Getting the Admin Interview
Congratulations is in order! You’ve made the life-changing decision to become a school administrator. Depending on your region, the position may be titled Assistant Principal, Vice Principal, Associate Head of Schools, or Student Services. You are ready to take on more challenges and to improve schools on a larger scale. Welcome to school administration! These tips and strategies are here to help you take your dream and make it a reality. With Assistant Principal interview questions and step-by-step ideas to prepare and land the job, this guide will help you perform at your best.
Prepare for the Interview
Many Assistant Principal jobs receive dozens if not hundreds of applications. The job application is the first, vital step to landing an Assistant Principal job. Every detail matters. Take your time, proofread, and submit your very best work on your application. For example, ensure that you use proper grammar, complete every detail on the application, and pay specific attention to putting your best foot forward in this initial step.
Letters of Recommendation
It’s important to ensure that every letter of recommendation is tailored to a school leadership role. For example, don’t submit letters of recommendation that are meant to get you a teaching job. Be sure that the letters speak to your abilities as an instructional leader. Now, this could take some work. You may need to call your old references and ask them for an updated version of your letter. I’ve served as a reference for countless teacher leaders and am always willing to update an address and change a few words ~ even from someone with whom I worked many years ago.
As a principal, I’m also always looking for a letter of recommendation from an applicant’s most recent supervisor. Now, there may be excellent reasons why someone doesn’t include a letter invitation from a current supervisor; however, a missing reference can cause a Hiring Committee to wonder, “Why not?” It may not prevent you from getting an interview, but it may put a question in the Hiring Committee’s mind. Therefore, if you can get a current supervisor’s reference or letter of recommendation, I highly encourage it.
Research the School and District
We know that leaders who are ready for their first administrator job are often applying to many schools. It’s good practice, however, to not look like that’s the case. When a candidate interviews for a leadership position at my school, I’m always wondering, “Why do they want to work here? What is it about our school that drew them to apply? Are they just ready to lead anywhere? Or do they have an invested passion in our school and community?” Even if you are just looking for your first leadership role (which most of us are!), invest time and do research about the school to which you are applying.
Questions to research include:
How has the school fared on its state Report Card?
What are the school's values? Mission, vision, mascot, colors, legacy?
Who are the key players: Principal, other administrators, head secretary (the real boss!)?
How large is the school population – students, staff, custodians, secretaries?
What does the school’s website reveal about their passion, pride, and programs?
How does the school fit in the broader school district?
From where does the school draw its student population?
What is the school’s motto, colors, and themes?
What does a web search reveal about the school? (ex. News articles, awards, celebrations) Googling a school can uncover videos, so you can see the principal talking, hear from students and teachers, and get a better idea of what they value.
Know the Interview Format
In preparation for your interview, it’s likely that a secretary or the principal will send you a few details. Read these very carefully. Interviews are never meant to be a “gotcha,” but a way to get to know candidates and find the best one for the job. Listen carefully when you get the interview invitation call, ask clarifying questions, and take notes. Pay close attention to details such as how long your interview will last (as noted on your schedule) and what tasks are included. This will help you prepare and feel relaxed knowing what to expect of the assistant principal interview process.
Many interviews consist of some variation of the following: Panel interview, student and/or parent interview, performance task, coaching a teacher based on a lesson, a school data review, or a tour. Long gone are the days of simply a panel interview; plan to have the group look at you in multiple settings so they capture a well-rounded picture of you as a school leader.
The Morning of Your Assistant Principal Interview
Dressing for the Job Interview
Do not be fooled: an Assistant Principal interview is no less formal than a Principal interview. In fact, my Director of Schools (#2 in the district) sits on all Assistant Principal interview committees because we’re actually hiring for a future principal! Therefore it’s imperative that you dress for the biggest job in the school.
Whenever possible, wear school colors. Ladies ~ this doesn’t mean dressing head-to-toe in orange and blue; you could wear a necklace, earrings, or some element that has a school color. Gentlemen ~ wearing a tie with the school’s most prominent color is always a smooth move. Perhaps it’s a bias of mine, but I always notice the colors candidates wear. Committee members notice, too. We talk about it during the deliberations, not as a major topic but as “a nice touch.” When Assistant Principal candidates don’t wear school colors, it is a missed opportunity to show that they want to join our school community.
Everyone is nervous for a job interview. Whether you are a master interviewer or someone who dreads the pressure, committees understand this and often overlook the small initial nerves. It’s important, however, as you prepare for your interview that you identify tricks that work for you. Here are some of mine:
Eat breakfast with protein – sugary foods eventually make people sleepy and yawny; eating protein-rich breakfast like eggs or sausage helps stabilize energy for the long haul.
Pack snacks – again, protein! The interview process is often multi-stepped and lengthy. Snacks help stabilize energy throughout the day.
Bring water – When I am in high-anxiety situation, I always sip water. It gives me something to do, and buys me a few extra seconds to consider a question. It’s likely that the committee will provide you with a b