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10 of the Biggest Cover Letter Bloopers: Tips for Future Principals

Posted on Tue, Sep 09, 2014 @ 13:09 PM

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You’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every principal worth his or her salt must have. That’s a great start, but if you cannot craft a well-written cover letter to accompany your CV, you may never have the opportunity to get in front of the interview team that holds your future in their hands!

You’d be surprised at how many applicants fail or forget to include simple elements that can make or break opportunities. To ensure that you avoid them, we’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most common cover letter bloopers.

Failing to address the right person
Beginning a letter with “Dear sir or miss,” or “To whom this may concern” is a surefire way to start off on the wrong foot. Whether or not it’s true, generic introductions like this suggest to the reader that you didn’t take the time to do a quick Google search to find out who would be reading your letter.

Will the superintendent of the district be reading your letter? Will it be a “selection committee?” If you don’t know, make a simple phone call to the human resource department to find out. It’s a small, but important gesture that may distinguish you from the other applicants who either did not think to make the phone call, or didn’t feel like it.

Leaving out important contact information
You probably included your contact information on your CV, but you should also include it on your cover letter. Include your phone number, email address, home address and, if you have one, a link to your classroom/school blog.

Using inappropriate email addresses
This may seem obvious, but we’ve seen too many email addresses like [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] appear in our inboxes. Email addresses like this are probably—probably—OK when you are in high school, but they won’t do for serious applicants.  Besides the tackiness of the above examples, neither give the reviewer any idea as to who the email is from. As a result, they may end up being deleted because they look like spam.

Blank or vague subject line
If you are emailing your cover letter and resume, read on.

Odds are that there are several positions available in the district you’re applying to, so you can count on it that HR is receiving dozens of emails every day for dozens of positions. Make it easy on reviewers by listing the name of the position and your name in the subject line.

Your cover letter is generic or boring
You’re opening paragraph must be engaging. Why? Because it may be the first and only paragraph the reviewer reads. As you craft your opening paragraph ask yourself the “so what?” question.

Yes, you’ve always wanted to be a principal. So what? Yes, you have a passion for students and education. So what? Why do you want to work in this district at this school? What makes you different than all of the other applicants?

Underselling and overselling
You don’t want to oversell or exaggerate about yourself, but you should find a way to balance on that thin line between confidence and pomposity. 

Your cover letter reads like Finnegan’s Wake
Finnegan’s Wake is long, but it’s the non-linear, stream-of-conscious prose that makes it notoriously difficult for readers. Don’t pull a James Joyce! Your reader doesn’t have time to close read or dissect your cover letter.

Every cover letter should have three things: a clear beginning, middle, and end. Keep it simple. Keep it short.

Lazily recycling your letter
If you’re applying for the same position, there’s no problem with reusing a good deal of your letter—but it should appear to the reviewer that you wrote this letter with him or her (and the school) on your mind.

Failing to sign the letter
If you’re emailing your letter, this doesn’t apply to you. However, if you’re sending a hard copy, always physically sign your name at the end of your letter. This may sound nitpicky, but again, it suggests that you have taken the time to write to the reader personally and haven’t simply recycled the same letter.

Failing to send a cover letter at all
You’d be surprised at how many people think they can just send their CV off on its own. This rarely works in the applicant’s favor. If you’re going to “go for” a position, go for it all the way.

Photo credit: aprillynn77 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, educational leaders

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