Month: November 2021

When Should You Begin Preparing for a Job Search?

Most candidates don’t get serious early enough about their search. They procrastinate until the “prime seasons” for job postings. In general, Superintendent searches happen from December through February, Central Office from February to April, Principals from March to May, and all other supervisory jobs from April through June. Serious preparation for job searching should include up-dating and revising your resume and cover letter, and prepping for interviews. Think of job search preparation as Spring Training. In baseball, Spring Training starts in January for the regular season that starts in April. The practice of getting ready early makes sense for several reasons.

  1. The odds are in your favor during the “off season”—Jobs are posted all year round. Incumbents leave their positions for variety of reasons, such as retirement, childbirth, taking another position, illness and death, relocating, and the necessity of childcare or caring for a loved one. Whereas the number of applicants routinely can exceed 100 during prime season, there may be only 20 applicants during off season. That’s a 500% advantage. Preparing early means you’ll be ready for off season job postings.
  2. Fine tuning your resume and cover letter takes time — Crafting your resume requires tweaking, that is a series of edits over time. The role of the resume is to tell your story in an appealing manner which will distinguish you in a positive way from the rest of the field. To produce a truly effective resume and cover letter demands meticulous attention to every detail.
  3. The ability to perform an outstanding interview is the result of framing and internalizing thoughtful responses to a range of interview questions– I have identified at least 20 most asked interview questions. The answers to these and possible other questions cannot and should not be subjected to memorization. A successful candidate needs to create an appealing narrative, and to internalize a powerful set of answers that go to the core of the questions. It takes time to marinate a fine steak. Similarly, it takes time to internalize thoughtful answers to interviewers’ questions, answer with an authentic voice, and respond efficiently and effectively.

If you want to be a serious candidate, then take my advice: it is never too soon to prepare yourself. Here are a few things you should do to get going: read how to “get the job” books and blogs; find and work with a job coach; attend workshops; develop drafts of your resume and cover letter.

Getting the Job Is Like Becoming a Chess Master

Recently, a suburban school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. The district attracted more than 200 applicants, met with 18 for a screening interview, and then had a hiring committee interview 6 semi-finalists. At about the same time, the Kentucky Derby had 19 horses “Run for the Roses.” Those horses had the benefit of the best trainers in the world to prepare them. Trying to get a leadership job is very much like a horse race.

How much of an investment does a serious candidate make in getting certified as a leader? There are application fees, tuition, books, commuting costs and time. That can easily add up to more than $15,000. Does investing a tiny fraction of that for a book, a seminar or a coach make sense to you?

Being a well-prepared competitive candidate is the difference between playing a good game of checkers and being a fine chess player. A good coach will prepare you. A coach can help you hone your resume and cover letter; present yourself with self-confidence; tell a compelling story about why you are the right match for the job; anticipate and prepare impressive and unique responses to interviewers’ questions; strategize your narrative; and how to read body language. Yes, coaching does work. Those who receive coaching and mentoring do so confidentially.

Most universities provide some assistance for preparing your resume and letter and giving you interview tips. However, the right educational coach has walked the walk. He or she has a diverse and well-positioned network of former clients and colleagues; knows the schools and districts, and the inside stories of what they need and want. You will be guided on how to fashion your approach to the special needs and wants of the specific school and district. People who play horses get lots of tips—some good, some shaky. Practically everyone gets, and oftentimes uses, tips on how to invest, restaurants to dine, and places to shop. A tip, of course, is only an opinion. Most of us have been disappointed with tips. But good preparation goes far beyond informal “tips.” Good preparation often requires a good coach who teaches you actionable strategies based on thoughtful analysis of tried and tested practices in getting school leadership jobs.

