Would you like to vastly increase your odds of success when applying for a job as a music teacher? As an employer of teachers providing online piano lessons for adult beginners, my experience is that most job applications are deficient in some obvious but easily remediable way. As a busy piano teacher and music school director, it’s easier for me to click a button to reject an application that doesn’t meet basic professional standards, rather than take the time to communicate with the applicant to give them another chance.
Music teachers are professionals. If you’d like to be taken seriously as a professional and be paid what professional teachers are worth, everything you do must be professional.
The good news? Assuming they’re qualified for the position, with a little attention and effort applicants for music teacher jobs can easily improve their chances for obtaining an interview – the next and last major step before being hired.
There are a number of personal qualities and “soft skills” that most employers seek in job applicants. Chief among these are excellent communication skills. Consider that communication skills might be the most important general qualification for any teacher. There is an upside and downside to this: the job application is an opportunity to demonstrate professional communication skills, and equally an opportunity to have your application ignored if those skills don’t meet the employer’s standards.
With all this in mind, here are seven important communication-related strategies to keep in mind when applying for a job as a music teacher:
Read the Instructions
Many job applicants don’t bother to read the entire job posting, which may include special instructions for completing the application (as ours does). Put yourself in the head of an HR recruiter for a moment: “They didn’t (or couldn’t be bothered to) follow the application instructions. How can I assume they’ll be trainable for the job?”
Use Perfect English
It goes without saying that music teachers must be able to communicate intelligently and precisely when both speaking and writing. Avoid blunders like these glaringly obvious vocabulary, spelling, capitalization and punctuation errors in actual applications I’ve received:
- “I no my intervals.”
- “The appeal was at least to fold.”
- “Trained Classical at LSU and Jazz an privately”
- “I have used many Hal Leaonard publications”
- “For kids, i mostly use Fabers piano adventures.”
- “Ive been transcribing advanced chord progressions”
If you aren’t confident in your written English skills, at the very least run your word processor’s spell and grammar checkers. You may catch additional mistakes by having your word processor read your answers out loud.
Answer All the Questions
Many job applications include specific questions that help the employer decide whether a candidate is worth considering. It might be tempting to ignore a question if you think your response might lead to rejection. But not answering all the written questions is no different than being asked a question in a live interview, then staying mute and refusing to answer. How far would that get you?
Its also important to answer questions completely, providing useful detail. Providing a one or two word answer when a sentence or paragraph would be better makes an applicant appear lazy or indifferent.
It’s also important to avoid answering in a way that might seem apathetic or (worse) sarcastic. In response to our application question “What is particularly appealing about this position?” one applicant wrote: “That I get to teach music.”
In response to the question “Would you be willing to use our schools teaching method?” one applicant wrote: “I might be open to using your school’s methods.” Another (much more attractive) applicant enthusiastically wrote: “I would be happy to use your school’s method!”
Write a Cover Letter
Not all job postings require a cover letter, but writing a personalized one that describes your interest in the position and knowledge about the employer (suggesting that you took time to learn about the employer) demonstrates initiative and genuine interest. It’s also another opportunity to demonstrate your written communication skills.
Submit a Resume
Likewise, not all job postings require a resume, but submitting one demonstrates interest and is an opportunity to provide detail about your relevant work experience. Take your time to write and polish your resume. It may be useful to make slight changes to your resume for each new application in order to tailor it for the position.
Assume a Relevant Professional Identity
On job websites like Indeed, your personal profile may require that you assume a professional identity. You may have worked in another field and used that identity in previous applications. Change it to “Piano Teacher” (or whatever instrument you teach) when applying to music teaching jobs. I’ve had piano teacher applicants with job identities such as “Delivery Driver,” “Community Assistant,” and “Package Handler.” These didn’t inspire my confidence. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a delivery driver or community assistant. But if you’re applying to be a music teacher, assume the professional identity of one.
Following these seven strategies won’t guarantee you an interview. On the other hand, ignoring any of these strategies may guarantee the opposite: that your application is ignored. If your application otherwise appeals to the music studio or school and you are asked to move on to the interview stage, you will have outclassed the majority of your fellow applicants and vastly improved your odds for getting the music teaching job you desire.
Doug Hanvey is the founder and director of Creative Keyboardist, which offers online piano lessons for adults with a creative twist. Doug holds a Master’s in Adult Education and is a member of Music Teachers National Association.