Putting Together a Powerful Letter of Application

This is critical to your developing career and should be invested in seriously; it says more about you than you might imagine.

It is deceptively easy: you have all that experience which you just have to present in the right order, and they will be lining up to offer you interviews.

Except of course it’s not quite that simple, even in these days of shortage of good candidates.

There is a core to a good application that is simple, in essence, but tricky in the execution.

What are Panels Hoping to Find in the Envelope?

  • A brief but trenchant statement of your educational philosophy
  • A strong sense that you care for and can relate to children, and how everything you do will be for the benefit of children in the school
  • A number of insights about leadership and management that your experience has given you and which would inform your execution of the role
  • A concise paragraph about the contribution that quality leadership can make to a school and the children within it
  • Your take on what the role is, and how your experience has prepared you to take this on.

This should be tied in with a concise summary of what you think you professional and interpersonal skills are and something about yourself and what sort of disposition-always say diligent- and personality you have.

For your concluding paragraph you should state  that you feel that you now have the appropriate experience, insights, and professional and interpersonal skills that you feel equips you to approach the challenge of being the – say – Deputy Head of XYZ school with confidence. Always try to put the actual name of the school as it helps the school to understand that you really imagine yourself in the role.

And What Don’t They Want to Find?

Apart from the obvious, like spelling mistakes and wine stains, they don’t want:

  • An extended travelogue of your career, eg ‘and then I did this’, and ‘then’, and ‘then’, etc; they can glean the information they need – very little actually – from your CV;
  • Over self-inflation and excessive focus on your achievements – you are biased, and they will get this information impartially from your referees;
  • A lecture on leadership and management, littered with jargon;
  • Over pithy or folksy tone or illustration.

When it comes to putting this all on paper, write the headings first – this will ensure you have a robust structure. The whole thing should run to no more than a side-and-a-half of A4, ideally, and certainly no more than two sides.

Managing Multiple Applications

It’s unlikely that you’ll just be applying for a single post, so there are a few extra things you should bear in mind if you are looking to apply to anumber of different schools.

Don’t just send the same standard letter with each application. The job of the application is to prove to a school that you meet their criteria – they should have given you a strong steer on this in the advert. Use that information to craft your letter to show your best sides to the selection panel and the information they will want to see.

Go beyond the advert as well to look for information that will help you. Likelihood is you will already have glanced over their Ofsted reports and performance data before you apply. If they have issues address them in your application, without mentioning them directly. The school’s problems will surely be on the panel’s minds – they don’t need reminding of them.

Yes – all this extra work will take longer, but it could be the best and most lucrative half an hour you ever spent.

Some Final Thoughts

Ultimately you need to get the balance between:

  •  Too much detail, and not enough
  • Sounding too intellectual and sounding lightweight
  • Selling yourself and being laid back
  • Being distinct and different and appearing deviant

This is not easy!

But then it was never meant to be, since it’s designed to discriminate between the candidates and throw up applications of quality, distinguishing them from their mediocre and prosaic counterparts (as the interview process will do for the shortlisted, if it is conducted properly!)

If You Want to Find Out More

This blog post was adapted from our course Preparing for Deputy Headship. It’s been very popular and has helped lots of aspiring leaders develop the skills and knowledge they needed to bag their ideal post. If you’d like to find out more take a look at how it could help you apply for deputy headship.