Month: May 2022

Making Adjustments: The Interview Process in Four Stages

Most interview processes have four stages: the screening interview, a committee interview, a small group interview with some Central Office administrators, and an interview with the Superintendent which may include the Board. The nature of each step is different, calling for different interviewing strategies. How you make adjustments to your approach of interviewing at each stage of the process is critical to your success in getting to the next step. You can compare the four-step process to the four quarters of a football game. A successful team makes adjustments each quarter; that means they change their game plan.

In interviewing, each step is different with regard to the duration of the interview, the cast of characters you meet, the nature of the questions that are asked, the questions that you might ask, and what the interviewers are looking for.

Step 1–Screening interviews usually run 10 to 15 minutes. Typically, there are about three people who will be interviewing about 12 to 18 candidates. Let’s assume you are a candidate for an assistant principal position; you will probably meet the principal, an assistant principal and a teacher (usually an officer in the Teachers’ Union). Their goal is to get an impression of you to determine whether or not you’d be a good fit. Likely, they’ll probably ask you: “Tell us about yourself”; “What do you know about us?”; “Why do you want to be a leader?” They’ll only have time for about 4 or 5 questions.

Step 2–The committee interview team may vary in size from about 6 to 10, depending on the time of year. After schools close in late June, fewer teachers and parents are available. They will probably speak to 6 to 8 candidates for about 30 minutes each. Be prepared to wait because it’s difficult for a large group to stay on time. Oftentimes, the committee will receive a list of suggested questions, and each member will be asked to choose a question. The senior members usually will go last. Expect that they will turn up the heat by getting specific, following up on your previous answers, and picking over your resume. You should also be prepared to solve an open-ended scenario, or even role play how you’d deal with a challenging problem.

Step3–If you make it to the next step, they’ll be down to 3 or 4 candidates. Expect to meet with Central Office people for about 45 minutes. They will pick apart your resume and challenge your judgment. Example questions might include: “Why did you leave…?”; “How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not responsive to your suggestions? “; “What if you disagree with your supervisor’s decision?”

Step 4–The final step may be with the Superintendent, or even the Board. I call this “closing the deal”. Don’t be surprised if the Superintendent does more of the talking. She/he may want to give you some background and share some of potential problems with which you’ll be faced. Try to make the interaction into more of a conversation rather than an interrogation. Expect that you’ll be asked about how you’d deal with these problems. They will probably ask you about how you spend your first two months on the job, and how you’d go about setting your priorities. Be prepared at the end of this interview to ask one or two of your questions of them. I also suggest that you prepare a closing statement.

Each step in the process has its own inherent challenges. You have to be prepared to make strategic adjustments. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of having a good coach along the way to help you strategize and make those adjustments. As any experienced football or basketball coach would tell you, don’t expect what works in the first quarter will necessarily work in the next quarter.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who assists his clients prepare for interviews and in the preparation of their resumes. Find out more about Larry Aronstein and read his blogs on


Stand Out from Other Applicants

Have you re-written your resume and cover letter multiple times over the last year? Have you applied for every job for which you’re qualified within 40 miles? But you are still getting very few interviews and the interviews that you are getting rarely advance beyond a screening? What’s wrong? Is it your resume? Do only internal candidates get interviews? Is nepotism at work? Is it that you aren’t well qualified? Are you giving poor interviews? As a candidate, your goal is to stand out from the rest of the field and be seen as better qualified, a better fit, and most desirable. How do you stand out from everyone else? It should be emphasized that your goal is not to have an abundance of bullets on your resume; it is to provide impressive and significant statements.

When you apply for a supervisory job such as an assistant principal, principal, or a department chairperson, you need to cite: (1) significant professional accomplishments; (2) a unique or well-developed skill set and/or knowledge base in line with the needs of the school; (3) leadership potential; and (4) evidence of being highly motivated.

Significant Professional Accomplishments

In your present position, lookout for unique and interesting growthful opportunities. Examples might be piloting a new curriculum, serving on a high profile committee, making a presentation to the Board of Education, field-testing new technologies, participating in a research study, publishing a manuscript in a recognized professional periodical, working in a summer internship or national institute, presenting a paper at a regional or state conference, being recognized and/or honored by a professional or local civic organization, writing an impactful report, or helping to develop and write a plan to improve school safety or student achievement. When possible, quantify gains in student achievement or advancements that were made as a result of your work.

Unique or Well-Developed Skills and Knowledge

The goal is to identify valuable skills and knowledge and present them in the best light on your resume and during your interview. Your prospective principal could always use help in scheduling—master schedule, testing schedules, schedules of professional development activities, and schedules of school-community events. So, take workshops to learn how to use proven technologies and practices in scheduling.

Another key function is student discipline. Learn how experienced professionals handle discipline; volunteer to shadow an administrator. Find an administrator who will allow you to be an unofficial “dean,” and who will supervise you, assign you to routine disciplinary cases. Volunteer to assist in supervising lunchrooms and bus duties. 


You should consider filling semi-administrative roles such as serving as an administrator in summer school, night school, or alternative school; you will learn supervisory skills and be noticed by your school leaders. Another way to stand out as a leader is by serving on committees. Volunteer to play leadership roles on committees in order to have an impact and get noticed. Volunteer to serve as a committee chairperson, write portions of plans and reports, and present at school board and faculty meetings.

Motivation and Agility

Being an inside candidate is the best and fastest path to advancing as a school leader. Do what you can within your school and district to be visible, cooperative, and useful. Be a team player by voluntarily moving to another grade level and/or school. This also demonstrates your flexibility and cooperation and increases your scope of experience. 

Another avenue for demonstrating your motivation is to take charge of school and community events such as assembly programs, field trips, community service projects, PTA programs, and professional development programs.

Finally, do not be a spectator who stands on the sidelines and expects to be noticed. Be an active presence, make yourself useful, learn all you can, and enhance your skills and knowledge. Get into the game!

DO YOU NEED HELP IDENTIFYING AND DEVELOPING YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS? I have designed a unique questionnaire that you can easily use. We would then use your responses to enhance your resume and further develop your narrative for your interviews. Contact: or text 516-423-0240 for further information.