Author: laronstein

WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

Everything you write and say should contribute to building an attractive and effective narrative. Your narrative is the story you tell about yourself as a candidate. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself physically, 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 a multi-step strategy for each position. Each position is somewhat unique. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before I can describe some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are really looking for.

What They 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 make sure 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?

Strategies to Take
1. Find out everything you can about the school-community from a variety of sources.
2. Decide 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.
3. 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. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal.
4. Elude to some personal information, which is not on your resume 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 some in-depth analyses and practice. However, the reward of moving on to the next steps of your candidacy will be worth 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 http://www.larryaronstein.com. Contact him at larryaronstein@yahoo.com

Advertisements

Screening Interviews: How They Really Work

How is my resume screened? What is the screener really looking for? How do screening committees make decisions? If I apply for a job and don’t hear back should I call? Although each district customizes their process, the variations are usually minor. So, how does it really work?

When you apply for a position, be prepared to wait. Don’t be a pest and call the personnel office to inquire about your status. They are busy people who are filling many different positions. A few directors of human resources will quickly screen the resumes as they accumulate on-line. My practice was to have the folks in the personnel office print out the letters and resumes of all qualified candidates and send them to the direct supervisor for further screening. Let’s assume there are 100 qualified candidates in the pile. The goal is to have a screening committee interview about 15 to 18 candidates. How do they get from 100 to 15? If it takes just two minutes to review each candidate’s papers, that’s 200 minutes. I’m sorry to say that papers will get much less than two minutes. The reviewer is a busy person. Consequently, the reviewer will speed through the resumes. Typos and grammatical errors get tossed out. These kinds of errors connote that you are sloppy and make mistakes. The screener’s first goal is to sort the total pile into three piles. Pile A will contain the “must see”, B “maybe”, and C are of “no further interest”. Those in the A group are: (1) seeking a “good” parallel move; (2) people who hold degrees from outstanding universities; (3) holding a doctorate; (4) qualified internal candidates or courtesy interviews; and (5) exceptional accomplishments. The B pile is created in case they can’t get at least 12 to15 into the A pile and then get a second look. The C pile is composed of inexperienced people with little in the way of accomplishments, folks with poor reputations, the “perennial” candidate, and those who have unexplained and suspicious gaps on their resumes.

Outstanding universities, in my opinion, are the Ivy League schools or those fine schools with which we are familiar. In the New York area, graduate degrees from Columbia Teachers’ College, NYU and Fordham are the most coveted. Under-graduate degrees from fine colleges are also appealing on resumes. I always counsel aspiring leaders who are serious about their careers in leadership to earn the doctorate from a prestigious university. It’s an investment in yourself that will get you into that A pile and will save you years of disappointment as you apply for positions. Yes, the tuition is costly, and you might have to commute longer distances, but in the long run, the investment will pay off.

Exceptional and/or interesting candidates are people who have been successful in the business and corporate world; the non-profit sector; the world of entrepreneurs; the military. When qualified, these candidates, depending on their accomplishments, are often worthy of a good look. Finally, courtesy interviews are given to those who “have friends in high places” (Board members, and/or recommendations from friends of upper level administrators). A courtesy interviewee is generally only guaranteed a screening interview. Then they are on their own; meaning that they must then compete with everyone else.

The screening interview usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. If it lasts longer, then that’s a good sign—it shows interest. The screening committee will likely consist of two or three people. If you’re interviewing for an assistant principal position, you will probably meet the principal, an assistant principal, perhaps the director of human resources, and/or a teacher. Be aware that the screening interview is essentially a “meet and greet”. It’s designed to see if you’re a “regular person” (not quirky, odd in some way, or inappropriate), well spoken, professional, intelligent, easy to engage, likeable, respectful, and seemingly a good fit for the community. They almost always start by asking: “Tell us about yourself”. Then they usually ask: “What do you know about us, and why do you want to work here?”

Be prepared to answer what I call resume questions. “You’ve been an assistant principal at the ABC School for four years, why do you want to leave now?” “I understand that your school recently hired a new principal, were you a candidate for that position?” “I see you were a dean for two years and then you went back to the classroom. Can you explain this?” They may also ask, what I call, process or “how would you” questions: “Given the teacher evaluation process, walk us through how you would observe a teacher who is not in your area of teacher certification?” Limit your answers to no more than two to three minutes. If they want to hear more, they’ll ask.

They will wrap up the interview with the moderator saying, “We’re speaking to a number of folks. We’ll get back to you within the next couple of weeks. Do you have any questions for us at this time?” Now remember, they are under strict time constraints. They are being polite. They really don’t want to answer a lot of questions. It’s time to thank them for the opportunity, indicate that you look forward to seeing them again, and leave them. Then drop the interviewers “thank you” emails.

