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News & Views
The Early Bird


The Executive Search and Recruitment team at FE Associates have just successfully handled a new Principal/Chief Executive role and the successful candidate will take up her new role at the start of the next academic year. 

In this blog I am reflecting on how candidates for this role went about the process of applying, with a view to providing all of you who are planning to apply for senior roles in the future with a bit of helpful advice.

My first piece of advice would be to ensure you make personal contact with the search and recruitment consultant(s) who is leading this process well ahead of the closing date.  When a search and recruitment consultant picks up a new assignment he or she will have a list of potential candidates in mind and will spend the early part of the process having discussions with them.  However one of the reasons why roles are advertised (and there are several reasons) is to attract the broadest possible range of candidates and identify individuals who the consultant(s) may not be aware of.  Therefore it can only help any future application if you pick up the phone, introduce yourself, find out more about the role, and build a relationship with the consultant(s) that may last for many years to come. Just submitting an application ‘cold’ does not help.  Having said that, once you submit your application the consultant(s) may well make contact with you if you meet the published person specification criteria.  However, you can only help yourself by making contact.

The next piece of advice I have is do not leave the submission of your application to the last minute. Of course, I appreciate that people applying for senior roles have busy lives and demanding jobs already, and spending time on a job application is often confined to weekends. But by getting your application in early, you are making a strong impression, you are showing that you have committed time to a role you are serious about and that you can manage a busy work schedule.  This is not to say of course that strong applications that are submitted on the final day do not receive due consideration – they do – but as they say: the early bird gets the worm!

And my final piece of advice, which I’m afraid is so obvious, is make your letter of application or supporting statement unique to the role and institution you are applying for. The panels of governors who undertake the shortlisting process really take exception to candidates who have simply used a generic application letter for a generic senior role at a generic institution.  Make it stand out, make it special to the circumstances and context of the locality, organisation, challenges and opportunities that this particular role at this particular institution presents. Of course, we know the crucial thing is to make sure your submission addresses the criteria as set out in the person specification but make sure it projects a message of “I want this job at this organisation.”


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