5 things I look for when employing school leavers at my nursery

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We caught up with a Nursery Manager, who told us what she looks for when employing schools leavers at her nursery.

Alison Walker manages The Nursery at St Peter’s Church in Maidstone. Talking to her, you can feel the enthusiasm she has for childcare. She’s been working in Early Years jobs for over 30 years, gaining a wealth of experience and progressing her career along the way. As well as practical knowledge, Alison really advocates the academic side of the profession and, with a BA and MA under her belt already, is waiting to get onto a doctorate course. She’s a great role model for those looking to get into the childcare.

Alison is very aware of the impact that recruiting a passionate and capable team can play in running a successful nursery. She took some time out of her busy day to tell us what she looks for in a candidate who has little or no previous experience, and how you can improve your chances of starting a long and successful career in childcare. Here are the top five things she looks for!

1. Motivated and bright

Attitude goes a long way in childcare. I’m looking for people who are bright, bubbly and motivated. Young children spend a big part of their day with us and, at that age, they are really impressionable. I want staff who can be great role models to the children. You have to be capable of being on top form, even when you may not feel great yourself. People who work in shops or offices can drop something because they aren’t concentrating, and it’s not usually a big problem. In this industry, mistakes have huge consequences. I need to have real confidence in my staff. With the right attitude, you will find childcare very fulfilling and see the positive impact you have on little lives every day!

2. Want the job for the right reasons

This is really important for me. Childcare shouldn’t be considered a fallback option or a choice you make because you couldn’t think of anything else. You should be passionate, excited about working with children and understand what modern childcare involves. You don’t just spend your days playing with children and it’s not the same as babysitting or caring for family members; it’s about education, nurturing and paperwork. Make sure you’ve researched it and know it’s the right job for you. Come into it with your eyes open and you’ll find few jobs could be more rewarding.

3. Capable and academic

More than ever, a solid academic background is important in this industry. I’m not saying you have to have all A’s, but paperwork is a fundamental part of Early Years now. I look at grades and grammar on CVs, because I need to know my employees can read, write and calculate to a decent level. I recognise how much you can benefit from continuing to gain qualifications throughout your career and that quality is something I like to see from applicants too. From your Level 2 to Level 5 and even doctorate, there’s always more to learn!

4. A good CV and good experience (even if it’s not work!)

A CV is my first introduction to someone who wants to work at The Nursery, so it really has to count. Personally, I’m not a fan of gimmicks, like photos or too much colour. I want to see a well-written CV that talks about qualifications and achievements. When applying for a first job, use your CV to tell an employer about sports teams you’ve been involved in and anything you’ve done in community groups, like Girl Guides. These show you can operate in a team, have leadership abilities or have picked up skills that may be useful in a childcare setting.

If you want to improve your chances of getting a job in Early Years, volunteering at a local nursery is a fantastic way to demonstrate enthusiasm and give you experience that could put you ahead of other candidates. The other thing to remember is that having an inappropriate email address can put a lot of employers off! Create one that’s based on your full name, even if it’s just for job applications.

5. Good presentation at interview

If I like someone’s CV and invite them for an interview, I look a lot at presentation. You should demonstrate that you’re taking the job seriously and wear appropriate clothes. Staff may wear polo shirts and jeans in a nursery to do their jobs, but dressing smartly for the interview is always a good thing; it’s a business after all. I have nothing against piercings, but remember they are a safety concern in a childcare setting and showing you realise that by taking them out is advisable.

If I offer the job after interview, I’ll put the person on a three-month probation period. This gives both parties chance to make sure it’s the right career for them. Hopefully they fit in, care for the children, stay enthusiastic and make it the first step in a happy career!


If you’re ready to take that first step into a childcare career, let us help you!

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Alison WalkerAlison Walker manages The Nursery at St Peter’s Church in Maidstone.

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