The committee’s goal is to reduce the number of candidates to 6 to 8. At the completion of all interviews, the moderator might ask the committee, “Can we reach agreement on who we can eliminate?” They usually can quickly get down to 9 or 10 remaining candidates? Ultimately, they screen it down to 6 to 8, and their job is done. The next step is going on to the larger interviewing committee.
It’s time to wait it out again and hope for the best. If you’re rejected and the moderator appeared to be sincerely approachable, you might want to write a short email thanking them for their efforts and asking if it would be okay to schedule a brief telephone conversation to get constructive feedback.

Good news travels by phone, and bad news comes in the form of a letter or an email. Let’s hope your phone always rings!

The Cover Letter

Cover letters are seldom read carefully and there’s a good chance that it might never be read. Yet, a cover letter is always required. So, you might as well develop the best one that you can.

General Guidelines:
1. Keep the letter to one page.
2. Carefully proof read for any mechanical errors—spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, capitalization, complete sentences. Have a colleague who has excellent writing skills proof read.
3. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Avoid flowery language (“It is with great pleasure that you kindly accept this humble letter of application for your recently posted position on OLAS for your elementary school assistant principal.”) This should read: “I am applying for your assistant principal position.”
4. Emphasize your accomplishments. Avoid presenting your job description.
5. Address your letter to the person identified in the job posting. If a name is not identified, then address it: “To Whom It May Concern:”
6. Make certain that you address it to the right district. You will usually send the same form of the letter to various districts, so be careful to change the name when addressing the new letter.
7. Use a four-paragraph format.

Paragraph 1:
1. “I am applying for the position of______________.”
2. “For the last five years I have been serving as ____________ in the ____________School District.
3. Previous to this I was ______________.
4. “I earned my _____________________________. “(list your academic degrees and the universities)
5. Specifically indicate why you are interested in applying for this position. Why are you attracted to this job and this school?

Paragraph 2:
1. Briefly describe two or three accomplishments that relate to this new position and/or school-community.

Paragraph 3:
Identify three professional qualities and/or guiding principles that colleagues would use to describe you and define you, and briefly provide an example for each quality.

Paragraph 4:
Conclude with two sentences: “I look forward to meeting with you in the near future in order that I might provide you with more information regarding my candidacy. Thank you in advance for your serious consideration.”

Questions to Ask When Closing the Deal

You have survived three interviews and are now down to one of three candidates. Your last stop is with the Superintendent of Schools and two of the Assistant Superintendents. They are going to ask you, “Do you have any questions for us?”
Be aware, their time is limited, and they will appreciate it if you limit yourself to about three questions. Nevertheless, the quality of your questions does make an impact and can be a game changer. Your goal is to impress them with your professionalism, thoughtfulness, and collegiality.

These are a few questions from which you might chose:
1. What do you want me to accomplish by the end of the year that would result in you saying that I’ve been successful?
2. Big picture, what is your vision for this district?
3. In your opinion, what are the assets and the liabilities in coming into this position?
4. Are there any third rails I need to be aware of?
5. What advice do you have for my success?

How do these questions reflect upon you as a candidate? I would conclude that you are (1) interested in being successful; (2) willing to fit in and fulfill their goals; (3) thoughtful and curious about their current status; (4) eager to gain background knowledge and get off to a quick start.

Asking good open-ended questions also serves as a vehicle to extend the conversation. I suggest, you briefly comment on their responses in your attempt to extend the conversation. “I have some experience dealing with______.” “How much progress are you making in your ______ initiative? What problems are you encountering” “I’m very impressed with what you are saying.”

In addition, at the conclusion of the interview, you should always ask: “When can I expect to hear back from you?”

FENG SHUI YOUR RESUME

larry aronstein

For a moment, imagine that your resume is the living room of your home. As your guests enter the room, you want them to immediately focus on those special artifacts that are the centerpieces of your room. The placement of the furniture must be mindfully placed so that they are noticeable and maximize their impact. You want to remove the chachkas, those knickknacks and gaudy items that Aunt Sarah gave you as an engagement gift, that clutter the surfaces, and are a distraction. The appearance of the room is a representation of your persona. The design of the room is a representation of what you are proud of; how you define yourself. You want it to be inviting; to draw your guests into your home.

