Author: laronstein


Here is a typical message I get from new school leaders every year:

I wanted to touch base with you. I have a few questions and value your insight.  I had a successful year.  Being a leader is certainly a challenge, but I have learned a lot. Do you have any advice for year two or three?

 (1) How, in your experiences, do years two, three and four differ from year one?  

(2) I’ve been receiving a lot of different advice about future steps in my career.  In my district, I’m interested in ultimately moving into a principal position. I’d also be interested in K-12 coordinator position in other districts. Should I just wait and see how things play out here? There will likely be openings sooner rather than later, and then express my interest in being a building principal in the event an opening occurs, or should I look outside the district if the right opening comes along?

(3) I’ve been advised that you should always wait until gaining tenure before looking for a new position. Do you agree? I don’t want to be perceived as being ungrateful for being given the opportunity to work here.

I am happy in my position for now, but given the administrative and political structures here, I don’t know how long I might want to stay in my current role. Thanks for your insight!”

My response:

“It’s great to hear from you. I’m not surprised you had a successful year. Year one is a “getting to know you year”—first impressions—can we trust one another—are you the real deal. Year two is “let’s get down to business and start doing some substantive stuff. The challenge, as you know, is that a lot of folks would rather “make nice” than “make improvements”. It’s tricky because you can’t alienate your constituents, even a minority of them, who could resist and/or undermine you and your efforts. My experience taught me that most teachers prefer to be comfortable with the status quo. They certainly don’t like changes being made without their input and involvement.

The degree to which you can push teachers and in what direction depends on the support of your principal and district leaders. Even if your leaders assert that they are aggressive and want change, you still need to be cautious.

I understand the “rule” to get your tenure first and then seek a new position. However, if you are confidential in how you search for a new job, you will probably be okay. That means, confide in no one—not even your closest allies—everybody gossips. Most districts to which you apply will maintain confidentiality until the very end of the process when they need to check your references.

The most accessible career path forward is usually within your own district; especially a larger district where there is a greater likelihood for movement. Personally speaking, in most schools an assistant principal is an important but a thankless job—student discipline, scheduling, cafeteria and bus supervision. The most redeeming aspect is that it’s the most viable path to the principalship. In my opinion, a k-12 subject area coordinator job does little for your career unless it’s in an innovative place that does great work with a well-earned reputation.

One last thought about asserting your leadership. Do not lead by advocating for a specific “pet program”, even if you think it’s a good thing. Lead by having your constituents look at a problem, especially if there is data that clearly demonstrates a problem. Then the group has the shared responsibility to define the real problem and search for possible solutions. Leading by advocating for a specific program, technology, or method is like starting with a pre-determined solution and then matching it to a perceived problem; it’s a solution in search of a problem. That approach is usually doomed for failure. You will be perceived as trying to enhance your career by making changes for the sake of change.

Let me offer an analogy to further clarify what I mean by not leading by pushing for your favorite approach. Let’s say you are concerned that your family members have unhealthy diets. Assume that you do most of the cooking in your family; that includes doing the shopping and preparing the menu. Assume you love vegetarian Indian food, particularly the taste of curry. You believe vegetarian Indian food is healthy and delicious, however, your family members prefer other kinds of meals. Nevertheless, you persist in trying to convince them to eat your Indian food. As they say in the movies, “Houston, you’ve got a problem.”

Hope this helps. Please call me if you need to discuss this further. Keep in touch.”

Dr. Aronstein coaches school leaders and aspiring leaders in how to get their dream job. For more information, go to his website,

Interview Preparation: What Does the Coaching Process Entail?

Have you considered being coached to improve your performance during an interview and wondered what it entailed? As a successful coach of 100’s of educators over the last nine years, let me give you an overview of my approach which includes: (1) a free preliminary review of your resume and cover letter; (2) a brief complimentary telephone in-take conversation; (3) several (between one and four) one-on-one, face-to-face or remote one-hour coaching sessions. The following is a summary of what takes place during each step of the process:

1. Preliminary Review of Your Resume—evaluate the resume using the following criteria:           

   a. Less Is More—Is the resume to the point?

   b. Cite accomplishments; not a Job Description

   c. Lead with Your Strengths –catch attention of reviewer

   d. Does your timeline make sense?

   e. Keep format simple and logical

   f. Emphasize accomplishments that match the scope of the job 

   g. Omit activities that are not relevant to the position

2. In-Take Conversation—the following questions will be asked of you:

   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; arrange time and place of first session; clarify issues stemming from the resume review; and answer your additional questions.

3. Coaching Sessions

  • 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 5 to 10 of the most frequently asked questions.
  • Analyze that your future supervisor is really looking for.
  • Mutually create your narrative that emphasizes your strengths and neutralizes any potential weakness.
  • Strategize answers to an additional 5 to 10 of the most frequently asked questions.
  • Do a mock interview and get constructive feedback.
  • Learn strategies and tactics on “how to close the deal” and negotiating salary. Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching in the preparation of resumes and preparing clients for job interviews. For more information go to


As an educational job coach who prepares candidates for their interviews, I am getting valuable feedback from my clients about their recent experiences in doing video interviews. What can be generalized about their experiences? How can candidates successfully adapt to the “new normal” of video interviewing? What are the most recent trends?

