Month: March 2016

Favorite Interview Questions for Leaders

As a candidate for a leadership job, your ability to anticipate and your skill in answering interview questions are absolutely the key to getting the job. I have successfully coached 100’s of candidates over the last five years, and written extensively on the subject. The confidential one-on-one work with my clients thoroughly prepares them. Preparation is essential for projecting an air of self-confidence and professionalism. The most often asked questions are listed below. Your strategies in addressing these questions and how your responses distinguish you from your competitors makes or breaks your candidacy.

  1. Tell us about yourself. Make your resume come alive.
  2. Why do you want to become a leader?
  3. What do you know about our school/district? Why do you want to work here?
  4. How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not receptive to your recommendations?
  5. What characteristics do you look for in an excellent teacher?
  6. What do you look for when doing a teacher observation?
  7. What process would you follow in doing a teacher observation/evaluation?
  8. What expertise do you bring to your staff in enhancing student learning through the use of technology?
  9. How do you know (what evidence do you seek) that students are learning the concepts and skills that are being taught?
  10. How would you go about assisting a teacher who is having difficulty with classroom management/student discipline?
  11. What are the most productive ways of doing staff development so that teachers can enhance their teaching repertoire?
  12. Assuming that your primary assigned duties are:  bus, corridor and cafeteria duty; scheduling of assessments; student discipline; ordering textbooks and other supplies and materials—how will you learn to become an effective instructional leader?
  13. How would you go about leading a committee charged with fulfilling the Common Core Standards and/or revising a curriculum?
  14. Assume that there is a fight in the corridor, how would you deal with this?
  15. Assume you are attending a major educational conference, what kind of sessions would you attend?
  16. What would you do if one of your teachers refers 40% of your total discipline cases?
  17. If you were tasked with designing a new report card, how would you go about doing that?
  18. What would you do if your supervisor made a decision that you disagreed with and you felt would harm children?
  19. If you interviewed candidates for a teacher vacancy, what three questions would you ask them?
  20. Tell me about a student who you helped that might have changed that child’s life.
  21. How would you deal with a parent who is dissatisfied with how a teacher is conducting his/her class? Assume that the parent has already spoken to the teacher.

Prepping for Interviews: Gathering Information

Information is power. A favorite interview question will likely be, “What do you know about our school-community?” There are many ways of gathering information. Most candidates will check out the school’s and district’s achievement test data. However, you need to go beyond what everyone else does. Networking should be at the top of the list. Speak with friends and colleagues, and friends of friends– folks who work and/or live in the target district. Remember, you’re getting their opinions, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Therefore, attempt to get a range of reliable sources. Read the local newspaper stories about the schools. Most towns have weekly newspapers on-line; read the comments, editorials and letters to the editor. Also, drive through the district. Check out the condition and location of the school(s). Get a feel for the community by stopping into a local super market, pizza place, and public library (they have a collection of local newspapers). And drive around the surrounding neighborhood of the school. Get an idea of the condition of the homes and apartments, and availability of parks, libraries, places of worship, shopping, and community centers. There are lots of ways to gather useful information.

Consider going so far as checking out the local real estate listings to get a sense of the property values. You might even attend a few open houses and speak to the realtors about the neighborhood and the schools. Attend a sports event or a concert. Get a sense of the community. Unless, it’s a very small community, you will be anonymous and unmemorable.

Your response to the query about what you know about the school community must be positive. Community leaders love their schools and their community, and don’t appreciate an “outsider” being critical. It’s similar to growing your own tomatoes in your garden. You spend a lot a time nurturing your garden, and you’re proud of your tomatoes. So, when a guest is served a salad, and you ask, “What do you think of my tomatoes?” It’s unappreciated if the guest is critical of your tomato.

You must be diplomatic. They’re not seeking constructive criticism, and you’re not there to serve as their consultant. You’re to get a job. However, if the interviewers initiate their displeasure with an aspect of the school (low test scores; high rate of student lateness; high teacher absenteeism), then you might diplomatically comment on their criticisms, citing the facts you found in your information gathering.

Sometimes, a follow up question from the interviewer(s) might be, “What did you do in order to learn more about us?” Don’t be coy about sharing your resourcefulness with them. They’ll be impressed that you took the time to thoroughly research their district. I would suggest that you leave out the visits to open houses! Also, keep the identities of your sources confidential. It’s unprofessional to name names even if prodded.

Dr. Aronstein will be presenting a workshop on “Getting Your Leadership Job” on April 19th at Nassau BOCES from 3:45 to 5:15.