Having a current resume ready to go is essential, as you want to be ready to submit your resume when you see a vacancy you want to pursue or when a search consultant recruits you. Resumes should be accurate, flawless, and succinct. Be sure to have it proofed by someone who is an excellent proofreader and did not help to write it. The last thing you want is an error on your resume. Also be sure dates, titles, district names are all completely accurate and match what the District would say about you. Be prepared that some search firms and districts do not want resumes. They will have you submit the same information on their applications, which are usually submitted via their websites.
Get letters of reference now – Ask annually
Assemble a packet of three to five letters of references that are specific to the type of job you are seeking, e.g. the superintendency, but generic in regards to a specific district. If you need letters that are specific to a district, it will be easy to ask a reference to rewrite the letter to the job for which you are applying. If you are seeking superintendency, it is important to have at least one, if not more, letters from board members. If you are seeking your first superintendency, it is a good idea to ask for a letter from the superintendent for whom you work. It far easier to ask for reference letters when it is only a possibility that you might be considering a job change this year than to ask for one for a specific position. Many educators ask for annual letters of reference from their supervisors, just to make sure they are current and avoid the awkwardness of telling your supervisor that you want a letter because you are applying for job.
Know where you are and are not willing to move
Give careful consideration to location, type, and culture of the districts where you are willing to work. Talk with your family about their willingness to make a move. Consider the pension ramifications of changing state retirement systems. Know the kind and culture of districts where you might be most effective and happy. There is nothing worse than applying for a job, getting interviewed, and then withdrawing because your family does not want to move or the retirement ramifications are too severe. You not only create a problem with that Board, you may also be damaging your reputation with the search firm and in that state.
Know and address your weaknesses
The superintendency is the one role in education that is responsible for everything – both the instructional and operational sides of the District. Very few individuals have deep experience in both sides of the house. Some administrators come from the instruction side while others come through the business/personnel/operational departments. Few educators have experience at both the high school and elementary levels. While you know your strengths and can easily determine if they are a good match for the job you may be seeking, it is equally important to know your weaknesses. More importantly it is helpful that you do something about them. Seek out the current projects in your district for the year that you would not typically have direct responsibility for and ask to take on a leadership role. If you are the assistant superintendent for instructional services, ask your superintendent to help finances or operations. Then when asked in an interview, you can share any area that may not be an area of extensive experience for you, but you can share what you have done to learn about it.
Do a deep Internet search on yourself
In an era of technology where almost everything is accessible to almost anyone and there is little discrimination regarding the sources of information, you need to do a comprehensive Internet search on yourself and learn all there is to know about you in the pubic record. Know the articles in which you are quoted or the news that may have been critical of a decision you made. Know the press about a job that you did not get but is now part of the public record. Most importantly, be prepared to explain those items. If there is something that is truly critical of you and you are portrayed inaccurately, identify someone from your past who knows the situation and can explain the reality of it. Ask that person if he/she will serve as a contact and explain what the real story was behind the story in the press.
Know and be prepared to disclose your background hick-ups
Everyone makes mistakes in their lives. The unfortunate part of the current environment for superintendent searches is that those mistakes are now easily discoverable. Previously, when records were paper, your past mistakes may not have been public fodder. Today, with electronic record keeping and Internet capability, our mistakes are often easily searchable and discoverable. Operate on the assumption that any mistake you have made since childhood is now part of the public record. Disclose it to the search consultants so they can forewarn the Board of the issue. Boards can often understand and accept a mistake from your past if they know about it. But if they discover it on their own and it was not disclosed, the situation almost always ends badly for the candidate.
Once you are prepared, go to the HYA website – hyasearch.com – Start an application
You can complete an application for a region of the country and by doing so all the necessary information, other than a couple of narrative questions, will be in the system. When you identify a specific position you want apply for, all you will need to do is to click on the vacancy and answer the two opened-ended questions about that district. By starting a generic application, you can save yourself a lot of time when you are in the throws of a specific search.