When you’re job hunting, you want to know who you’ll be working for. You want to know what sort of environment you’re going to be in, what it might be like to work there, what leadership may be like and so on. This is as much a part of your judgement as to whether to apply or not as the job description. Here are my top five things to find out or do as you begin your job search.
The information given
The amount and range of information given by a college or training provider can give you some hints about what they may be like. For example, is the application pack just the job specification and application form with details of deadlines and who to send it to, or have they welcomed you for a visit? Do they include information about CPD and professional development opportunities? Do they have testimonials from staff members? What about their website, does it have useful information in the staff and vacancies part, or does it look like they haven’t put much effort into those sections (if they have them)?
The best college and training provider brands are keen to recruit the best and showcase why you should choose them as an employer. They will show from the beginning that they care about their staff and how they are viewed by a prospective or current employee’s perspective, as well as learners’.
The college or training provider will have an Ofsted rating based on their observations during their inspections, discussions with staff and consideration of all the data collected. It is important to read the individual ratings and the comments made about each section, not just base a decision off the overall grade.
For example, the ‘Effectiveness of Leadership and Management’ category will give you information about how well leadership communicates with and supports their staff, and whether their CPD is effective as a professional development.
However, remember that this is just a snapshot, and a low rating doesn’t mean that it will be a terrible place to work, nor does it follow that the higher rating automatically means they are the ideal place to work. It is useful for getting a broader picture before you apply. Do the comments provided match your mental checklist about the sort of place you would like to work? Personally, comments about professional development and how staff and leadership interact are my primary focus. If a college or training provider is struggling with those, then I feel I am likely to have a harder time doing my job and moving forward in a positive way.
See for yourself
When considering a college or training provider, try and arrange a visit. This will give you the opportunity to see for yourself what sort of college or training provider it is, talk to some of the staff and ask any questions you have before the interview. It’s also a great idea to engage with staff and be seen – being able to put a face to an application can be of great benefit. The brand should be visible, as will could be the satisfaction of its staff. You can usually get a feel for whether it is somewhere you would like to work.
Obviously, visits aren’t always possible for one reason or another. Still, find a reason to call: how you are treated by the staff at the other end of the phone call, can sometimes be enough to encourage or discourage you to apply. It might be that a phone call or a tour are something you do once you have applied and have been invited to interview. Remember, the people are as important as the branding; they’re usually a sign of whether a college or trainer provider is successful or not.
You should be looking for friendly staff who are talking to each other as well as willing to talk to you, a positive feel as you walk round, and the staff showing you around should have their fingers on the pulse – know who people are, where things are happening, how things work, etc. I also look for examples of branding around: where are the mission/ethos/values shown? What information are they displaying about themselves in order to encourage students and visits to think highly of them? Have they provided a nice place to work for the staff, with efficient resources and enough space?
During this process, you will be able to see their brand at work through your dealings with various members of staff. Was the application long and complex? Did they acknowledge receipt of your application? Did they include details of when you should hear back and when the interviews will be so you can prepare? How much information were you given about the interview? What was the person on the other end of the phone like? Were they friendly and helpful or impersonal and short?
Here, you’re looking for professionalism, consideration and friendliness in the way you are treated. You’re looking for efficiency in the way the process moves through the stages. And you’re looking to see whether they ‘practice what they preach’. Is their mission/ethos/values statement actually practised or is it something just written on their website?
No college or training provider works in isolation. It might be helpful to ask people you know if they have any information about them, or to see if they’ve appeared on the news or in forums anywhere. While this can be a useful way of finding out if they live up to their brand, you must remember that the information and feedback you gather in this manner, is most likely to be subjective as it based on people’s opinions. It can be beneficial sometimes to gather information this way, but don’t rely on it. It can also be difficult or time consuming to assemble.
One of the first steps in this process should be to create a list of criteria you would like your new employer to meet. With this picture in mind, you can begin searching for a college or training provider whose brand meets your requirements.