03/06/2024 by Deb Welch |

3 Steps to a Great Cover Letter for a Senior Leadership Position

It can be tempting to use the same cover letter when applying to multiple positions.  However, a cover letter provides you with the chance to make a compelling introduction, provide details not in your résumé, demonstrate your genuine enthusiasm for the position, and highlight why you are a match for the school’s needs and aspirations. Essentially, it is what sets you apart from the other applicants.  Therefore, it can be in your best interest to spend ample time on this portion of process. 

We encourage you to follow these three steps to increase the chances of your application advancing:

1) Do your research

You may be familiar with the school, but make sure to learn more about what makes it unique. Do they pride themselves on their progressive programs, their updated facilities, or their community spirit? What are the words emphasized in the school’s mission and values? The school’s website will provide a wealth of information for you as will the CS&A Position Description (PD) that we publish to accompany the position. 

We cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of the Position Description. It is not simply a “blurb” that provides a general description of the school and the position.  Rather, it is a focused document that highlights what is most important to the school and thus provides essential information for the candidate.  For each search we do, we conduct a two-day campus visit – in-person, virtual or hybrid – asking every community member the same questions.  For those stakeholders unable to meet with us, we send a survey addressing identical themes. This information is synthesized in the PD, in Challenges & Opportunities and Qualifications and Personal Attributes. Your application and interview responses will be evaluated according to your knowledge of the school, your background, and your accomplishments in these areas. 

Note how these lines taken from actual cover letters, capture the applicant’s understanding of the school, its culture, and its aspirations: 

  • “I admire the school’s presence in the daily affirmation and encouragement of students.  It would be a privilege to dedicate myself fully to the requirements of the position, including stewardship for daily and strategic operations, the financial stability of the school, and planning for a sustainable future.” 
  • “There seems to be a renewed sense of purpose at ____, post-Covid, and this is clearly reflected on the website, the building program, the latest Annual Report, and the strategic plan. A lot has been achieved recently, and there is a purposeful sense of direction about what needs to be accomplished in the coming years. I feel confident that I can contribute to this.”

Suffice it to say, search committees can spot a generic letter and conclude that an applicant is not well-informed about their program. They want to know that you have done your homework, that you recognize what is distinctive about their school, and that you are genuinely excited about their strategic direction.  

2) Align your accomplishments to the school’s needs

Note that this question requires that you not only address your leadership accomplishments but can link them to the needs and aspirations of the school. See how these applicants aligned their background with the school’s opportunities and challenges in their cover letters: 

  • “Being a learning leader has a direct impact on teaching and learning. At _____, I was directly involved in creating an inquiry and concept-based framework aligning the primary and middle schools.  This included building collaborative teams to map the curriculum based on standards, transdisciplinary skills, and assessment practices.”  
  • “Due to the number of dierent roles I hold, I have an unusually thorough overview of the school I currently work in, and I have come to understand that this awareness of the detail is what makes me such an eective leader. At ____ I will learn the ‘spiderweb’ of the school: who does what, both ocially and not; the historical context for the quirks that all organizations have; the untapped resources and the wasted e
  • “However, to effectively actualize (the school’s strategic plan), the new Head of School must not only be well-versed in high-impact performance management systems, but also adept at evaluating diverse viewpoints, while communicating across a spectrum of situations with kindness and respect. In my past and current roles, I have had the unique experience of developing a personalized faculty and staff growth and evaluation system that is supported by clear success criteria, regular observations, consistent follow-up conversations, and direct alignment of professional goals to the school’s strategic objectives.”

These applicants are clear in their understanding of the school’s aspirations and have matched the projected needs with their background and experience.  It’s as though they are putting the words in the mouth of the decision makers as to why their candidacy should be advanced to the next stage of interviews. 

3) Convey authenticity and genuine enthusiasm

Your goal is to convey briefly but persuasively who you are so that a search committee desires to get to know you better. To do that, we encourage you to have a strong opening that introduces yourself and your enthusiasm for the position as well as a closing paragraph that summarizes your important points. Typically, a cover letter should not be over two pages in length, and we urge you to have a talented colleague proofread for errors and provide feedback.  In addition to everything else, a search committee will be looking at your writing skills, knowing that effective communication is a necessary attribute for their leaders.  See how these candidates do it in their closing statements: 

  • As my resume and educational philosophy will highlight, I have assumed a wide range of leadership roles in international education over the past _____ years, and I am always eager to confront new challenges. I am confident that I possess the clear vision, passion for education, multilingual background and multicultural experience that this institution needs to be one of the world’s flagship IB schools, at a time when education is undergoing fundamental and exciting changes.”
  • “Thank you for the opportunity to apply for this important role. With full recognition of the competitiveness of this process and all that the next Head of School will need to learn, I do believe that I am the visionary, collaborative, accountable leader that ____ needs at this critical chapter in its wonderful story. I deeply appreciate your fullest consideration.”
  • “Something that excites me is the opportunity to help a talented group of people work towards a mission in better ways. Collaboration like that is only possible when there are core values and ideas that animate and empower a school. It seems to me that ___possesses this fundamental strength, and I’m eager to find out more. The appeal of starting something new, at a school that aligns with my educational values, is simply too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Your cover letter will be carefully read by search consultants and by members of the search committee at the school. A well-crafted letter will convey a positive impression to the group making the hiring decisions and will be a serious consideration in whether to advance your candidacy.  Seize the opportunity to write a letter that is personalized to the school, noting the alignment between your accomplishments and the school’s opportunities.  Use your personal voice to develop a well written letter that persuasively communicates your enthusiasm for what could well be your next school! 

Back to Blog

Leave a Comment


There are no comments on this blog entry.