A good coach or mentor gives you feedback on your interviews, and assists you in closing the deal and negotiating your contract. The difference between a coach and a mentor is that coaches are experienced professionals, while mentors are well-intentioned friends and colleagues whose experiences and insights may be limited. Like any good service, you should not expect coaching to come free of charge; however the cost of coaching is much more modest than you think. Getting a good leadership job is a lifetime gain that requires a modest short-term investment. But remember: the best investment you can ever make is in yourself. All of these “investments” increase your chances of winning that position. In some respects, it is a game of probability. All things being equal, my experience has taught me that the best prepared candidate has the best chance of landing that job.

         If you are serious about your future as a leader, then getting job coaching is a great investment. If you are not getting interviews, consider seeking feedback on your resume from someone who has done hiring. The purpose of your resume and cover letter is to get you an interview. If you happen to be getting interviews but are not moving along to the next step in the process, then you need help in interviewing strategies.

        You should feel comfortable in relating to a coach and sharing your life story, your strengths and self-perceived insecurities. A good coach will help you craft your message, teach you strategies, help build your self-confidence, give you model responses, role-play both sides of the table with you, and offer honest and constructive feedback. Coaching is, pure and simple, a vital critical investment you can make in yourself.

Likeable, Trustworthy and A Good Fit

The three most important assets during an interview is your ability to project likeability, trust and fit. Likeability, trust and fit trump everything…your knowledge of pedagogy, your qualifications, everything. Unconsciously, interviewers often decide at first sight whether they like you. Still, over the course of the interview, interviewers can change their opinions in either direction. If they really like you, they may even overlook your less-than-satisfactory responses to some of their questions.

Likeability

So, what can you do to get them to like you? Ask yourself, “What is it that makes me like someone when I first meet them?” If you’re like me, I like people who are friendly, relaxed, humble, pleasant, sincere, and respectful. We probably also like people who enjoy and exhibit good humor. Researchers indicate that being likeable bears little relationship to appearing attractive, intelligent or assertive. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Dress appropriately and modestly—it’s just as important to not over-dress as it is not to under-dress. Limit jewelry to a small number of modest pieces. Hair styles should be modest. Going on an interview is not like going on a date.
  2. Shake hands with everyone, look each person in the eye, smile, and tell the interviewers your name. The warm firm human touch and the proximity of person to person contact are magical.
  3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Sit up, lean forward, make eye contact with whomever is speaking, acknowledge your understanding by gently nodding and smiling, and acknowledge others’ nods and smiles by nodding and smiling in return. Do not cross your arms. Do not frown, shake your head from side-to-side, or grimace in disagreement or disapproval.
  4. Laugh appropriately. If someone says something funny, it’s okay to laugh, but don’t overdo it. It’s also good to say something funny within the context of the interaction; however, you’re not there to entertain. If you’re the only one who’s laughing and joking, then stop!
  5. Control your emotions. If you feel interviewers are confrontational, disrespectful or disapproving, never show any signs of annoyance or anger. Keep your cool and push through it.
  6. Express an air of self-confidence; but never come across as cocky.

Trustworthy

How do you project your trustworthiness to a group of strangers? It has to do with providing an authentic narrative that demonstrates your actions and experiences that paints a picture of being responsible and accountable, reliable and consistent, truthful, honorable, and transparent. Assuming you are asked the question, “How would your colleagues describe you?”

I suggest you should respond as follows: “One thing I think they would say was that I’m a straight shooter. That means that I say what I mean. They would also say that I hold myself accountable before I blame someone else for a mistake. Union representative would say that I’m always fair…I never knowingly violate a contract…and that I make decisions based on the facts after doing a thorough investigation.”

A Good Fit

How do you demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the school-community? First, you must research the demographics, the socioeconomic status, and what the community appears to value. Check out their website. Look at the photos; read the local newspapers (you can usually find on-line newspapers); visit the community; determine the kinds of activities they celebrate, music, the arts, athletics. In responding to their questions, try to resonate with their values and interests by matching your background and values to theirs.

 Before walking into the room for your interview, your mantra should be: “Be likeable and trustworthy, and show them you’re a good fit!”