I have a lot of experience recruiting and working with preschool teachers. For the most part, the process operates just like any other job; elements like your education, relevant experience and personality – that is, how well you might fit into the culture of the center – are all critical.

The last point operates to create more of an impact that we might like to admit; preschools are typically small and with few staff; so one incompatible hire can really have an impact on the experience of not only that person but the other staff in the center.

It really does go both ways – if you don’t get a good vibe when you visit, then make sure you carefully think through the reasons why, because it’s not going to be fun for you if you don’t get along with the other staff, either.

I don’t mean to be negative; it usually isn’t personal but everyone is much better off if we can see ourselves happy and motivated to go to work, knowing that we are making a difference the way we want to in the world. If you don’t find this feeling with the center at which you’re considering working, I would suggest moving on – because you will find that special place and enjoy teaching there just so much more.

What does this have to do with drafting your resume? Simple, really – be yourself. We are always tempted to adapt our resumes, exaggerating some things and perhaps omitting others, based on where we are applying and what we think they might like to see in an ideal candidate.

But believe me, the ‘ideal’ candidate can come in many forms. We want to see the real you; recruiters will always try to tease out of applicants their true motivations and opinions, in an effort to see how they will fit in with a workplace culture.

If you are true to who you are, then you can approach this exercise honestly as yourself. If they determine you are the right fit for the job, then it’s genuinely because you are the right fit – that’s the real you, not the idealized version you wrote down on paper.

Having said that, of course, there are certain things that preschool recruiters will always look for – and value highly – in a teaching resume.

Combine all of these factors together with an honest account of who you are and what motivates you as an early childhood educator, and you are well on your way to landing that perfect job.

What is important to go on your resume to ensure you land that ideal preschool teacher job?

  • Background information – what would employers like to know about you?
    • Here we include a typical ‘overview’ or ‘professional profile’ section, where you are able to describe yourself, your background and your reason for applying for the job up front; think of it like a mini cover letter. Don’t be too wordy; keep this section concise, but impressive – you want the employer to be interested to hear more from you – and so invite you for an interview!
  • Your individual goals – both for now and where you would like to be in 5 years’ time.
    • This gives an employer a strong insight into your motivations for doing what you do, as well as a picture of whether you are committed to a job for the long-term. If you aren’t, then it’s ok to say you are still figuring out your 5-year plan. There is no automatic expectation you’ll still be in the same job in 5 years’ time (though we can hope we can remain happy in a single job for that long).
  • Your personal teaching philosophy (You can see a copy of my teaching philosophy here, which perhaps you can use for inspiration as well).
    • Everybody’s teaching philosophy is different. Moreover, some preschools are quite different to others in the way they approach early childhood education. Sharing your philosophy not only shows you’re genuinely passionate about early childhood education, it gives your potential employer a genuine impression of who you are and how you might act on the job.
    • If the center is looking to make continual improvements (as they should), then a well-considered and detailed philosophy to teaching demonstrates that you are a thoughtful educator who will be able to bring energy and new ideas to help improve existing teaching approaches and processes, which can be immensely valuable.
  • Documentation on the whole cycle of planninghow you go about planning for both your group and individual children.
    • If you are able to explain your approach to planning, this can be a powerful demonstration of your efficiency as a teacher, as well as give the preschool an idea of your work style. If you are able to demonstrate a well-thought-out approach to delivering your lessons, that will be a big tick in your favour. Most candidates do not provide this information in a structured way, so it can be a bit of a question mark –outlining this in your resume is definitely a way to stand out.
  • Relevant certifications necessary to do the job.
    • If you have current police checks or working with children checks, for example, these should be included. It can cost money and time for the preschool to undertake these checks itself, so if you’ve already got the current certificate in hand, it’s one less inconvenience to deal with.
  • Professional qualifications and training – even if you think it’s not that relevant, it might be of interest to a potential employer.
    • If you have any skills at all – first aid, CPR, fire training, a bus driving licence – put it on your resume, because you never know what a preschool might view as a bonus! Perhaps they need a bus driver to go on excursions; if you are licenced to drive one that will certainly set you apart as a candidate.
  • Professional development you have undertaken – this demonstrates an ongoing commitment to improving your craft, and employers love it.
    • Have you been to further education or professional conferences? Make sure you list them. Even if you think they aren’t necessarily 100% relevant to the job you’ve applied for, include it because the mere fact that you took the time to participate is indicative of your desire to get better at what you do – which is a key trait of success in the workplace.
  • Relevant experience with the process of preschool accreditation.
    • At present, only 10% of US preschools are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children – so experience in this process is highly desirable indeed.
  • Contact details of any referees from past workplaces (including the most recent one). If you’re a student, then it’s ok to use workplaces that aren’t preschools.

How to outline your work history

  • Work chronologically, with the most recent job at the top. As the jobs get older and less relevant, you can include less detail.
  • Under each job, list in detailed bullet points each of your main responsibilities.
  • Under each of your most recent 2-3 jobs, include an additional section, called ‘Key Achievements’ or similar – this is your opportunity to talk about times when you led on a project, or played a key role in a successful outcome in one area of your work. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your initiative through real examples.
  • Use situational examples to support your claims – in each scenario, think about what happened, and what did you do?
    • Interviews these days are trending more toward behavioural questions; recruiters increasingly aim to get an understanding of how you will respond in a variety of real-life scenarios.
    • Your responses to these questions are your opportunity to demonstrate your skills in multitasking, responding to pressure situations in the classroom, handling parents and many other areas.
    • When you make claims in your resume, make sure you back each of them up with at least one situational example as evidence of the claim. For example, if you say “experienced with teaching students with intellectual disabilities”, make sure you explain a relevant scenario, what actions you took and how it led to a beneficial outcome for the child. That’s what the recruiter really wants to hear.