Month: March 2021

Projecting Your Gravitas: A Key to Winning the Job

I’ve coached hundreds of school leaders and teachers about the importance of presenting oneself in a confident manner during an interview. This is called “gravitas”; that is ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, do others listen? Do not confuse gravitas with arrogance. People who project gravitas should also be thoughtful; they think before they speak and enhance the conversation by adding. Be mindful that the court jester never becomes the king or the queen.

In seeking a position as a school leader or a teacher, you must convince your potential supervisors that you are the kind of person who brings a certain bearing to the position. The teacher represents the adult leader in the classroom. In the context of a job interview, here are several methods to project your gravitas:

1. Be present, listen, and speak once you’ve formulated a response

People with gravitas are attentive to the core of the interviewers’ questions, the underlying issues and agendas. So, during an interview, take a moment to formulate a thoughtful and relevant response, and draw upon your self-assurance that your response will have value. This can be done quietly without trying to show off that you’re the smartest person that they will interview. Be respectful of the people around the table who may be more accomplished and experienced than you. But be confident that your thoughts have value too.

2. Demonstrate deep understanding

Your challenge is to put forth relevant information and ideas that demonstrate deep understanding. Someone who is self-confident and secure treats everyone with respect, even some panelists who might challenge your answers and might not treat you with respect. Never appear combative or show irritation.

Remember the lyrics to the old song, “You’re got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em …”. Be mindful about timing what to say, when to say it, and what not to say. Try to make your ideas concise, on point, and clear. Don’t repeat yourself. Only when necessary, ask questions to clarify what is being asked, but keep answers on topic, and avoid providing a long context and introductions to your answers. Do not view questions as “gotcha” opportunities. Your goal should be to try to guide the process in productive directions.

3. Communicate like an adult

As an employer, I want to hire professionals—adults. People with gravitas speak like adults. Too many young people saturate their sentences with word fillers and phrases such as “like”, “you know”, “at the end of the day”, “to be honest,” and “in reference to”. You know what I mean! Also, avoid ending your sentences with an upward inflection to your voice as if you’re asking a question rather than making a statement. You want to be taken seriously. Therefore, you cannot just dress and look like a professional, you must also sound like a professional.

4. Do not confuse confidence with arrogance

There is a thin line separating arrogance and gravitas. Arrogance means that you’re perceived as coming across as overbearing, conceited, a know it all, someone who has a lot to say but really offers little in the way of substance. Most of us are repelled by arrogance in others. To me, the opposite of arrogance is modesty. Oftentimes, less is more. We admire wisdom. I once asked an extremely successful businessperson about his newest venture. He described his new business in one sentence. I commented, “You did that in one sentence.” He smiled politely and responded, “If you can’t explain something in one sentence, then you don’t understand what you’re talking about”. That’s gravitas.

5. Monitor yourself

How are my responses being received? Is my audience hearing me? Are they resonating with my ideas?  Are they nodding and smiling? Exercising your gravitas is not a trick—it’s a matter of being effective. When gravitas is lacking, people notice, and when it’s there, it’s magic.

When you walk away from the table, you want your audience to say, “That candidate really held our attention and was most impressive.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in developing their resume and preparing for job interviews. Learn more:


Does the Order in Which You Interview Matter?

“Congratulations! You have been selected to be interviewed for the assistant principal position at the Happy Hollow Public Schools. This is Dr. Buggerband’s secretary. I’d like to schedule an appointment.”

 Of course, you are thrilled. Barely able to breathe, you reply, “Yes, I’d be delighted!”

The secretary says in an almost mechanical voice, “How about next Wednesday at 4:30 at the Middle School. I can email a confirmation that will include directions”. You immediately accept the appointment.

You think, “I’ve got to tell my spouse.” She/he is elated as well, but then asks, “How many people are being interviewed? With whom will you interview? How long will it last? Do you have to bring anything with you? Are you going first; are you last?” Feeling a little deflated, you answer, “I don’t know.”

Does the order in which you interview really matter? My answer is, yes. Admittedly, I don’t have any research to back up my theory. But I do have more than forty years’ experience of interviewing, being interviewed, and coaching candidates. Call it empirical data. My theory depends on how many people are being interviewed.

  • In a large field of candidates, anything more than six, you want to go last or get towards the rear of the line.
  • In a small field of candidates, between three and five, you want to go first or get towards the front of the line.
  • If they’re down to two or three, then the order is irrelevant.