Likewise, your resume represents who you are. It should draw in prospective employers. Continuing the metaphor, sometimes an interior designer is employed to maximize the…

View original post 113 more words

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS THAT REQUIRE MY SECRET ANSWERS

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS THAT REQUIRE MY SECRET ANSWERS

I have been coaching school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparation for their interviews for about eight years. My clients frequently ask me questions that no one else seems to be able to provide effective answers. Here are some of those questions:

1. I don’t think I will get a positive recommendation from my supervisor, what can I do?
2. I am an older candidate and feel that my age is working against me, how do I deal with this?
3. There are gaps in the timeline of my work experience, what can I do?
4. I get very nervous during interviews and I think it effects the quality of my answers, what can I do?
5. I had an interview and one of questioners aggressively challenged my answer, how do you deal with this?
6. I am a certified school leader with very little school leadership experience, what can I do? It is a “catch 22”.
7. After three years in my position I’ve been asked to resign, how do I answer the question, “Why are you looking to leave your present job after three years?”
8. How do I handle the question, “I see on your resume that you live more than an hour away, is that going to be a problem?”
9. How do a respond to the question, “What are your greatest weaknesses?”
10. Should I even bother to apply for jobs where I know there are “inside candidates”?

For my inside secrets in how to answer these and more questions like them, attend my workshop and/or get a copy of my ebook. https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=10056&I=2988991

Larry Aronstein is a career coach who works with educators one-on-one in the preparation of their resumes and in preparing them for interviews.

SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

1. How would you provide leadership in order to improve learning and teaching?
2. How do you go about building support from constituencies?
3. What do you anticipate being the most difficult types of problems that you will face in our district?
4. How would you go about effectively dealing with an angry hostile crowd that shows up to a public meeting?
5. What process will you use to build an effective leadership team?
6. How might you go about succession planning?
7. What strategies would you use when response to a crisis?
8. What steps do you go through in developing a District Budget?
9. Assume that there is a serious need to improve buildings and grounds, how would you go about Capital Improvement Planning?
10. What is your approach to effectively evaluate teachers and principals resulting in their professional growth and development?
11. Outline your Entry Plan for your 1st hundred days
12. What qualities do you look for in teaching and administrative candidates?
13. How do you build strong and trusting Board-Superintendent Relationships?
14. How do you decide what you will communicate to your Board?
15. Describe the process you use in building consensus with school board members.
16. How do you go about making visits to schools?
17. Describe the process you use in communicating with school leaders and Central Office
18. How do you teach and mentor school leaders?
19. What functions or problems should the Superintendent personally take charge?
20. What criteria do in use in tenure decisions?
21. What process do you use in developing annual district goals?
22. What role do you play in negotiations with various unions?
23. How do you determine when it is necessary to communicate with school legal counsel?
24. How do you handle Superintendent Hearings?
25. How do you prefer to develop Agendas for Board Meetings?
26. What should be the role of the Board President?
27. What is your role in dealing with grievances?
28. How do you deal with conducting investigations of wrong doing?
29. How do you prefer that the Board do your Superintendent Evaluation?
30. Walk through the steps of developing and putting up a Bond Issue
31. How do you go about deciding on a Snow Day?
32. What is your approach to dealing with the Union Leaders?
33. How transparent is your approach to “transparency”?
34. How do you go about building morale?
35. Taking a long-term view, how do you go about Sustaining Positive Change?
36. Describe your Decision-Making Process
37. Tell us about an unpopular decision you made? What did you learn from it?
38. Tell us about any innovations you brought about in the area of School Security and Public Safety
39. How do you develop positive relations with Police and Fire Officials?
40. What creative ideas do you have about maintaining positive public image for the district?
41. How will you make yourself more accessible to your publics?
42. How will you deal with “special requests and favors” from “entitled” constituents?
43. How do you deal with disloyal school leaders who speak ill of your leadership?
44. What would you do if you strongly disagreed with a decision of the Board?
45. How long do you expect to remain in the district?
46. What are professional or personal issues that are non-negotiable?
47. How do you deal with free speech and student publications?
48. What is your vision of the role of technology?
49. How do you deal with the ever-rising costs of special education?
50. What do you consider to be your three great professional accomplishments?
51. Do you have ideas about cost savings?

