The Executive Summary – Your Key to Success

If you’re currently applying for a senior role in a school you may well have been asked to include an executive summary. This is an increasingly common request in roles at all levels and has almost become standard in applications for the senior positions. 

Now you’re possibly thinking, “Should I include an executive summary if they don't ask for one?”.

Or, you might just be wondering exactly what this thing is and what it needs to cover.

Well, we’ve written this article to give you all the information you’ll need to know about your executive summary including:

  • What is an executive summary?
  • Should you include an executive summary?
  • Why should you include an executive summary?
  • What are some specific benefits of including an executive summary?

Let’s get started.

What is an executive summary?

The executive summary is an easy to understand way of showing a school that you match their teacher specification, and that you are the appropriate applicant who should be shortlisted.

Should you include an executive summary?

Yes, in almost every case you should include a tailored executive summary because a well written executive summary (E.S) will make it very clear to the shortlisting panel that you’re the right person they’re looking to hire for that specific position.

Think about it this way.

If you’re going to land your dream teaching job, you need to step inside the shoes of the hiring manager or headmaster. It doesn’t matter whether you are interviewing for a nursery, a primary school or a secondary school. Every headteacher, hiring manager or interviewer is thinking “Will this person make my job easier?”.

You’re also trying to get an interview to show you can bring value, dedication, and expertise to their school.

Therefore, the headteacher wants to see these qualities shine through in your application. This is because these qualities will help them do their job better.

For most heads, every day is loaded with responsibilities and duties to perform. They must handle a whirlwind of demands, schedules, unexpected events, and last-minute chores.

These strain their patience and resolve. To say they are stressed out and overworked is stating the obvious. Therefore, every headteacher is looking for ways to maximize their performance and minimize stress.

And this is where you come in.

If you can show you can make their job a little easier and a little less stressful, then you’ll be the one they remember when it comes time to making a final decision on who gets hired.

And a big part of proving you can do that is providing a strong executive summary.

More benefits of including an executive summary

If the job advertisement states that you need to include an executive summary then you know you need to do it or you’re just compromising your aplication.

But what about when it’s not stated as required?

In many cases, the school you are applying to will not necessarily clearly ask you to include an E.S. in your application.

So why should you bother to write one when they don’t ask for one?

1)  Because most applicants won’t bother. Another chance for you to shine.

2)  And because an E.S. makes it very clear to the shortlisting panel that you are exactly what they are looking for.

If you look hard enough, you can find the opinions of a strong E.S in an application from headteachers and H.R. professionals.

You’ll find they appreciate and highly value a strong, well written executive summary.

Here is an example of an opinion from a headteacher I spoke to recently:

“You'd be surprised how many applicants don't bother to include an E.S. But when they do, they stand out. And it makes our job so much easier.”

And another:

“Her strong executive summary was an excellent addition that made shortlisting her easy.”

Here is another post from a headteacher wishing applicants would include an executive summary in their application:

“A well-written executive summary is an invaluable part of the selection process. It sets out clearly the applicant’s skills and experience and matches it exactly to what we are looking for, enabling the selection committee to shortlist fairly and impartially by our stated criteria.”

All well and good, then. You know that it makes sense to include an E.S, but how do you go about it?

  • How to write an executive summary?
  • When should I not send an executive summary?
  • Where do I include the executive summary in my application?

All great questions…

So, let’s keep moving…

How to write your executive summary

An executive summary could be a freeform piece of writing that addresses the requirements of the role with your abilities to meet them detailed. However that style of setting out your suitability is something that is more suited to your personal statement.

In most cases, the expected form of the executive  summary has come to be a table with two columns.

In the left-hand column are the school’s criteria for the appointment. And in the right-hand column, you put your evidence that you meet their requirements.

The main job of your executive summary is to help in the task of shortlisting for the school because that is how they reduce their list of candidates.

One standard procedure for shortlisting that schools might be following is with a table with the criteria in the left-hand column, then a number of columns, one for each applicant. 

Then they proceed by giving a cross or a tick next to each criterion. Then at the bottom, they give a Yes or a No at the bottom of each column. From there, they decide on who to invite for an interview. Sounds simple, right? 

Here is an example to make the process even easier to understand:


1st Applicant

2nd Applicant

3rd Applicant

Qualified to teach & work in the UK

Strong Honours degree in the main subject


Successful teaching to GCSE & A-level

GCSE only

Evidence of improving standards of achievements


Effective behaviour management skills



Commitment to ongoing professional development


Shortlist Y/N




When not to send an executive summary

Are there any cases where you should NOT send an E.S.? Yes, there is. And that is when the school specifically says that you should not include additional paperwork.

An example of an executive summary

I’m sure you’d like to see an example of an executive summary to give you a clear idea of what they consist of:


Jack Walker: Post of Class Teacher, KS2

Your Requirements

My Experience

Qualified Teacher

QTS & PGCE Primary, University of Nottingham, June 2015

Experience in teaching KS2
Have taught Year 6 at St.John’s Primary for 2 years & set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
Competence in teaching in KS1
Successfully completed NQT induction year in KS1
Familiarity with working with EAL pupils

Work with a specialist EAL teacher at St.John’s Primary. 80% of my class speak EAL.

Currently developing specialist material for a group of Iranian students.

Ability to work in a team
Worked on team teaching strategies, and joined volunteer TA program
Ability to use ICT & IWBs
Use IWB & ICT in lessons when appropriate, especially the full Google suite
Evidence of relevant CPD
Every September I attend Child Protection, Safeguarding & Prevent training. CPD topics covered include Creative writing, Maths, Geography 
Ability to communicate effectively to a range of audiences
Communicate effectively on paper & email with all members of the school community including parent groups & carers
Trustworthy with a commitment to respecting confidentiality

Maintain confidentiality when working with social services & security services

Awareness of protecting school policies

What should I do if I can’t meet all the criteria?

If you can’t meet one of the requirements in the teaching post advertised, then you should leave that out of your executive summary. For example, if the post requires “At least two years’ experience teaching A Levels” and you have only one year experience, don’t include that in your summary. This is because your failure to meet that requirement will only attract attention. 

In addition, if you find there are more than one or two areas where you fail to meet their essential requirements, then this should throw up a red flag. In fact, you should think very carefully about why you are applying for this post in the first place. Perhaps this is a clear sign you are not the right candidate and you should keep looking for other positions. 

This is why it is a very good idea to do a rough draft of your executive summary when you find a post you are interested in. By noting down a few ideas right at the beginning, you’ll clearly see if you are right for this position. If not, don’t try to put square pegs in round holes. Just keep looking for a more appropriate post that suits your skills and experience.

Final benefits of an executive summary

I hope you can now see the benefits of including an executive summary. In brief, your executive summary will set out very clearly how you meet the school’s criteria. Consequently, this will help them to see that you should be shortlisted. An added benefit of your executive summary is it will also ensure that when you write your letter of application or supporting statement, you are very clear about the school's priorities and how you can address them. 

Therefore, my advice is to always do your executive summary before you even start drafting the letter or statement. 

One final benefit of your executive summary is that you can use it to aid your memory on your interview day. 

Your executive summary shows succinctly why they should shortlist you and in fact choose you for the position. 

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