How to Write a Cover Letter
Applying for a job at a private school is a little different from posting your resume on Monster.com, which is what you would do if you were seeking a position in the business world. In the K-12 private school employment market, you present your application materials in the format and manner set forth on each individual school's website. In other words, you customize every application you submit. One size does not fit all. Each application requires an original cover letter, not one which you have used on another application. In case you think that this detail doesn't matter, remember that dozens of other applicants, i.e., your competitors for the position, will have followed specific application instructions to the letter. And that is as it should be. Don't question a school's application instructions. Do as it asks. Of course, when you have questions, do not hesitate to call the school and ask for clarification. Most of the time schools will be happy to help.
Let's take a look behind the scenes. I screened applications and interviewed candidates for almost two decades. My company did not specify a format for applying. It used Monster.com to find candidates who seemed to have the qualifications and experience which we were seeking. But I was always amazed, and sometimes shocked, by the resumes and the occasional cover letters which we received. Can you imagine submitting a cover letter or completing an application online with typos and spelling mistakes? I saw hundreds of those. I understand that business correspondence such as resumes and cover letters is not taught in high school anymore, or, at least, doesn't seem to be taught. That's too bad, because sooner or later job-seekers begin to realize that there has to be a reason why they are not even getting a call back when they submit a job application. There are many reasons why they don't receive a callback, but one of the main reasons is that the person who is screening applications both online and in hard copy scans for keywords and appearance. The applications which meet the standard for a callback go in one folder; the applications which don't make it go in another folder. You must make absolutely certain that your job application ends up in the callback folder.
Examples of Employment Opportunities
The following are examples of the approaches to applying for a job which several private schools use.
From The Hill School, Pottstown, PA:
"All resumes and cover letters must be submitted via the School’s online application system. Interested applicants may apply for jobs and read detailed job descriptions here. A representative of The Hill School will follow up with you if there is an interest in learning more about your skills and experience. Thank you for your interest in employment at The Hill School."
"Rowland Hall Middle School is seeking a Three-Dimensional Studio Art Ensemble Teacher to lead instruction and direct the Middle School 3-D Studio Art Ensemble course. Students will design, sculpt, assemble, and configure different materials in processes brought to life by a practicing artist. Bachelor’s or master’s degree in education and/or studio art recommended. Review the complete job description. Please email a cover letter, resume, and references to Andrea Beckman, Middle School Administrative Assistant, at email@example.com"
From Saint Paul's Episcopal School, Kansas City, MO
"Employment Opportunities/Current Positions
Toddler Associate Teacher (position begins in August)
Part-time, 7:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. Mon-Fri.
Benefits eligible. Experience with young children required. A degree in Early Childhood preferred.
Please send cover letter and resume to Sheila Abio, firstname.lastname@example.org"
Preparing the Cover Letter
The cover letter or letter of interest is always one page in length. It must be crafted carefully and free of typos. Follow these guidelines if you are asked to submit your application by snail mail:
- Use a plain white paper, not a fancy vellum or parchment type of paper.
- Center your letter perfectly on the page.
- Use Microsoft Word or similar program to create your letter.
- Use a plain font such as Arial.
- The font size should be 12 points.
- Print the final copy using a laser printer as laser jet ink smudges.
- Sign your cover letter using black ink.
- Use the address indicated on the school's employment page.
- Create a customized cover letter for each position for which you are applying.
- Put the cover letter and the required documentation in a large envelope so that you do not have to fold the materials.
Here's an example of a snail-mailed cover letter:
51 Grove Street
Dr. Virginia Felton-Smith
I look forward to hearing from you.
Most schools will ask you to email them a cover letter. Use the following format:
Please find enclosed my application and supporting materials for the position of Latin Teacher at St. Monica's School For Girls.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Tip: There is no need for a formal salutation or greeting such as "Dear Dr. Smith" in business emails. Nor is it necessary to use a formal close such as "Yours truly." Greetings and closes suit the more formal printed and snail-mailed business letter format. Email is crisp and business-like when you allow it to be.
Whether you use snail-mailor email formats for cover letters which the schools request, remember that these cover letters are not pitches. This type of cover letter simply explains what materials you are submitting and the position for which you are submitting them, as well as expressing your interest in the position which the school is advertising. Keep your message short and to the point.
Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl