Author: laronstein

MY 20 MOST FAVORITE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

  1. Tell us about yourself. Make your resume come alive.
  2. Why do you want to become a leader?
  3. What do you know about our school/district? Why do you want to work here?
  4. Describe your “footprint” that you leave in your current position and why you believe it will be sustained.
  5. Why would teachers want to follow you as a leader?
  6. How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not receptive to your recommendations?
  7. How would you go about determining what your priorities should be in your new position?
  8. What role and what aspects should remote learning play once the pandemic is over?
  9. Assuming that the pandemic has caused many students to fall behind in their academic progress, what would you propose to attempt to accelerate their progress?
  10. What are most important things you look for when doing a classroom visit?
  11. Much has been said about equity in schools. What does “equity” mean to you? What have you done to bring about equity? What should schools do?
  12. What expertise do you bring to your staff in enhancing student learning through the use of technology?
  13. How would you go about assisting a teacher who is having difficulty with classroom management/student discipline?
  14. How do you know (what evidence do you seek) that students are learning the concepts and skills that are being taught?
  15. What are the most productive ways of doing staff development so that teachers can enhance their teaching repertoire?
  16. How would you go about leading a committee or a professional learning community?
  17. Assume that an unpopular policy has been made and many parents are unhappy about its implementation, how would you deal with a room full of angry parents at a PTA meeting?
  18. If you interviewed candidates for a teacher vacancy, what question would you ask them?
  19. Tell me about a student who you helped that might have changed that child’s life.
  20. How would you deal with a parent who is dissatisfied with how a teacher is conducting his/her class? Assume that the parent has already spoken to the teacher.
  21. Tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume that will help me better understand the essence of who you are and what motivates you.

Resumes and Cover Letters that Get You Interviews

The job of your resume is to get you interviews. If you’re a fairly well qualified candidate and you aren’t getting interviews, or if your rate of getting interviews is low, let’s say lower than 40%, then your resume is probably your problem. Well qualified candidates should be getting interviews at least fifty percent of the time that you send them off. If you aren’t getting this kind of action, then you need to revise your resume.

The people who screen resumes are busy. They often receive hundreds of resumes for a single job posting. It may take experienced screeners only 30 to 45 seconds to review a resume. Therefore, you must immediately catch and hold their attention. Developing your resume requires a strategy.

The most common mistakes that candidates make in preparing their resume are that they follow out-dated rules. You should not: (1) limit your resume to one page; (2) start the resume with an objective; and (3) follow a strict order of categories (education, certification, professional experience…). No, no, no. Another mistake is when your resume reads like a job description. The reader already knows what a teacher or an assistant principal does. Instead, your resume and cover letter need to clearly describe your accomplishments. What special experiences, skills and knowledge do you possess that will make you uniquely qualified to do this specific job, in this specific school-community?

Most job seekers struggle to identify their most significant accomplishments. Your greatest accomplishments may not be directly related to your professional experiences. Accomplishments may also define your true character or speak to a skill set or knowledge base that few candidates possess. A good career coach can stimulate your thinking and help you define yourself. I often advise my clients to add a category to their resume that might be labelled interests and activities. I recall, as an example, a candidate who was seeking a leadership position who served as a chief of his local volunteer fire department. He supervised and trained scores of fire fighters.

Here are some additional cautions and suggestions. Never fictionalize or inflate your credentials or accomplishments. Have your paperwork reviewed by a well informed and respected mentor, colleague or coach, and get objective feedback. Oftentimes, you are too close to your own resume to be objective. Your resume is a work in progress. Continuously revise it depending on feedback, the uniqueness of the position for which you are applying, and the results you are getting as measured by how many interviews you are getting.

Here are a few of my guidelines for writing resumes that get action:

1. Less is More—stick to the point

2. Accomplishments; Not Job Description

3. Lead with Your Strengths (list them near the top—catch attention)

4. Ignore Most Rules (omit objective; 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 –make them the top bullets

7. Omit Irrelevant Activities and Experiences for the Position

8. Interests & Activities Can Capture Attention– acting, kickboxing, interesting hobbies, unique travel experiences, fluent speaker of foreign languages

9. Tailor for Different Demographics (urban, affluent or blue-collar community, small town, rural)

10. Set Maximum Number of Bullets– current position 8-10; prior 3-6; before that 2-3

11. Sweat the Mechanics– spelling, subject-verb agreement, capitalization and punctuation; grammar; word selection; consistent format; readable font size

12. Cover Letter– 3-4 paragraphs– always required but seldom read

13. References upon Request

14. Get Authoritative Feedback—friends and family are well-meaning but often lead you astray

15. Never Confuse or Mislead the Reader– clear timeline; short and simple sentences

16. Never Lie or exaggerate

17. TELL YOUR STORY

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders. Register for his virtual 90-minute workshop: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=10056&I=3959241

What Does Career Coaching Involve?

