A Blueprint for Answering Interview Questions

It is your final interview. Three Central Office Administrators are questioning you. “Do you have questions for us?” the Superintendent asks.

“Yes, what do you see as some of the greatest curricular challenges that the district has that I, if I’m lucky enough to get this job, would be expected to address?”

The Superintendent nods at the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. She responds to your question. “As you know, we have three elementary schools. Each of the schools has four or five classes at each grade level. What we have found is that, with several exceptions, each of the teachers do ‘their own thing’; meaning that they teach different content and skills at their own pace, using their personal preferences as to the instructional materials of their choice. There is little in the way of articulation within the grade levels and really none from grade level to grade level. Most of our teachers are pretty experienced and seem satisfied with the way things are. By the time the kids get to middle school, their content knowledge and skills are all over the place.”

The candidate silently reflects for a short moment, and responds, “What I’m hearing you say is that there is a need for greater curricular continuity and articulation. I encountered a somewhat similar situation in my experience. What I learned from these experiences was that the attempt to fix the problem could in some cases make things worse, but that there are approaches that work. This problem has obviously existed for quite a while. What I anticipate is that there are no easy quick fixes. It requires a well-planned and coordinated comprehensive approach” that includes teacher collaboration.

The interviewers lean in and encourage the candidate to elaborate on how the problem was solved. The candidate briefly provides an overview of the context, the key steps and an analysis as to the advantages and disadvantages of alternative strategies. The interviewee then sums up his/her “lessons learned” from the case he/she described.

What is the “blueprint” for being a successful interviewee?

1. Find out what the interviewers perceive as their needs.

2. Paraphrase that need to demonstrate your understanding of it and to get further clarification.

3. Concisely describe the context of a similar problem (i.e., situation, need) that you encountered.

4. Briefly tell your story of what was done and what your role was.

5. Outline the alternative strategies that were considered and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

6. Identify the key lessons learned (the guiding principles) that are the basis of how you solve problems and make decisions.

As an interviewee, effectively and spontaneously applying this blueprint is not easily done. However, being aware that there is an actual blueprint and preparing yourself by practicing how you would use it, could be most impressive and seal the job for you.

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