TEN RULES ON HOW NOT TO MESS UP YOUR INTERVIEW

1. Don’t talk too much. Answer each question within two to two and one-half minutes. Give one good example. The panel is working within a tight schedule. Nobody likes a chatter box. If they want to hear more, they will ask you to elaborate.
2. Answer the question. Stick to the interviewers’ questions. Stay on topic. Panelists commonly ask the same questions to every candidate in order to compare answers. Be careful about getting on a roll and going off on tangents which might result in not answering the question. Not answering the question will be noticed.
3. Never fake an answer. If you’re asked about something that you don’t know, simply admit that you don’t know. Nobody likes a faker. You should add, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I am a quick learner, and will learn whatever I need to know in order to get the job done.” If you don’t understand the question, it’s acceptable to say that you don’t understand the question and ask if they can repeat or rephrase it.
4. Don’t overdo It. Laughing too long and too loudly at a joke that’s not all that funny, becoming overly enthusiastic about one of your own answers, being argumentative and emphatic about a minor issue, are all examples of “over doing it.” Professionals maintain an even keel. Act like an adult. Being over-the-top just raises eye brows and generates side glances.
5. Direct yourself to the whole table. In a group interview, you have to try to please everyone who’s sitting around the table. You can’t afford to please administrators but alienate the teachers. Seek out the middle ground and demonstrate your diplomatic skills. As you speak, slowly look at all of the panelists.
6. Don’t misrepresent yourself. With the availability of Google, Facebook, and on-line newspapers, it is pretty easy to check out your background. Stretching the truth or misrepresenting yourself and being found out is fatal. The regional educational community is a small circle. You will be checked out.
7. Say calm. Don’t expect that every answer will be a homerun. Try not to get rattled if your answer to a question is weak. As the song says, “Just keep on keepin’ on!” Interviewers are people too. They know that you’re nervous, and they are forgiving. They will recognize it if you redeem yourself by giving a strong response to the next question.
8. Act like a guest. I’ve witnessed candidates come into the room and move their table and chair to be closer to the panel. I’ve encountered several candidates who became insistent about setting up a PowerPoint presentation, even after they were told not to do so. Most commonly, there are candidates who drone on and on, despite being told, “Thank you. Now, let’s go on to the next question.” You’re not throwing the party. Act like a guest.
9. Be respectful. No matter how disrespected or provoked you might feel, always remain respectful. As a candidate, I have sat out in a waiting room for up to an hour and a half. I have been asked to do a writing sample, even though I’ve been published dozens of times and written a doctoral dissertation. A questioner has even criticized my current employer. Through it all, hold your tongue, smile, and be polite. Don’t be combative.
10. Leave your baggage home. Question: “What do you expect from us in order for you to be successful?” The best response would be to say, “I work best as a member of a mutually supportive team.” Unfortunately, I’ve actually had candidates say, “My last boss was verbally abusive, I could not work under those conditions.” Another response was, “I need to have flexibility. As a parent, I must be home by 4:30, and I can’t attend evening functions.” Don’t put up obstacles, and don’t present yourself as someone who may be difficult to deal with.
The best advice that anyone can give you is to just be yourself, let them know who you are and what you stand for, speak from the heart, and be appropriate.

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching which prepares you for interviews, and helps you prepare your resume. Find out more– www. larryaronstein.com

FENG SHUI YOUR RESUME

For a moment, imagine that your resume is the living room of your home. As your guests enter the room, you want them to immediately focus on those special artifacts that are the centerpieces of your room. The placement of the furniture must be mindfully placed so that they are noticeable and maximize their impact. You want to remove the chachkas, those knickknacks and gaudy items that Aunt Sarah gave you as an engagement gift, that clutter the surfaces, and are a distraction. The appearance of the room is a representation of your persona. The design of the room is a representation of what you are proud of; how you define yourself. You want it to be inviting; to draw your guests into your home.

Likewise, your resume represents who you are. It should draw in prospective employers. Continuing the metaphor, sometimes an interior designer is employed to maximize the result you desire. It’s okay to have an educational career coach to feng shui your resume.

Here are a few tips that should help you feng shui your resume so that it provides the right impact:

1. Less Is More—do not clutter it up with irrelevancies
2. Emphasize your Accomplishments—It Isn’t a Job Description
3. Lead with Your Strengths (list them near the top of each category—catch attention)
4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objectives; determine your own sequence of categories and timeline; keep format simple)
5. Start Bullet Statements with Action Verbs (past tense)
6. Emphasize Accomplishments that Match Job Posting (strengths)
7. Omit Activities and Experiences that Are Tangential to the Position

THE ART OF TEACHING FOR UNDERSTANDING

Candidates for leadership positions are often asked: “What do you look for in an excellent teacher?” My response to this question is the ability to teach for student understanding. The learning of knowledge and skill are at the core of education. We want students to deeply understanding the important concepts in all the subject areas. Understanding does not mean that a student can memorize and recite minute facts and demonstrate routine skills with very little understanding. Understanding is more nuanced.

