Should you even bother to apply for a job when you know that there are inside candidates? Can you beat out an insider? Are the cards already stacked against you? The short answer is that you should apply—there is nothing to lose. The actual status of the insider or insiders is unknown. The “powers that be”, the superintendent, board members, other administrators, may not favor the insider. The insider may have been on the wrong side of some internal issue, or is just not well respected. Oftentimes, the screening committee or the hiring committee will reject the insider’s candidacy, which results in a wide-open process.
Even if there you wind up competing with an insider, it remains a possibility that you may prevail. You have no control over the status of other candidates, but you do have control over the quality of your performance. All you can do is to do your very best and then hope for the best.
Nepotism and xenophobia have always existed in many of our schools. It goes beyond just knowing someone on the inside to get a job. Sometimes you must be someone on the inside. Under some circumstances you must even live and work in the district. Organizations that regularly practice nepotism are often resistant to change and do not honor diverse perspectives which might come from outside sources. However, leaders in these schools might argue, “if it ain’t broken why fix it”. They assert the need for continuity and consistency. They preach that outsiders don’t relate to their community. They take pride in being a “close knit community”. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the only way to land a job in many school districts is to be an inside candidate. If this is the case, then you will probably be better off not working in a place like this. Be careful what you wish for because you may get it.
Besides being unfair, nepotism often results in mediocrity in that the best qualified candidates are passed up, and the same practices are perpetuated, as the torch is passed to another insider who was weaned in a closed system. The justification for rejecting outside candidates is often that “they’re not a good fit”—which ironically is often true! Unfortunately, sometimes “outsiders” are chosen and then not listened to, sometimes even shunned. However, schools are entities that must continue to grow and learn.