Have you thought about being coached to improve your resume and your performance during an interview and what it entailed? As a successful coach of 100’s and 100’s of educators over the last ten years, let me give you a brief overview of my approach: (1) free review of your resume and cover letter; (2) free 10 minute telephone in-take conversation; (3) schedule and conduct virtual one-hour one-on-one coaching sessions depending on client’s needs. The following is a brief summary of what takes place:

1. Review of Your Resume (no charge)         

2. 10-minute In-Take Conversation (no charge)

   a. What position(s) are you seeking?

   b. How long have you been applying for jobs? How many jobs have you applied for?

   c. How many first-round interviews have you had? Second-round? Beyond second-round?

   d. What do you think the problem might be in not moving on in the process?

   e. Information regarding fee; scheduling; brief feedback on resume; answer additional questions

3. Coaching Sessions (clients determine their needs and how many sessions they want)

  • Review and edit resume and cover letter; how to prepare for an interview; and begin analyzing and crafting response to “Tell Us About Yourself”
  • Finalize and practice response to “Tell Us About Yourself”; strategize answers to 10 to 20 of the most frequently asked questions.
  • Analyze what your future supervisor is really looking for.
  • Mutually create your narrative that emphasizes your strengths and neutralizes any potential weakness.
  • Do mock interviews and get constructive feedback.
  • Learn strategies and tactics on “how to close the deal” and negotiate salary.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL: larryaronstein@yahoo.com  or call 516-423-0240.

Visit: www.larryaronstein.com

Register for my next 90-minute virtual workshop: “Inside Secrets to Getting your Leadership Job” on March 10th. Only $50. Participation is limited to 20 registrants.

Interview Questions for Superintendents

  1. What do you anticipate being the most difficult types of challenges that you will face in our district?
  2. Describe the process you use in communications between school board members and the superintendent.
  3. How will you build and sustain an effective leadership team?
  4. Describe a crisis to which you’ve responded and tell us the strategizes you use to deal with and avoid crises.
  5. How would you deal with a hostile and aggressive crowd attending a public meeting of the Board of Education? What plan might you put together in anticipation of such a meeting?
  6. What process do you go through in developing a District Budget?
  7. What lessons have you learned in dealing with the Covid-19 epidemic and what changes would you seek to make which would improve the district as a result of these lessons learned?
  8. Assume that there is a serious need to improve buildings and grounds; how would you go about doing Capital Improvement Planning that might include a Bond Issue?
  9. What is your approach to effectively evaluate teachers and school leaders that results in their professional growth and development?
  10. Outline your Entry Plan once you are appointed and extending into your first hundred days on the job.
  11. What qualities do you look for in hiring teaching and leadership candidates?
  12. How do you go about making visits to schools? What do you look for?
  13. leaders and Central Office, and school leaders and Board Members.
  14. How do you teach and mentor school leaders?
  15. What functions and problems should the Superintendent directly and personally take on?
  16. Describe the process you use in developing annual district goals.
  17. What role do you play in negotiations with various unions?
  18. How do you determine when it is necessary to communicate with school legal counsel?
  19. How do you handle Superintendent-Student Disciplinary Hearings?
  20. How do you prefer to develop agendas for Board Meetings?
  21. What should be the role of the Board President?
  22. What is your role in dealing with grievances?
  23. How do you deal with conducting investigations of wrongdoing?
  24. How do you prefer that the Board do your Superintendent Evaluation?
  25. Walk through the steps of developing and putting up a Bond Issue
  26. How do you go about deciding on a Snow Day?
  27. What is your approach to dealing with the Union Leaders?
  28. How transparent is your approach to “transparency”?
  29. How do you go about building district-wide morale?
  30. Taking a long-term view, how do you go about sustaining positive change?
  31. Describe your Decision-Making Process
  32. Tell us about an unpopular decision you made? What did you learn from it?
  33. Tell us about innovations you brought about in the area of School Security and Public Safety.
  34. How do you develop positive relations with local Police and Fire Officials?
  35. What creative ideas do you have about maintaining a positive public image for the district?
  36. How will you make yourself more accessible to your publics?
  37. How will you deal with “special requests and favors” from “entitled” constituents?
  38. How do you deal with disloyal school leaders who critical of your leadership?
  39. What would you do if you strongly disagreed with a decision of the Board despite your best efforts to persuade?
  40. How long do you expect to remain in the district?
  41. What are your professional or personal guiding principles that are non-negotiable?
  42. How do you deal with free speech and student publications?
  43. What is your vision of the future role of technology?
  44. How do you deal with the ever-rising costs of special education?
  45. What do you consider to be your three great professional accomplishments?
  46. What are some of your ideas about cost savings?
  47. What would your critics say about you?
  48. What would your advocates say about you?
  49. What would you want to accomplish five years from now that would lead us to agree that you have been a successful leader?
  50. Tell us about a student, or teacher, or school leader who you feel you helped change the course of his/her life.

