Are you sending out your resume but only getting few interviews? Are you getting interviews but are not being called back? What should you do to get your fair share of interviews? What are the factors that determine your success?
Factors to Consider:
- Attractiveness of the District—stereotypically, highly attractive districts or schools are usually affluent, high paying, and high achieving. They are highly selective in choosing candidates. Unless you are well-qualified, that is looking for a parallel position, a graduate from a prestigious university, hold a doctorate, and/or have significant accomplishments, your chances of getting an interview are slim. That is not to say that you should not apply, but your expectations should be realistic.
- Quality of Your Resume—if you’re a qualified candidate but are getting less than a 25 to 30 percent positive return (initial interview per resume submitted), then you probably have a resume problem. Your resume’s job is to tell your story in a compelling manner and get you an interview. You might have your resume evaluated and edited by a highly credible and reputable coach. Educational resumes are somewhat unique; so be wary of having a well-meaning friend from the business-world review it.
- Effectiveness of Your Screening Interview—typically an average of about 15 screening interviews are scheduled for a leadership position. Sometimes they only last 10 to 15 minutes. Obviously, there are a limited number of questions that can be asked and answered. The interviewers are trying to get a sense of who you are by evaluating your narrative (your story), how you present yourself, your likeability, and how you would fit into their school-community. About 6 of the candidates will move on to the next round. If you get a screening interview and habitually do not move to the next step, then you need to evaluate your narrative and how you present yourself. You probably should be coached rather than trying to adjust on a trial and error basis.
- Quality of Your Answers—the next step is The Committee Interview composed of around 7 stakeholders (parents, teachers, administrators), which will run about 30 minutes. There is ample time for them to ask about 10 questions encompassing many aspects of educational practices. The Committee will likely narrow the field down to about 3 finalists. The candidate needs to perform a precarious balancing act. She/he must satisfy the vested and oftentimes competing interests of parents who are demanding greater sensitivity to their child’s needs and accountability, administrators who are seeking higher academic achievement, and teacher unions who are looking for teacher-friendly leaders. At the same time, the candidate must maintain a positive, thoughtful, sensitive, knowledgeable and diplomatic demeaner. This demands extensive preparation which includes becoming familiar with the strengths, needs, nature and values of the school-community. A successful candidate must do his/her homework and be ready to present him/herself appropriately.
- Flexibility—the final interview, usually 2 or 3 finalists, involves a 30 to 45-minute session with Central Office Administrators. Again, there is a shift in strategy for this interview. These leaders are trying to determine who is the best equipped to fulfill their agenda, solve existing problems, and represent the proper image that will satisfy the community and particularly the Board of Education. I often use the metaphor of a tennis match. Up until this interview, the candidate’s job is to “return serve” to each questioner. However, this match requires the candidate to be flexible in switching the “game” by creating a “volley”—a back and forth, give and take conversation. This calls for asking clarification as to the district’s issues and priorities, offering your related experiences, and as a result building a professional rapport.
These are the major factors you should be aware of and act upon if you are going to get your fair share of interviews and successfully move forward in the process