Own Your Story: How to Write a Cover Letter for Leadership Positions in Education
Updated: Jan 5
Banish writer's block by following this simple formula
I can't tell you how many of our coaching clients dread writing cover letters for leadership positions in education. There's something about facing that blinking cursor on a blank computer screen that forces them to freeze. Or maybe they just aren't comfortable boasting about themselves.
But there is really no way around it. You need a cover letter, also known as a letter of introduction, if you want to stand out from all those other applicants. It is an opportunity to tell your story and explain why you are uniquely qualified in a compelling and concise manner. You are not restating everything already in your resume; you are giving them a reason to read your resume in the first place.
Here are our top tips for writing an effective cover letter for leadership positions in education:
1. Tailor your cover letter
There is no one-size-fits-all in cover letter writing. Each letter should be tailored to each position and organization.
2. Don't drone
Start writing with a strict length in mind – typically three to five paragraphs and no more than one page. One important skill a leader must master is knowing how much to say and when. If an applicant cannot control themself in the application process, will they be able to control themself in the position? The best way to lose a reader, other than errors, is to drone on and on about every accomplishment in the cover letter.
3. Hook them with your intro paragraph
The first paragraph should contain a hook that pulls the recruiter into the letter. What kind of hook? A compelling story that demonstrates why you are interested in this particular job. It should be honest and heartfelt while demonstrating a level of knowledge about the position and the school/district.
4. Say something that's NOT in your resume
Your middle paragraph(s) should connect the compelling story from your intro with the job posting, explaining why you are the right person for the position. This is the opportunity to connect experience and education most relevant to this position and how it has prepared you for the new role. Again, this is not the right place to reiterate experience or education.
5. Use your cover letter to address gaps or potential red flags
If there are any gaps or potential red flags in your resume, consider using your cover letter to put a positive spin on your story. You want the recruiter to get the best version of the story rather than creating one in their head or searching on the internet. Examples include breaks in employment or a pattern of short stints in jobs.
For instance, you might explain an employment gap like this, “I made the extraordinarily difficult decision to resign my position as the principal at ____ school to care for my ailing parents. After supporting them for three years, I am happy to say that things have stabilized. I am now in a position that I can recommit to school leadership about which I am so passionate.”
If you do choose to address such issues in your cover letter, ask a trusted friend, mentor, or career coach to review it to make sure you don't come across as defensive.
6. Wrap it up succinctly
Your closing paragraph should demonstrate appreciation to the reader for the opportunity, reiterate your passion for the position, and point toward a future connection (an interview!). Then end with a respectful sign-off like "sincerely," "thank you," "best regards," or "respectfully."
If you still find yourself stuck, please reach out to us for help. Sometimes writing your own story is the hardest story to write!
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