50 VERBS TO USE ON YOUR RESUME

Resumes require descriptive and active verbs to make reviewers fully aware of your accomplishments, knowledge, skills and dispositions. I have lifted many of the actual verbs that my clients have used in their resumes. Some are better than others although they may connote similar meanings. To my thinking, the more active the verb the better. As an example, “develop” is neutral compared to “create”. “inspire” has a positive emotional component compared to “motivate”.

Here are 40 examples to choose from. I’m sure there are others. However, you should find these examples very useful in crafting your resume.

  1. OVERSEE
  2. DIRECT
  3. SUPERVISE
  4. MANAGE
  5. RUN
  6. ADMINISTER
  7. CREATE
  8. DEVELOP
  9. ADVANCE
  10. BRING ABOUT
  11. COACH
  12. NURTURE
  13. ACCOMPLISH
  14. ENHANCE
  15. INCREASE
  16. GROW
  17. ENCOURAGE
  18. FOSTER
  19. INSIRE
  20. MOTIVATE
  21. PERSUADE
  22. CONVINCE
  23. INFLUENCE
  24. SUPPORT
  25. SUSTAIN
  26. CONTROL
  27. GOVERN
  28. STIMULATE
  29. KINDLE
  30. ADVANCE
  31. USE
  32. DESIGN
  33. CRAFT
  34. INSTRUCT
  35. TEACH
  36. MENTOR
  37. GUIDE
  38. PLAN
  39. STRATEGIZE
  40. PROPOSE
  41. PROVIDE LEADERSHIP
  42. WRITE
  43. AUTHOR
  44. FOUNDER OF
  45. INITIATE
  46. RECRUIT
  47. REFORM
  48. SYNTHESIZE
  49. ANALYZE
  50. FORMED
  51. ORGANIZE

ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE A COMPETITIVE CANDIDATE?

Assume that you are a well-qualified applicant who is applying for a mid-level leadership position and are 1 out of a total of 150 applicants. Assume that there are at least 15 other candidates who are equally qualified. Why do you need to be well prepared for a job search? What must you know and do so you don’t sound like the rest of the candidates? Consider the following:

  1. Do you know how to strategically organize and design a resume that gets the reviewers’ attention?
  2. Do you know how to differentiate yourself in your response to the inevitable question, “Tell us about yourself”?
  3. Do you know the best order in which to be interviewed and how to get that “post position”?
  4. Do you know when to stop talking in response to a question?
  5. Do you know how to read the “body language” of the interviewers?
  6. Do you know what questions to ask at the conclusion of your interview?
  7. Do you know how to frame a final statement at the conclusion of an interview?
  8. Do you know how to present yourself as someone who is likeable and a good fit?
  9. Do you know how to adjust your interviewing approach as you move from screening to committee to leadership to Board interviews?
  10. Do you know how to “close the deal” if you are a finalist”?
  11. Do you know how to negotiate the best deal for yourself if you’re offered the job?
  12. Do you how to make a good impression during your first 100 days?

There are many other things that you must know in order to be a highly competitive candidate. I have coached 100’s of my clients get their dream jobs. Let me help you, too.

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!”

Dealing with Difficult and/or Resistant Staff

Every faculty has difficult and/or resistant people. I think most supervisors would agree that dealing with them is one of the most challenging aspects of their job. Being a difficult person is usually a personality trait. Difficult people come in several varieties. They are often whiners, judgmental, opinionated, and negative. Resistant people do not like change. Resistance can range from being fairly subtle, such as avoidance or passive aggressive behavior, all the way to outright defiance, hostility, and acts of sabotage.

To better understand and then deal with difficult and resistant staff, let’s establish some guiding principles:

(1) Being difficult and being resistant are not the same; however, one can be both difficult and resistant.

(2) Almost everyone comes to work each day with the belief that they do a good job and try their best. Now, that’s what they believe. Being difficult and/or resistant doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad teachers.

(3) What is most relevant is that the supervisor’s most important job is to assure that every member of the staff measures up to the highest professional standards.

(4) As a supervisor, you have a responsibility to treat all staff members with respect. Supervisors should never get sucked into looking and acting like bullies by using your position to be punitive or by threatening others.

(5) The faculty is made up of intelligent people who see naysayers for what they are, and most don’t want to get involved with petty school politics.

(6) If you give naysayers more energy than they deserve, it is like fertilizing weeds, the weeds will likely grow, and you don’t want to squander your energies in unproductive ways.

(7) Deal with conflicts privately. Do not avoid confronting negative behavior because it is uncomfortable. If unaddressed it will grow and even spread.

(8) Supervise to the evidence, meaning gather data and artifacts particularly as they relate to teaching and learning, and hold staff accountable to procedures and policies. Do your due diligence. Never violate a contract or abridge the right to due process.

(9) If there is evidence that someone is under-performing, then deal with the under-performance as an opportunity for staff development.

(10) We all learn best and change our behaviors by reflecting on our own practices and deciding that we need to make corrective actions. As a supervisor, your job is to hold up valid evidence and data to your staff member like a mirror and help them to reflect upon their own actions and the results of those actions.

In short, the supervisor is the professional, is a role model and never acts like a bully.