Month: November 2020

The Politics of Inside Candidates

“Should I even bother to apply for a job when I know that there are inside candidates? Can I ever beat out an insider? Are the cards already stacked against me?” The short answer is “yes”. You should apply. Like your mother would say, “There’s nothing to lose.” Be aware that the actual status of the insider or insiders is unknown. The “powers that be”, meaning the superintendent, board members, other administrators, may not favor the insider. The insider may be on the wrong side of some internal issue, some political alignment, or is just not highly respected. Oftentimes, the screening 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 own performance. All you can do is to do your very best and then hope for the best.

However, before you take a job be on the lookout for nepotism and xenophobia; these conditions flourish in too many of our schools. Just knowing someone on the inside to get a job may not even be enough. Sometimes you must be someone on the inside. Under some circumstances you must even grow up, live and work in the district.

Be aware that you might not even want to work in a place in which nepotism is the rule. Organizations that regularly practice nepotism are often resistant to any significant change and neither seek nor honor diverse perspectives which might come from outside sources.  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 often 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 some school districts is to be an inside candidate. If this is the case, then you might be better off not working in a place like this. Be careful what you wish for because you may get it.

Aside from 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 yet 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 oftentrue! Unfortunately, sometimes “outsiders” are chosen and then not listened to, sometimes even shunned. Ideally, schools are organizations that should be open, and must continue to grow and learn.

The Cover Letter

A cover letter is always required, however cover letters are seldom carefully read and there’s a good chance that it might never be read. Yet, you might as well develop the best one that you can.

General Guidelines:

  1. Keep the letter to one page.
  2. Carefully proofread for any mechanical errors—spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, capitalization, complete sentences. Have a colleague who has excellent writing skills proofread.
  3. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Avoid flowery language (“It is with great pleasure that you kindly accept this humble letter of application for your recently posted position on OLAS for elementary school assistant principal.”) This should read: “I am applying for your assistant principal position.”
  4. Emphasize your accomplishments. Avoid presenting your job description.
  5. Address your letter to the person identified in the job posting. If a name is not identified, then address it: “To Whom It May Concern:”
  6. Make certain that you address it to the right district. You will usually send the same form of the letter to various districts, so be careful to change the name when addressing the new letter.
  7. Use a four-paragraph format.

Paragraph 1:

  1. “I am applying for the position of______________.”
  2. “For the last five years I have been serving as ____________ in the ____________School District.
  3. Previous to this I was ______________.
  4. “I earned my _____________________________. “(list your academic degrees, major areas of study, and the universities)
  5. Specifically indicate why you are interested in applying for this position. Why are you attracted to this job and this school-community? Be positive.

Paragraph 2:

  1. Briefly describe two or three of your significant accomplishments that relate to this new position and/or school-community.

Paragraph 3:

        Identify three professional qualities and/or guiding principles that colleagues would use to describe you and define you, and briefly provide an example for each quality.

Paragraph 4:

     Briefly conclude with two sentences: “I look forward to meeting with you in the near future in order that I might provide you with more information regarding my candidacy. Thank you in advance for your serious consideration.”

Sign off: “Sincerely,”