhelming. But I promise it won’t be as hard as it sounds. The key is to use the job description as your guide.
“If the job requires knowledge of a certain method like ‘Montessori,’ the resume should clearly show experience with this method,” Edelman says. In other words, if a skill, methodology, or job duty is mentioned in the job description, it belongs on your resume (so long as you actually have experience with that particular skill, methodology, or job duty).
Remember that cutting unnecessary skills or experiences can be just as important as including relevant ones. Swartz notes that every principal has their own preferences when it comes to curriculum and teaching styles, so if your resume highlights your extensive experience in Singapore math but the school you’ve applied to uses Eureka math, “you may not look like a very strong match on paper.” Be sure to pay attention to what is and what isn’t listed in the job description as you draft your resume.
3. Remember the Applicant Tracking System
“You should assume your resume will go through an Applicant Tracking System [ATS] where certain keywords are identified,” warns Edelman. ATS programs scan your resume for specific job-related terms, like “lesson planning” or “learner-focused” to determine whether your work history is a match for the job you’ve applied to. If your resume doesn’t include enough relevant keywords, the ATS might automatically reject your application before a human ever sees it—even if you actually have the right experience.
So how do you beat the ATS? Edelman suggests using the job posting to identify the right keywords. Note the requirements and make sure the important words in each one appear on your resume.
Need some commonly used keyword inspiration? Edelman and Swartz shared some examples:
- Academic Goals
- Blended Learning
- Character Education
- Classroom Management
- Child Development
- Collaborative Environments
- Data Analysis
- Data-Driven Instruction
- Extracurricular Direction
- Inclusive Classroom
- Instructional Strategies
- Interactive Classroom
- MAP Testing
- Mystery Math
- Parent/Administrator Collaboration
- Personalized Learning
- Reading 3D
- Research-Based Practices
- Social-Emotional Learning
- Student-Guided Learning
- Technology Integration
- Whole Child
4. Feature Your Gold Star–Worthy Achievements
In addition to showcasing your relevant responsibilities from past jobs, it’s also important to highlight your accomplishments. This can serve to paint a fuller picture of who you are as an educator while helping recruiters and hiring managers better understand what you’d bring to their classroom. “Your resume should show so much more than how many years you’ve been teaching or which methods you’re familiar with,” Swartz says. “It should also show what you’ve done in your years as an educator, who you are as a teacher, and what you’re capable of.”
Edelman recommends including things like the creation or publication of curricula, innovative use of multimedia in the classroom, a track record of improved standardized state or federal test scores (like the ARMT, STAR, NYSTP, STEP, CAASPP, or WKCE tests), experience with special needs students, or collaboration on the design, monitoring, and fulfillment of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
Another great way to bring your resume to life? Data. “Data is an especially effective and underutilized way to demonstrate your abilities,” says Swartz.” For example, did 75% of your students pass an end-of-grade test? Or did you achieve high growth with 100% of your students?”
Creating a dedicated subsection to feature your accomplishments is a great way to make them easy to spot. Check out the sample resume below to see this in action.
5. Call Out Technical Proficiencies
While relevant technical skills will vary from one school to the next, “generally, teachers should show knowledge and experience in the use of tablets and laptops, G-Suite [Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Classroom], education-focused social media platforms, gamification software [3DGameLab, Classcraft, etc.], and programs or hardware for accessibility of students with disabilities,” Edelman says. So don’t forget to detail your tech skills as hiring managers will be scanning your resume to quickly determine whether you have the proficiencies they’re looking for.
“With technology being so prevalent in the classroom, appearing to be out of touch with tech can be a red flag for hiring managers,” Swartz says. “Things like writing your resume on an older word processing system (like Notepad) instead of Word or Pages or neglecting to mention your familiarity with basics like Microsoft Word or Google Drive can make you seem less tech savvy than you actually are.” In other words, don’t neglect this section of your resume.
6 Don’t Shy Away from the Things That Make You Unique
Whether you’re in the midst of career transition, volunteer at an interesting nonprofit organization, or have a less traditional educational background, there’s no need to shy away from shining a spotlight on the things that make you unique. “Say you used to be a chemist and now you want to teach chemistry. That means you have great content knowledge,” says Swartz.
So there’s no need to exclude potentially relevant or interesting past experiences from your resume—even if they aren’t directly related to teaching. The same goes for compelling teaching or licensing experiences, like completing an urban education program or landing a teaching fellowship. “These are fairly selective programs, so most principals will be excited about that type of experience,” Swartz adds.
And while it’s generally not advisable to include religious (or political) affiliations on a resume, there are certain exceptions. For example, “If you are applying for work at a Catholic school, your church membership, volunteer church activities, etc. would actually be important to showcase,” Edelman says.
