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

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

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!

Stand out from the crowd – writing a great CV

Stand out from the crowd – writing a great CV

What is a CV?

A CV, or Curriculum Vitae, is a document that details your work and education history, as well as giving some personal information about you.

If you look for examples online, you’ll find plenty and you’ll soon realise that there’s no set way to do it! This guide will help you to write your own and make sure you don’t miss the important information, but you can stamp your own personality onto it too.

What information should you include when applying for childcare jobs?

1. Personal and contact details

It’s important to include personal details, so things like name, address and contact details. As far as contact details, you should certainly include email and phone numbers. You can include a professional social media account, like LinkedIn, but it’s not essential. You shouldn't put a Facebook or Twitter account on there, unless they are ones you use for your career, but be aware that employers may look for them anyway! With this in mind, make sure your profile doesn't have embarrassing photos or posts, or make it private so you can control who sees it.

You no longer need to include date of birth or age due to a change in age discrimination rules.

2. Personal statement

At the top of your CV, write a few sentences about yourself. This should focus on things you’re proud of in your career. Lots of people centre on characteristics like being punctual and working hard, but it’s important to back up these claims. A better way to say it could be, ‘I am hard-working and always arrive at work half an hour early to help my manager get ready for the day ahead’ (but only if it’s true!).

A personal statement can also talk of personal achievements that show commitment. These could be things like charity events (‘I ran the London marathon last year to raise money for The Parenta Trust’), sporting success (‘my netball team won the league’) or even education (‘I took a course and gained a qualification in safeguarding last year’).

A good personal statement will be a couple of paragraphs. Short and punchy is better than long and dull!

3. Career history

Write about previous jobs you have had and what your responsibilities were. It can be done as a paragraph, but lots of childcare employers find bullet points easier to read on CVs. You should write the dates that you worked there as well.

Remember to keep it short and concise. As a general rule, you should try to keep your CV to two A4 sides. Focus on achievements wherever possible, rather than just tasks, and where you've done things above and beyond your day-to-day duties.

Make sure you tailor your CV for the childcare job you’re applying for too. For example, if you've previously worked in a nursery and you’re applying for a job in another nursery, make sure you write about that role in more detail than a summer job in a supermarket you might have had.

If there are big gaps in your CV (periods of time where you didn't have a job) explain the reasons for them. It might be redundancy, caring for children or relatives, or any number of other reasons. The important thing is to account for them and not let the recruiter speculate.

Not having had a job in childcare before isn't necessarily a problem. Highlight things in your experience that show relevant qualities. Previous employment in a shop means you can talk about how you interacted with customers and show you are helpful and friendly. If you've been involved in clubs or school teams, use that to demonstrate your commitment and even leadership skills. You can use voluntary jobs and work experience to help your case.

4. Qualifications

Include a section for your qualifications. Exams you took at school, college or university should be here, as well as professional qualifications. Have you taken your Level 2 Childcare? Make sure you shout about it when applying for a nursery job!

And, as a general rule, put your most recent qualifications above the older ones.

5. Interests

More people are realising how important personality is in recruitment. Most people can pick up skills more readily than they can change their character! Show you have an interesting personal life and talk about your hobbies; one of your pastimes might fit perfectly with some of the staff at the setting and put you ahead of other candidates. This section should not exceed a short paragraph, unless your hobbies are particularly relevant to the job vacancy.  Be honest!

6. References

A referee is someone who can confirm that you are who you say you are, and that you have the qualities necessary to do the new job. Most companies will ask for a reference from a previous employer. This might be a nursery manager or, in larger organisations, an HR department. If you haven’t had a job before, it could be from your school or college, or a family friend that has known you for a long time.

If you are applying for a job while still working somewhere, you probably won’t want to risk your current employer being told you are looking elsewhere. If you’re worried, you can put ‘References available on request’. This is quite normal. You can then supply reference details if you are offered the job.

Most companies will want two referees and will contact them directly. It is not up to you to get the actual references, just details of the people who can give them.

How should you lay out your CV?

The order we've discussed in this article is quite standard, however, you can alter it as you wish. It’s particularly common for some people to list qualifications above career history. You could use boxes and columns to give it an extra dimension.

Use of colour can help your CV to stand out from others, but bear in mind that the person reading it may print it in black and white.

The most important thing is to keep it professional though. It’s better to keep it plain and simple than to distract people with bad design and too much colour. Again, look for examples online to get an idea of what is acceptable.

