Many small colleges are affiliated with a particular religious tradition, but whether your faith will affect your candidacy depends both on the denomination and on the culture of the school. In our work supporting colleges with leadership searches we have often seen ideal candidates that transcend ecclesiastical and denominational lines. Effective candidates are able to understand a college’s history, affiliation, and articulate how they will support the college’s mission. Here are two essential tenets of a winning approach:

1. Connect to your values. Even if you do not belong to the particular religious tradition, there are principles, whether of care for others, connection to something deeper, or action to right injustice, that you will resonate with. Explain how their commitment to particular values corresponds with yours and that you are excited at the prospect of joining their mission.

2. Honor the legacy. For religious schools, it is not exclusively—or even primarily—a set of dogmatic tenants. Institutions are part of a religious tradition with a history and heritage that has informed and energized their mission. Understand how faith has shaped the impact of the school and make a point to honor the contributions they have made to their community, region, and faith community.