Cover Letter for Internal Candidate

(1/2) > >>

Well, I've been lurking around here and learning from everyone for years. I've never had occasion to post, because it has always seemed that someone else has asked my questions earlier (and usually better). But I can't find any threads relating to my current question.

I am currently a department chair and have served in two other administrative roles (both in program leadership) on campus and have been encouraged to apply for an open position at the dean level. After giving it much thought, I am inclined to apply and I have started to craft my cover letter and other application materials.

I wonder if anyone here has thoughts on what an internal candidate, in particular, should consider while putting together an application packet. I'm especially interested in considerations for the cover letter. I know what most cover letters should include: 1) selective reference to professional experience and other candidate-specific items that make the person a fit for the position AND 2) evidence that the candidate understands and is thoughtful and excited about the position, department/office/center/initiative, and institution.

However, as an internal candidate, I am well known to many on the search committee, which makes #1, above, more difficult. Will telling an internal search committee what I would tell an external one about myself--largely things that an internal committee already knows--sound presumptuous? Should I take special care with this? Or should I write the same letter I would write if I were applying to another institution?

And, as an internal candidate, I will be much more familiar with the division, the institution, and its initiatives than I would as an external candidate at another institution. Will the search committee expect me to evince this in the cover letter, telling them how I understand the division, the institution, and its initiatives? Or will they know that I know these things and wait to hear from me about them at the interview, if I get an interview?

I have no answers, but am asking the same questions.  I'll be watching avidly for advice here because I'm going to be in the same boat.

I think you need to take a much more shark-like approach to this whole thing.  The tone of your post suggests that your letter will be along the lines of "Hey everyone, I am super-qualified for this appointment!"  Given what I've seen happen to other internal candidates for administrative appointments, you might do better to create a letter more along the lines of:  "I could eat every other candidate you're looking at for breakfast."

This doesn't mean you have to be very aggressive, but spell out very clearly why putting you in this administrative post will benefit the institution long-term.  Implicitly suggest the weaknesses of any outsider who doesn't know the deep history of the place.  Have some innovative ideas about strategic goals that you already know are broadly appealing to the faculty.  If your institution is having a rough time financially, have some concrete ideas about how your division can weather the storm without compromising on educational value and long-term institutional aspirations. 

The fact that people on the search committee already know you can cut both ways: you have an obligation to seem a bit "new" and surprising to them to deal with the "grass is greener" problem.  You need to look greener than they were expecting.  Find a way of presenting your background and history (what they already know) in a new light; they don't know what that experience really means.

There was another thread here about the fate of internal candidates for Dean appointments that I'm going to guess that you've read.  I've seen several internal candidates go down, and the people who were chosen over them were perceived to have more energy, more new ideas, perhaps financial canniness that the inside candidates did not have.

I concur.

I will tell you a story. I was chairing the search committee for a dean. We had a well-liked internal candidate and two external candidates. The internal candidate was a good faculty member, very energetic, who had stepped up to the plate to handle some big administrative projects like overhauling our IRB process and launching a new program. We all knew she was great at what she had done, but for some of us, it was hard to envision her as a dean, with a whole new level of vision and responsibility.

The two external candidates were strong, had relevant experience, and could talk about what they would do as dean. While we didn't know them as well as we knew our internal candidate, they were good at selling themselves in the short time they had with us.

The internal candidate did something very smart. She talked exclusively about her vision for the college and how she would carry it out as dean. She made use of every bit of knowledge she had about our internal workings to present herself in an entirely new light, to force us not to fall back on our image of her in her faculty role. She got the job.

I've been involved in search processes at institutions which have required all candidates to be treated in exactly the same way with the SC having to find evidence in the cover letter and resume/vita that any applicants deemed as qualified met every specific qualification on an AAO/HR approved list.  As an insider, you're the most expert person on the forum on that subject.  If I've described your institution's process, you need to find a way to do that in your cover letter even though every SC member will already know.  It may feel awkward, but you've got to do it to avoid ending up in the reject pile.  The grace with which you are able to do it can only help you.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page