Seeking a leadership position is similar to a competitive horse-race. The odds for your success are largely based on: (1) the status of the potential employer, (2) the degree of nepotism at play, and (3) your qualifications and experience. The status of school communities can be stereotyped according to their historic reputation, that is the perceived quality of education, affluence, political stability, students’ college acceptance, achievement scores, etc. Whether these reputations are in fact valid can be suspect. Nevertheless, these reputations are widely accepted and durable, and determine how appealing it is to work in a given school district.

Frankly, school districts are often stereotyped as A, B, C, or D? A districts are affluent, homogeneous, high achieving. D districts are the opposite: poor, Black and Latino, low achieving, politically troubled. B districts are middle class; C districts are working class and usually diverse.

As an example, for an assistant principal position you might find about 250 or more resumes submitted for an A district, 125 to 150 for a B, 40 to 50 for a C, and 20 to 30 for a D. This means that the ratios of resumes received per “category” are about for every 1 for D, there are 2 for C, 5 for B, and to 10 for A. Yes, an A district would get 10 times the number of applicants compared to a D. These ratios are consistent beyond just assistant principal positions; these ratios hold up across the hierarchy of leadership jobs. Therefore, your odds for getting an interview are much better for D and C districts.

How does nepotism play into the equation? Let’s define “nepotism” as “giving preferential treatment”. In many districts “courtesy interviews” are extended to current and sometimes past employees, and friends and family of those in influential places. Assuming that 10% of first round interviewees are for purposes of courtesy, that means that your odds of even getting interviewed goes down by 10% because the number of interviews granted will be limited.

Finally, let’s focus on qualifications and experience. The most important qualifications beyond the minimum requirements of proper certification and minimum years of service, are the status of the district in which you are currently serving, the similarities (demographics) between your current district and theirs, the doctorate, your perceived race and ethnicity, the reputation of the colleges from which you graduated, and particularly your accomplishments.

All of these factors go into the odds of just getting an interview. What can you do to increase your odds? The only factor that you have any control over is your accomplishments as reflected in your resume. So what should you do– review and revise your resume and emphasize your accomplishments as they relate to the job and the school-community.

My frank analysis is based upon my decades of experience as a school leader who participated in the screening and interviewing of candidates, and my ten-year experience in coaching hundreds of candidates for leadership jobs. It is not my intention to discourage you from applying for jobs. I do, however think it’s important for you to understand the realities and the odds you are facing. I also want to be clear that there are many excellent, well-qualified “insiders” who get interviews, and that “long-shots” can and do break the odds and win the horse-race.

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