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President of Major Executive Search Firm Wants Superintendent Candidates Who Will Make a Difference in the Life of a Community

Max McGee, president of Hazard, Young and Attea Associates shares his knowledge on how to impress potential employers.

“Board members hire people who they feel good about,” said Max McGee, president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Schaumburg, Ill. “They hire approachable, accessible and likable people.”

McGee, who leads the largest private-sector search firm in the superintendent market, shared his insights at an AASA conference session titled “Let’s Land That Job … and Keep It,” on Friday morning.

He told attendees that school boards often look for candidates with a willingness to contribute to their community. “They are not looking to give you a job,” said McGee, who earlier worked as a superintendent at the state and district levels. “They are looking for someone who’s going to make a difference in their students, teachers and community.”

A key step in a job search is creating a compelling story of one’s leadership achievements and contributions to the district and community. McGee said a resume and cover letter should be specific about accomplishments. Including hyperlinks to previous work in a resume is highly recommended as they can be an interesting opportunity to tell a candidate’s story.

The language in a cover letter can be essential in landing an interview for a school administrator position. Cover letters that get discarded make frequent use of the singular “I,” educational jargon and grammatical errors. Documents should be “perfect,” he advised. McGee suggests substituting “we,” which can be seen as more inviting.

Preliminary interviews frequently take place over Zoom and last between 30 and 60 minutes, which is long enough to gauge whether a potential candidate is excited about a position or merely interested. A former superintendent at the state and district levels, McGee stressed the importance of making your opening and closing statements count. Practice them a lot, he counseled.

Preparation is key in landing an interview and preparing for it, McGee said. Adjust the video camera to eye level for a remote interview, ensure proper lighting and monitor nonverbal cues. Reading from your notes rather than looking at the camera, frowning and searching through piles of paper are nonverbal cuts that leave poor impressions, he added.

Interviews are a candidate’s chance to just be authentic, McGee said. Share stories and achievements that reflect what sets you apart from other candidates.

(Kahwit Tela is a reporting intern for Conference Daily Online and a senior journalism and new media major at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.)

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