Acquiring knowledge and skill are not synonymous with understanding and does not guarantee understanding. Knowledge and skills can be acquired with little understanding of the underlying concepts of the topic or when to use them. Therefore, knowledge and skills that are not understood do little good. Rote knowledge defies active use, and routine skills (eg. invert and multiple; find the common denominator; listing the American Presidents or knowing the State capitols) are often of poor service when students do not understand mathematical concepts or civics. In short, we must teach for understanding in order to realize the long-term payoffs.

A math teacher asks her students to design the floor plan of a dance club, including dance floors, a place for a DJ, and a bar area. What’s the goal? The floor plan consists of several geometric shapes and a prescribed total area. The students must apply what they have studied about the geometric topic of area to create a sensible plan and explain their thinking that went into the design.
Down the corridor, another teacher asks students to explain about a time in their lives when they had been treated unjustly and a time when they had treated someone else unjustly. These students are reading works of literature, including To Kill a Mockingbird, that deals with issues of social justice. Making connections with students’ own lives and creating their own generalizations will be a theme throughout this literature study.

In a science classroom, a student, using his own drawings, explains to a group of peers how a beetle mimics ants in order to invade their nests and eat their eggs. In this classroom, each student has an individual teaching responsibility that includes providing an example to one another that develops a deep understanding of the animal behavior of mimicry.

In an elementary school, students who are studying ancient Egypt produce an on-line National Enquirer style, four-slide power point called King Tut’s Chronicle. Headlines announce “Cleo in Trouble, Again?” Why? The format motivates the students and leads them to represent the topic in a new way.
In each case students are asked to critically think through concepts and situations, rather than memorize and respond on a quiz. Teachers are teaching and assessing for understanding. They want more and demand more from their students than remembering the formula for the area of a triangle, or three kinds of camouflage, or the date of King Tut’s reign, or the names of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. They want students to understand what they are learning, not just to know about it.
Teaching for understanding is neither easy nor is it particularly welcomed. It is complex and demanding, requiring creativity on the part of the teacher to design the lesson and the assessment. However, it is essential because of the necessity to prepare students for further learning and effectively functioning in their lives.
Critics say: “We are already doing it”; “It takes too long to do within a crowded curriculum”; or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Research says differently.

Studies of students’ misunderstanding of concepts in math include, among a multitude examples: misunderstandings students have from over generalizing rules for one operation and carrying them over inappropriately to another; difficulties in the use of ratios and proportions; confusion about what algebraic equations really mean; and many more. We start teaching fractions in the third grade and we teach the same operations over and other again each year, sometimes for the next seven years. What’s with that? Other examples in science is the denial or misunderstanding of evolution; or the denial of climate change. Studies of students’ reading abilities reveal that, while they can read the words, they have difficulty interpreting and drawing inferences from what they have read. Studies of writing show that students experience little success with putting together logical viewpoints that are well supported by arguments. Students write essays by telling what they know about a topic rather than finding and expressing a viewpoint. Students’ understanding of history reveals that they suffer from problems such as projecting themselves into another time period and/or a different place. They fail to consider what Truman knew at the time he ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb. Shifts of perspective are essential for understanding history and the understanding of other nations, cultures, and ethnic groups today.

Imagine a gun fight in space. A handful of astronauts fire their guns at one another. What will happen? If you understand Newton’s theory of motion, you will predict that by firing the guns, they will be thrust in an equal and opposite direction. The astronauts would soon be hundreds of miles away from one another. Making predictions is a demonstration of understanding, in this case of Newton’s theory. Briefly stated, teaching for understanding involves designing demanding ways that students will demonstrate a conceptual understanding though performances. These performances usually involve the student being able to: explain, provide evidence, make a prediction, find examples, generalize, apply concepts, and/or create an analogy or a metaphor, or represent the concept in a new way.

Understanding performances are varied, they must be cognitively demanding; and they must challenge students to reach beyond what they already know. Typically, most activities are routine. To be fair, routine activities have value in teaching and reinforcing newly learned concepts, but they are not performances of understanding. Therefore, they do little to build understanding. Teaching for understanding is a tried and tested approach to raising student achievement.

What follows is a summary of how to teach and assess understanding:
Demonstrations of student understanding include the student: explaining, applying skills and knowledge, providing evidence and examples, predicting, generalizing, and creating an analogy or a metaphor.

• evidence of students explaining or justifying the newly learned concept
• evidence of students adapting, applying, and predicting based on their previous knowledge to create new knowledge
• evidence of students applying newly learned knowledge by giving examples
• evidence of creating generalizations or patterns
• evidence of creating a metaphor or simile that grows out of the concept

To learn more about Dr. Aronstein visit his website, http://www.larryaronstein.com