What’s the logic? If you met 18 people for 10 to 20 minutes each, over a 3-hour period, who would you remember best? The screening committee is made up of real people. Despite their best efforts, they become fatigued and bored. So many candidates appear to be mediocre… unmemorable. The panelists are dying to see good candidates. Here comes number 17. Finally, there’s a really great candidate. At the end of the process, the panelists look back at the list of names, and cannot even remember most of the faces. However, they do remember the most recent ones who they just met.

Let’s jump to the Central Office interview. They’re seeing four semi-finalists. They can readily remember all four. The first candidate does a great job. This candidate’s performance becomes the “high water mark”; the front runner. The rest of the field has the challenge of measuring up. By the time they get to candidate 4, the good performance of number 1 often becomes legendary, exaggerated in their minds.

If my theory makes sense to you, then how will you know how many are in the field, how long the interviews will last, and who’s going to do the interviewing. And more importantly, how are you going to get that last spot or the first spot?

Dr. Buggerband’s secretary routinely sets up hundreds of interviews for a wide range of positions. In this case, her boss gives her a stack of 18 resumes and tasks her to set up interviews every fifteen minutes. That’s seven interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday, and four on Thursday.

This is how you can get the appointment and the information you want:

Secretary (S): “Hello. I’m calling from the Happy Hollow Public Schools. I’d like to schedule a screening interview for the assistant principal position for which you applied. How about next Wednesday at 3:30 at the Middle School?”

Candidate (C): “Wonderful. Gee, that’s a little tight. What other times are available?”

S: “Okay, I have Tuesday at 4:15 and 5:30, Wednesday at 3:45 and 5:30, and a couple of spots on Thursday.

So, what can we derive from this? It looks like three days of interviewing. It appears that each interview will be 15 minutes. I guess the last interview runs from 5:30 to 5:45 and gets the committee out before dinner time. And Thursday is the last day.

C: “What’s the latest time you have available on Thursday?

S: “I have 5:00 on Thursday.”

C: “Great, I’ll take it. Can you tell me with whom I’ll be meeting?”

S: “There are five people on the committee.  There will be some teachers and parents and the middle school principal.”

C: “Thanks so much. I’m really excited. Is there anything I need to bring with me?”

You have one of the last spots. The interviews run fifteen minutes. You know the size and composition of the screening committee. That’s how it’s done! And now you can answer all of your spouse’s questions.


For a moment, imagine that your resume is the living room of your home. As your guests enter the room, you want them to immediately focus on those special artifacts that are the centerpieces of your room. The placement of the furniture must be mindfully placed so that they are noticeable and maximize their impact. You want to remove the chachkas, those knickknacks and gaudy items that Aunt Sarah gave you as an engagement gift, that clutter the surfaces, and are distractions. The appearance of the room is a clear and powerful representation of your persona. The design of the room embodies what you are most proud of; how you define yourself. You want it to be inviting; to draw your guests into your home.

Likewise, your resume represents who you are. It should draw in prospective employers. Continuing the metaphor, sometimes an interior designer is employed to maximize the result you desire. It’s okay to have an educational career coach help you feng shui your resume.

Here are tips that you should find helpful while you feng shui your resume so that it provides the right impact:

1. Less Is More—do not overwhelm the reader with superfluous verbiage

2. Focus on Accomplishments; Not a Job Description

3. Lead with Your Strengths (list first—catch attention)

4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)

5. Start Bullet Statements with Action Verb (past tense)

6. Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting (strengths)

7. Wherever possible, quantify your accomplishments and the magnitude of your duties

8. Omit Irrelevant Jobs, Activities and/or Accomplishments unrelated to the position

9. Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, fitness enthusiast, interesting hobbies (visits to Presidents’ birth sites), cultural travel experiences, speak foreign languages

10. Feng Shui Your Resume—the order and placement of the content counts

11. Adapt Resume for Different Positions (elementary, middle or high school; affluent or blue-collar community; urban, urban-suburban, small town, rural)

12. Set Maximum Number of Bullets—current position no more than 10 bullets; prior positions 7-8 bullets

13. Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size

14. Use a Format that is Logical and Enhances Clarity

15. Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs always required but seldom read

16. References upon Request

17. Get Constructive Feedback from school leaders who review resume

18. Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences

19. Never Lie


Dr. Larry Aronstein is a career coach who assists educational leaders, aspiring leaders, and teachers in preparing their resumes and prepping for interviews. Visit to find out about Dr. Aronstein’s services and ebooks. Contact at National and International clients are encouraged to seek assistance.