Essential Interview Prep for School Administrators

By Erin Coursey, iHire, LLC
           

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher seeking to take the next step in your career or a veteran administrator looking to relocate, interview preparation is essential to landing the position. Study this guide closely to ace your next interview.

 

General Tips

  • Research the school: Does the school use Common Core, and how has the state adapted the standards? Also, get a feel for the general student demographic.
  • Identify your “bests” and “worsts.” What have you learned from experiences that didn’t go as you hoped? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • Consider any significant differences between your current position and this one, including district size, school sector (public, private, charter), and student age range.
  • Get together some questions of your own. Interviewers will probably ask if there’s anything you’d like to know as the meeting ends. If you have a thoughtful question or two ready, it shows interest. Plus, the answers give you something to talk about when you get called for a second interview!

 

Types of Questions

There are two main kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked. Knowing the purpose of each type can help you structure appealing, in-depth answers.

Personality, Skills, and Opinions: These focus on anything from your career goals to your drive to succeed. They’re the basic, yet essential, questions that enable you to make your first impression and really wow your interviewer.

Behavioral: For these questions, think about concrete examples as well as your own opinions. How have you handled angry parents in the past? What strategies have you found scaffold students’ learning especially well? Your answers should demonstrate how you might apply something you learned through past experience to your future role.

 

Sample Interview Questions

Getting to Know You

  • What do you see as the role of [position title] in this school?

Think about how you will interact with students, teachers, and other administrative personnel. What events/programs are your responsibility to coordinate? How is the job you’re applying for different from the most recent one you held, and how do you expect to adapt to those new expectations?

  • What is your philosophy of education?

What is the role of school in students’ lives? How do we give teachers enough space to adapt instruction while still maintaining accountability? Where does testing fit into the picture?

BOTTOM LINE: What motivates you about this job?

Professional Competencies

  • What is you greatest professional strength? Weakness?

Complete a strengths/weaknesses analysis to develop an in-depth understanding that can guide your answers in other categories as well.

  • What have you done to stay up-to-date?

Consider any publications you read regularly, professional development you’ve completed, and/or associations with which you are affiliated. In addition to describing how you stay informed in your field, discuss something new (policy, theory, or method/technique) you’ve learned recently, why it’s interesting, and how you might apply it in the future.

  • What do you see as the greatest pressure of this position?

What challenges do you anticipate and how will you overcome them?

BOTTOM LINE: Why are you the best candidate for the position?

Curriculum and Instruction

  • What curriculum changes have you made?

Teachers just coming out of the classroom to become administrators: how did you push your students to reach the deepest levels of comprehension and understanding? Veteran administrators: how have you influenced departmental/school-wide instruction (including providing professional development for faculty or promoting specific techniques, such as differentiated instruction or Common Core)?

  • How have you helped lead other teachers in organizing curriculum?

When have you brought a particularly great idea to an instructional planning meeting? What were the results? How did you accommodate others’ opinions? What did you learn from the experience?

  • How do/would you measure teachers’ effectiveness?

Spend some time investigating the district’s current teacher evaluation procedure; what would you change about it if you could? What effective instructional strategies do you look for when evaluating a class? How do you plan to deal with teachers who don’t meet school standards?

BOTTOM LINE: How would you go about improving instruction?

Tough Decision-Making

  • What methods/strategies have you used in resolving conflicts between students? Teachers? Parent vs. teacher?

Friction between parents and school faculty/administrators is not uncommon. Take some time to really solidify your expectations for the roles teachers, parents, and students play in education. Be prepared to respond to a hypothetical teacher/parent or student/teacher disagreement. Then come up with some examples of when you successfully diffused a volatile situation.

  • What are some ways you would maintain services/activities without incurring extra costs? How would you cut costs?

With overcrowding and limited funding, some of the toughest decisions school leaders make involve money. How will you allocate funds? Will you pull money away from certain programs or eliminate them all together? Where do you see particular need for an increased budget?

  • Describe your philosophy of discipline.

From improper dress to hallway fights, misbehavior is unavoidable in any school. How much responsibility for controlling students’ behavior falls on you, your teachers, and parents?

BOTTOM LINE: What do you expect from your school, teachers, students, parents, and administrators to maximize positive outcomes, and how do you ensure those standards are met?

 

Sources:

Glen Hughins— How to Cope With All Difficult Assistant Principal Interview Questions?

School of Educators— School Administrator Interview Questions

Mary Clement— Spotlight: Sample Interview Questions

           

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