Practitioner’s Corner: Crafting the Résumé – 2

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Your résumé has one purpose—to identify you as an individual who will bring value to a school and who is deserving of an interview to see if the match is worth pursuing. To secure an interview, you need your résumé moved from the “OK, I’ve read it” pile to the far slimmer “I want to talk to this person” stack. Invest the time and energy to make your résumé outstanding. As a former school superintendent with 20 years experience in hiring administrators and as a professor who advises those who are seeking their first principalship, I offer several tips to help you get noticed.

The Opening Statement
Today’s schools require individuals who are leaders. Think about the best administrator you ever saw, and consider the extent to which you possess those dispositions, skills, and talents. Translate that information into your opening statement. If you declare that you are, “An experienced educator who is interested in a position that will enable you to grow as an educator,” I won’t be anxious to speak to you. But if you identify yourself as, “An educator committed to the success of all students with a particular and proven strength in leading and working with staff in a school that is committed to students first,” you will get my attention, especially if the school needs someone who is strong in building a positive climate and improving achievement.

Before writing the opening statement, research the school and district, using credible sources, including the Internet. If you know people who live in the community, ask for their impression of the school. If you know someone who works in the school or district, find out what she thinks are the most critical needs. Learn about the incumbent and why he or she is leaving the position.

You must emphasize your strongest assets in your opening statement, indicating that you will offer expertise in an untapped area or add value to the potential employer’s positive attributes. If the school needs someone to help it boost student performance, you must present yourself as a person with outstanding instructional strengths. If the school is replacing a longstanding and well-respected principal, you must be seen as an educator who can build on a superior reputation and can lead the staff to the next level of high performance. If the incumbent has subpar people skills, you must present yourself as someone who believes in and practices mutually respectful professional relationships.

While most would agree that gathering this kind of background knowledge is critical for an interview, it is just as important in crafting the opening statement on your résumé. In today’s competitive environment, you must hand-tailor your résumé for every position to which you apply.

Make only statements that will be substantiated by those with whom you currently work. If you are interviewed and considered a serious finalist, informal networks between your present district and the potential employer will become very active. Any suggestion that you are not being forthright in presenting your strengths will stop your candidacy and damage your credibility.

List Your Accomplishments
Follow the opening statement with a list of significant accomplishments. Using action verbs, emphasize what you have done and the results. Which sounds more like the person with whom you want to speak? “School team leader” or “Leader of a team of teachers who pioneered inter-classroom visitation resulting in a strong professional learning community whose students performed at goal in literacy and math on state assessments for all subgroups.” The second, more detailed choice might distinguish your résumé from the others.

What are the five most significant accomplishments of your professional career? Why do you feel that way? Now add two more. Are they as significant? If the answer is yes, include them. If not, stop where the level of significance drops off.

Offer Explanations
A doctoral student seeking an entry-level position recently asked me how to handle the fact that she moved to five different positions in a 10-year span. The reasons were perfectly legitimate, but on paper it looks like she can’t make up her mind about where she wants to be, or might even suggest a lack of successful experiences. I advised her to provide a brief explanation of her career journey. Her job hopping might still cause some to reject her as a candidate, but to others, her moving might no longer matter. Nothing will make me skip over a résumé faster than an unexplained history of moving every two years.

Carefully Select References
Many job seekers view selecting references as just another step in meeting the requirements of writing a résumé, listing individuals in a position of authority who would speak highly of them as a candidate. If you know the school has particular needs, select references who can explain how you can meet those needs. For example, if you have a particular strength in technology and that is what the school needs, ask your district technology director to serve as a reference and explain why you chose him: “Mr. Smith is in a position to speak to my strengths in using technology as a tool to enhance classroom instruction.” Now I know that others think highly of your skills, your references connect to my needs, and, if I contact the person, I can have a focused and purposeful conversation.

Provide contact information for the references. I may want to speak with them to decide if I want to call you. I am put off by the words “References furnished upon request.” I may not have the time to contact you to ask for and wait for your references.

Get the Résumé Critiqued
Show your résumé to someone you trust and ask, “Given the needs of this school, would my résumé prompt you to interview me?” Select a person whose writing skills you respect, who is knowledgeable about the type of position you are seeking, and, if possible, who has interviewed others for similar positions.

Before hitting send, check several times for spelling and grammar without relying on the spellchecker. I suggest limiting your résumé to no more than two or three pages. Some believe that one page is sufficient. I don’t think you can reasonably tell a person’s story in one page. I’m willing to invest the time to read two or three pages if the candidate intrigues me.

Your résumé is usually the only entry point to getting that interview. Make it count!

Salvatore J. Corda is associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University.

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