Month: October 2022

When Should You Begin Preparing for a Job Search?

Most candidates don’t get serious about their search early enough. They procrastinate right up until the “prime seasons” for job postings. In general, Superintendent searches happen from December through March, Central Office from February to April, Principals from April to May, and all other supervisory jobs from March through June. Serious job search preparation includes 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 in preparation 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 of a loved one. Whereas the number of applicants routinely 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 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 demands meticulous attention to every detail.
  3. The ability to perform an outstanding interview is the result of internalizing thoughtful responses to a range of topics – I have identified “The 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 guiding principles that go to the core of the issues. 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 are a serious candidate, then take my advice: it is never too soon to prepare yourself. Don’t rush the process. Here are a few things you should do to get going: read how to books; find and meet with a job coach; attend workshops; develop drafts of your resume and cover letter. In summary, preparing early affords you the time to internalize, absorb, develop deeper insights, and marinate your resume and effectively respond to interviewers’ questions.


Interviewing: Scenarios and Role Playing

Role playing with a candidate during an interview has become a more frequently used exercise. Usually, a more senior member of the interviewing committee will pose a scenario with a common problem. The intention of this approach is to determine the candidate’s judgment and ability to think on his or her feet. Role playing requires at about five minutes of interaction. A role play scenario may appear to be simple and routine. However, like most real life situations, it has nuance. Typical scenarios might take the form of how to handle a fight between students, a complaint about a teacher from a parent, or a rumor about a dangerous situation. As the candidate talks through the first steps, the interviewer might introduce additional information.

Role playing is designed to reveal the critical qualities of (1) the ability to investigate and analyze a situation, (2) judgment, (3) resourcefulness, (4) creativity, (5) the ability to de-escalate a situation, (6) the ability to utilize resources and resource people, (7) communication skills, and (8) follow up. The skillfulness of the candidate to demonstrate these qualities can often be a make or break moment in the interview.

Here is a scenario that I’ve often used when interviewing teachers:

Norberto, a student who is known to be a little restless but has not been a discipline problem, while working on an independent assignment, walks over to the waste paper basket to throw away a piece of paper. From your peripheral line of vision, you think you see him hold up his middle finger in your direction. Several students who are seated near him begin to laugh. You have Norberto step outside the classroom and confront him with what you saw. To which, he seems shocked and denies that he did anything except throw away a piece of paper. What would you do?

I suggest that the interviewee might respond this way: “I believe I saw Norberto’s finger from the corner of my eye, but it did happen quickly; so I might not be 100% certain about what I saw. This behavior, in my experience, is out of character for this child. I cannot pursue this conversation at this time with my class inside the classroom door. While I might feel a offended, there is no emergency, and I believe I can, at this point in time, handle the situation by myself. I have some free time later in the day. I’d have a private one-on-one conversation with Norberto. I would also independently ask the three students who laughed what they saw and why they were laughing. I also need to be mindful of the importance of speaking with Norbert’s parents to inform them that I was investigating regarding what I believe I observed, and that I’d be back to them as soon as I concluded my investigation.  Being new to the school, I would also speak with Norberto’s guidance counselor to find out if Norberto has any history of exhibiting this kind of behavior. Finally, I would let the assistant principal know what I was doing and perhaps get additional direction.”

The interviewer interrupts, “Let’s say that the three kids independently report that Norberto looked at them and made a funny face, and they laughed.” I would still ask each of the students, “Did you see what Norberto did with his hands?” If they answered, “No”, I’d conclude there’s no evidence that Norberto flipped his finger at me. I’d believe that the students’ laughter incited me and it distorted my observation. The interviewer presses on, “What would you do as a follow-up?”  I would meet with Norberto and tell him that I misunderstood the situation and apologize to him. I would call his parents and review my conclusions and apologize for causing them any anxiety. I would also review my findings with the guidance counselor and the assistant principal.

I believe that the candidate’s response demonstrated that the he or she: thoroughly investigated the case; deferred on jumping to conclusions until there was more information; did not over-react as to the urgency of the situation; conferred with colleagues to gain context and get advice; acted sensitively by letting the parents know what was happening; and, was professional by offering apologies for the misunderstanding and the anxiety they may have felt.

Dr. Aronstein provides coaching for interview and resume preparation. Contact him at He is the author of “YOU’RE HIRED: THE INSIDE SECRETS TO LANDING YOUR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP JOB” and “YOU’RE HIRED: INSIDE SECRETS TO LANDING YOUR TEACHING JOB”. FIND ON AMAZON.


As a candidate, everything you write and say contribute to building your narrative; the story you tell about yourself. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself in person or virtually, your answers to the interviewers’ questions, the questions you ask, your letters of reference, and what your references say about you. It’s about developing a picture of yourself, creating a chemistry, demonstrating you are a good match, an easy good fit for what they’re really looking for, and what their community wants.

Creating an attractive narrative requires many strategies for each unique position. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before describing some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are really looking for.

What They Really Want

  1. They want to know who you are, and what you’ve accomplished.
  2. They want to like you. Too often interviews are sterile; you must create an emotional and compelling context through your story telling.
  3. They want to be assured that you share their values and aspirations.
  4. They want to see that you look and act the role.
  5. They want to be sure that you’ll easily fit in and not cause conflict.
  6. You need to come across as humble, self-effacing, sincere, direct, plain spoken, good humored, and authentic.

If this is what the interviewers want, then how do you go about creating a narrative and presenting yourself as that candidate? What strategies should you employee?

Useful Strategies

  1. Find out everything you can about the school-community from a variety of sources. How many students do they have; what are the demographics; what are they proud of; who are their leaders; what is their reputation; what is their fiscal and physical status.
  2. Figure out what they really want you to do. Do not solely rely upon their job description—that’s what they think they want; it may not be what they really want. Do they want a change agent? Are they happy with their current status?
  3. What problems do they have? Speak to how you have addressed similar problems and solved them.
  4. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for and that are consistent with their values as a community, and their needs. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal. Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible.
  5. Elude to some personal information, which is not on your resume and which they can’t ask you about. If you are married and a parent, let them know. School people love family-oriented candidates who can relate to children and parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires careful planning and practice. However, the reward of moving through the steps of your candidacy and winning the job will be worth all of the effort.

Dr. Larry Aronstein is an experienced career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders, and teachers in their resume and interviewing preparation. Find out more at Contact him at