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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gay

8 Steps to a Killer CV

Write a Killer CV


We all know that writing a CV is vital to get our foot in the door and an interview, but we sometimes don’t know where to start. So maybe that’s your mistake? Instead of worrying about the start, think ahead to the end.

Step 1


Tailor your CV to the school you’re applying to by reading the ad/person specs, website, ERO review and note initial impressions and thoughts down and then compare this with how your skills can complement the job. You are now starting to see what is required in your CV and have made your start!

Step 2

Contact details.

Aside from the obvious name, address, email. If you have a professional LinkedIn or Twitter account include these. It saves the school googling you later.

Step 3.

Career aspiration

Explain why you are ready for the position. For example, you want a new challenge, you want to up-skill etc), explain exactly what you are looking for from the role and why it is that you are qualified to apply for their role. Don’t forget to tell them what they will get when they hire you. Keep all of this SHORT. Eg.

For example: Having worked as a Senior Team leader for four years, I have extensive experience developing teachers. I am currently seeking a new challenge, such as your DP role, where I can bring my leadership skills in localised curriculum, TAI, coaching and knowledge in empowering staff to drive the school’s modern learning philosophy forward.

Step 4

Key skills

Tailored these to the job. Most desirable skills at the top. No more than 10 bullet points.

Step 5

Work history

This is the area people look deeply into. It is the most important part of your CV. Look for inconsistencies and time gaps in your employment history that need to be explained. Pay attention to your use of words: involved in, knowledge of, and experience, in general, indicate a less than expert level of ability or a team, rather than individual, achievement. List your achievements and core strengths. Once again pay attention to your words: led, in charge of, developed staff in, highly skilled in, guest speaker at.

Create a table or similar that readily allows readers to see a summary of your employment history.

Job title, Dates, key responsibilities (Bullet points) Less to no bullet points for older jobs.

Step 6

Professional memberships

Eg. Kahui Ako, outside PLG’s, Curriculum development groups etc

Step 7

Hobbies & Interests

Don’t underestimate this area. Schools increasingly are wanting to employ people that will be a good fit for them. They will be interested in seeing how you can build on their culture and staff wellness.

Step 8


Pay attention to who you use as referees and indicate who they are by adding a title under their name. A Principal should have their current Board Chair as a referee & a DP should have their current Principal as a referee.

Some Key Points

Presentation not overly flowery - think about professionalism. Pay attention to formatting and layout - a well-presented CV has an impact.

Sentence crafting, words and general articulation indicate IQ and crafting your sentences well will also help to indicate your EQ.

Sense of person Do you come across as intelligent, dedicated, empathetic? Do you read your CV and think, That’s me or wow who is this? It must be authentic. The CV has to match you!

Work history not too long. Most senior roles included - with key responsibilities. You don’t need to include a big description of what each responsibility entailed.

Bullet Points it’s easier to remember and visualise. Save your paragraph for your cover letter (font size 12, easy to read)


Pastoral Care

Photo good to include to help add a sense of the person. A professional photo is good. You need to come across as professional (not dressed up as your favourite book character) About passport size.

Referees 3! Don’t worry about putting in referee reports/references. They will ring or include a form for a management position. If you are going for a principal’s position then you have to have your current principal. It is really hard for a teacher to act as a referee and be able to answer all the questions required for a principal position. If you are a BoT staff rep ask the board chair (possibly have a board member). Ask your referee if they are being a referee for another person applying for the same position.

Person Specifications make sure you address these. The consultant will report to these and bring the discussion back to these and what the BoT really want for their school. E.g digitally literate - give an example of you meeting this.

Do background on the school then you can talk about specific things it shows you have researched and know about the school. These connect with a BoT.

Write a killer cover letter

The cover letter should be no more than a page or 4-5 paragraphs. It should be succinct and easy to read. This is where you sell yourself to the reader for the position. Your CV just acts as evidence you can do what you say! Think about the overall skills and person the school are asking for? Showcase how your skills/experience matches what the employer is looking for and what sets you apart from competing applicants. Use strong action words (see tool below) and ensure the overall tone of your message is confident. The first paragraph should also give some insight into why you're the person for the job.

Attack the main aspect first.

“I was attracted to this position when your ad said you were looking for a leader of learning. Having over 4 years of experience working as a Leader of Curriculum and Learning at Amazing School, I believe I am the perfect candidate for your role. As an expert in professional development, I pride myself on my excellent communication & leadership skills, and in my superior ability to provide tailored solutions to modern learning pedagogy. In your advertisement, you mentioned you are looking for someone who is energetic and who can drive forward the school vision. I am highly personable, cheerful and dynamic and it is my unique personality which will really help me to excel & grow our shared vision for the school. I am a passionate learner myself and I know I would be an asset to your school."

The middle paragraphs should build on answering the person specs but remain personalised. The last paragraph should summarise and leave a hook that intrigues the reader to want to know more about you.

“Please see my attached CV. As you can see by my skills and experience, I believe I would be a perfect fit for your school and I would welcome the chance to meet with you and tour the school if this is possible? Please call me on 027 555 555 or email me at so that we can arrange a suitable date/time. I look forward to hearing from you soon."

Use your words!

The list below are examples of words, simply circle the words that reflect you and make sure you use these in your CV and cover letter. By doing this you are writing authentically about yourself.

A: Academic, adventurous, advocate, analytical, animal-lover, animated, articulate, artistic, assertive, astute, athletic, autonomous, agile, agency

B: Balanced, brilliant

C: Can-do attitude, capable, caring, cerebral, good with children, community service-oriented, compassionate, competent, concerned about others, confident, conscientious, considerate, courageous, creative, curious

D: Daring, dependable, detail-oriented, diligent, disciplined, down-to-earth, driven

E: Educational, Empathetic, enthusiastic, an entrepreneur, equity

F: Fearless, a finisher, fitness-oriented, flexible, focused, foodie, friendly, fun, funny,

G: Generous, gentle, genuine, never gives up, goal-oriented, goes beyond what is expected, good-natured, good with the elderly, gracious, grounded, good with forming relationships with learners and families

H: Happy, hard-working, health-oriented, honest, humble, GREAT sense of humour

I: Imaginative, fiercely independent, inspirational, an intellectual, intelligent, interpersonal, involved, innovative, inclusive of all cultures

J: Jovial, joyful, just

K: Kind, has real know-how, knowledge-seeking, knowledgeable

L: Good with languages, a leader, a fast learner, logical, loyal, logistical, learner orientated, learner

M: Mature, mechanically oriented, methodical, modest, motivated, multi-lingual, musical, mathematically minded, maker space

N: Natural, nonconformist

O: Open to learning, optimistic, organised, original, outdoorsy, outgoing, his or her own person

P: Passionate, patient, persistent, poised, polite, popular, positive, has stage presence, a problem solver, pedagogical knowledge

Q: Quick, quietly capable

R: A reader, reliable, a researcher, resilient, resourceful, respected, respectful, responsible, a risk-taker, relational

S: Scholarly, scientific, a self-starter, science-oriented, sensitive to others, sincere, sparkling, spiritual, a sponge for ideas, a sports nut, stands out from the crowd, social, strong-willed, studious, supportive, student orientated

T: Take-charge person, talented, a natural teacher, a team player, techy, tenacious, deep thinker, thirsty for knowledge, loves to travel, trustworthy, transformative, trustworthy, Te Reo

U: Unafraid, unique, unpretentious, upfront

V: Vivacious

W: Willing to step up, worldly, beautiful writer

X: A xenophile (love of foreigners)

Z: Zealous


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