Be honest

While it’s important to tailor your CV for the job and put yourself in the best light possible, dishonesty is not acceptable. In fact, lying to get a job is considered fraud. It’s fairly likely you will be caught and it will be embarrassing when you do. It’ll also make it difficult for you to get a job in future, not to mention the legal repercussions of being found guilty of fraud. It’s not worth the risk!

Check it!

Once you've written your CV, don’t forget to go back and read it through. Does it make sense? Are there spelling mistakes? If you’re not confident with spelling and grammar, ask a friend or family member to help.

Look back at the job that you are applying for. Does your CV answer the requirements as best it can? If you can’t match the experience on your CV to the job, an employer won’t be able to either.

With a polished and prepared CV, you're now ready to look for a job in childcare!

Looking for your first childcare job? Be one step ahead…

Looking for your first childcare job? Be one step ahead…

Leaving school and trying to get a job can be scary. There’s lots of competition and, if it’s your first job, there will be other people with more experience. We've put this guide together to help you stay one step ahead of the other applicants.

Where to look?

A simple search online will give you plenty of job sites. You can search for jobs that sound interesting in your local area. If you know the specific job you are looking for, like working in a nursery, then a website dedicated to that profession, like Parenta Jobs, will be a good starting point.

Local newspapers are another good place to look. If you know the names of local nurseries and pre-schools, you could look them up online and email or call to see if they are looking for childcare staff. It’s good to show initiative and enthusiasm this way, but be careful not to pester; nursery staff are very busy as it is!

Don’t let yourself down before you get an interview!

A strong CV can put you ahead of other candidates before you even walk into an interview. A CV is a summary of all your experience and should focus on anything that will show you can do the job that you’re applying for. Because of this, you should tailor it to every job you apply for.

There are plenty of examples online but a CV should include your name and contact details, any previous work experience and results of exams you've taken. Write a good personal statement, which is a couple of paragraphs saying why you would be a good employee. You can use it to talk about your achievements. If you don’t have any work achievements yet, then talk about personal ones that demonstrate the skills you need for the job. For example, playing in a sports team will show commitment and team working ability.

This is the first impression someone will have of you, so ensure the grammar and spelling is good. It never hurts to get a friend or family member to check it over for you.

Get tips on writing your CV

You’ve got an interview!

Different people will interview you in different ways. Most interviews will involve you meeting one or two senior members of staff from the nursery. If they have an office, they will probably interview you there, but some are limited on space so be prepared for an interview in the nursery itself.

You should dress smartly for an interview. If you’re too casual, they may think you’re not taking it seriously. You could almost say there’s no such thing as being too smart for an interview (but you can draw the line at a bow tie or ball gown!).

Leave plenty of time to get to the setting, in case you hit traffic or there are delays in public transport. You don’t want to be in a panic when you arrive. You’ll have to sign in at the nursery, so make sure you’re there around ten minutes before the interview.

When the person interviewing you approaches you, stand and smile, and shake their hand. It will probably be a nursery manager or owner or, in larger childcare settings, an member of the Human Resources team. While you’re talking, make eye contact and try to relax. Although experience plays a part, more and more employers are realising the importance of personality. Skills can be taught, but a great personality cannot. It’s something that you should let shine through in your interview, particularly when going for a job in the childcare industry.

Listen carefully to the questions and make sure you answer them, giving examples where you can. If you don’t understand the question, it’s OK to ask for the interviewer to explain what they mean.

Remember, whilst you are the one being interviewed, this is also an opportunity for you to find out about the nursery. Before you go, prepare a couple of questions to ask, or ask to be shown around; it’ll show you’re really interested.


If you are offered the job, you may be asked to provide details of a couple of referees. These are people that the nursery can ask to confirm that you are suitable for the job. Ideally, these will be previous employers, so you could give details of previous part-time or summer jobs you've had. If you've not had any employment, other people you could ask are teachers from your old school, or perhaps someone who has known you for a number of years, like a family friend. You cannot ask family members to be referees. If you are unsure, talk to the nursery and ask who they will accept a reference from.

Starting the job

It is now common for nurseries to take staff on trial periods. These usually last for three to six months and give the nursery chance to make sure you are suitable for the job.

At all times, make sure you are polite, turn up on time and listen carefully to what the nursery manager or room leader tells you.

If you are doing an apprenticeship, you will also have an assessor who will be available by phone and email in case you have any questions about what you are learning.

Developing your career

Once you have a job in a nursery, there are plenty of opportunities to develop your career further. Parenta offer apprenticeships, which are a great way to learn as you earn. If you are aged 16-18 and seriously looking for a position in childcare, or have a nursery job already, we will be happy to help with your training. The best thing is, there’s lots of funding available so, chances are, you won’t have to pay a penny to take great childcare courses.


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