7. Remember the Basic Rules of Resume Writing
As you’re crafting your resume, you’ll want to keep a few basics in mind.
Stick to a Single Page
Most recruiters prefer one-page resumes as they’re generally easier to scan and include only the most relevant information. Tailoring your resume for each job and limiting the content to include only your most recent work history should help you to keep the length down.
Edelman recommends featuring only your most recent experience and cutting older work history. “A resume should detail your most current 10-15 years. It’s understood that your resume is a brief overview of your current career; it is not a biography.” You don’t need to include a list of references or a line about them being available upon request, either. “We know we can ask for them later,” Swartz says.
Note that when you’re first starting out, student teaching should be listed as professional experience. But after a few years, you should consider condensing this experience or leaving it off altogether—especially if you’re worried about getting your resume down to a single page.
Consider a Summary
Summaries can be a great way to share additional details about your personality and teaching philosophy, lend context to a career shift (like moving from teaching first grade to high school English) or to tie together seemingly less related experiences (like training employees or writing textbooks) together. Take a look at the sample resume to see this in action!
Craft Compelling Bullet Points
Bullet points are the most effective way to clearly and concisely detail your work experience. But just because they’re brief doesn’t mean they need to be boring! Punch up simple bullet points by including compelling verbs and key details. So something simple like, “wrote lesson plans” becomes “designed comprehensive, student-driven American history lesson plans, spanning the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.”
You can use this simple formula to write your own:
- Compelling Verb + Job Duty + Relevant Detail, Metric, or Outcome
Make Your Resume Easy to Scan With Clear Subject Headings
“The resume must make an impression within seven seconds,” explains Edelman. “Whether the [resume] reader is a superintendent, recruiter, or employer, they will first look at titles and previous employers, then move quickly down to qualifications including degree and licensing.” So you’ll want to make sure that these key pieces of information are easy to spot.
Organizing your resume into categories (e.g. education, work experience, technical skills) and creating easy-to-spot standout section headings will make your resume easy to scan while allowing your most relevant experience to shine.
Choose the Right Layout
Most hiring managers favor traditional chronological resumes for their straightforward layout, easy-to-follow work history (typically displayed in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent job), and clearly defined sections.
If you’re returning to the workforce or making a career change, you might want to consider a combination or functional resume layout. While not as universally favored by hiring managers, these alternative formats give you more flexibility to organize seemingly disparate or choppy work experience into a more cohesive picture.
Not sure which way to go? You’ll find a great guide for choosing the layout that’s right for you here.
Smooth Out a Choppy Work History
“After verifying that a candidate has the required experience and certifications, the superintendent will generally move on to note any red flags such as large gaps in employment or multiple jobs within a short time (job-hopping),” Edelman says. And while you can’t change your career history, you may be able to add context using a summary or a cover letter.
“If you’re bouncing from one job to another, you need to give a reason,” says Swartz. “Getting promoted is a great reason for changing jobs, while taking a leave to care for a new child or a sick family member is a perfectly acceptable reason for having gaps in employment. If you took an extended maternity leave, there’s no need to hide it. Just mention it in your summary.”
Get Out Your Red Pen!
Be sure to proofread every version of your resume before you apply for a new job. Want a little extra credit? Ask a friend or trusted colleague to give your resume a read, too.
8. Learn by Example
Now that you’re well versed in the elements of an exceptional teacher resume, it’s time to look at an example! As you read, remember that your resume will probably look a little different, depending on your areas of expertise, teaching experience, and future goals. But every resume should be easy to scan; include details about relevant education, work history, and technical proficiency; feature compelling bullet points; and paint a clear picture of the candidate’s overall qualifications. Some might also include a brief summary and key achievements subsections (as this example does) while others may not.
“Understand that your resume is a marketing document, with you being the product,” says Edelman. “Everything must be true, but strengths should be showcased and any weaknesses or red flags should be minimized. It is not your entire biography, just a bite-size overview of your career.”
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to creating a tailored resume that showcases your greatest qualifications and accomplishments and, in turn, helps you land your next job.
Photo of person on laptop sitting in classroom courtesy of Wavebreakmedia.
Jaclyn Westlake worked as an agency recruiter and an HR manager in the startup, tech, and finance space for nearly 10 years before branching out into resume writing, freelance recruiting, and career advising. These days, you can find her sharing job search insights on The Muse and blogging about boat life on The Wife Aquatic. She's also an avid paddleboarder, proud plant-based eater, and doting dog mom to a 10-year old dachshund mix named Indiana Jones.More from this Author