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


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