Generalized Findings
• Interviewing on video can be an awkward, unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience. Some candidates report that they experience excessive nervousness, especially at the beginning of the session and that it seems difficult to regain their poise. Given that screening interviews last about 15 minutes, the inability to perform optimally can damage your chance to move on in the process.
• Video tends to de-humanize the interaction. I contend that one of the most important factors in being selected for a job is likeability. It is extremely difficult to demonstrate how likeable you can be because there is no physical connection, no handshake, little eye contact, and a lack of opportunity to read body language.
• Interviewers can be more confrontational. Most of us, in order to be civil, filter our words and reactions during face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, virtual communication seems to unleash a lack of civility by some interviewers which may be manifested by confrontational reactions.
• Beware of technical problems. The platforms that are used are often problematic; there are lags between the visual and the sound; it is known to stall or cut out completely. My clients have experienced being disconnected, the result being that the interview was abruptly and permanently ended.
• Protocols are evolving. Traditional interviewing involves a panel of interviewers converging in a central location. The candidate waits to be called and escorted in from a waiting room. The escort usually engages in some “small talk” during the walk to the conference room in an attempt to quickly establish some rapport. Introductions and handshakes can create an opportunity for interviewers to gauge some initial impressions of you. Video eliminates most of these protocols. It appears that the “new process” needs to build in some opportunities to put the interviewee at ease.


Strategies to Adapt—Being aware of the above findings, is a case of fore warned is fore armed. Preparation for an interview is always a key to success. Preparation is not limited to researching the school-community, developing your narrative, and anticipating questions and prepping your answers. Preparation now should include tactics as to how you will navigate this new landscape of video interviewing.
• Make extra efforts to be personable. Prepare a narrative in anticipation to the likely opening question, “Tell us about yourself”. Balance the response with personal stories along with highlights from your resume. The interviewers need to get to know you in order to like you. Smile; demonstrate a sense of humor.
• Be conscious of your background and lighting. Be aware that interviewers will also be focusing on the images in your background. Do not distract them with clutter. Chose items that reflect who you are, and what might resonate with them. Family pictures on a bookcase, some neatly stacked professional books are good choices.
• Dress and groom yourself appropriately. Present yourself professionally. Most of us have been housebound for days on end. In the age of corona, my wardrobe mostly consists of sweatpants and a tee shirt. I often skip shaving. However, I would dress the part of the professional for an interview.
• Prepare hidden cue cards. One never refers to notes during a traditional interview. But this is different. Your camera will only show your upper torso and head. Give yourself an advantage. Why not prepare notes and place them on the keyboard? Glance at them briefly if need be.
• Be prompt and respectful of time restraints. Professionals are always prompt and respectful of time. Video conferencing demands adhering to a tight schedule on the part of the interviewers. They are under pressure to stick to their schedule. Take their lead as when to end the session.

As I have emphasized, preparation is a key to successful interviewing. I suggest that you set up a mock interview with a small group of friends using a video platform. Take a test drive. Get their feedback. Sensitize yourself to how to handle the new normal.

Dr. Aronstein is an educational career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders and teachers prepare for interviews, and in the preparation of their resumes. Learn more at

Stand Out from Other Applicants

Are you finding that you have re-written your resume and cover letter multiple times over the last year, and you applied for every supervisory job for which you’re qualified within 40 miles…but still very few interviews? The interviews you do get never go 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? As a candidate, your goal is to stand out from the rest of the field and be seen as more qualified and desirable. You must present yourself as a solid professional with valuable knowledge and experience to offer in your role as a leader. How do you distinguish yourself?

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

Significant Professional Accomplishments
In your present position, be on the lookout for unique and interesting opportunities. Examples of such opportunities might be piloting a new curriculum, serving on a high profile committee, 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 educational organization, writing a report, or helping to develop and write a plan to improve school safety or student achievement.

Unique or Well-Developed Skills and Knowledge
The goal is not to add bullets to your resume. The goal is to develop valuable skills and knowledge and show them in the best light on your resume and in 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. To 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, and permit you to assist in supervising lunchrooms and bus duties.

You can likely fill some semi-administrative roles. Serving as an administrator in summer school, night school, or alternative school can help you learn supervisory skills and be noticed by your school leaders. Another way to stand out as a leader is by serving on committees. Leadership depends upon the role you play and the impact you have on committees. Volunteer to serve as a committee chairperson, write portions of plans and reports, and present at public, school board and faculty meetings.

Motivation and Agility
Being an inside candidate is the best path to becoming a school leader. Do what you can within your school and district to be visible, cooperative, and useful. Voluntarily moving to another grade level and/or school demonstrates your flexibility and cooperation and increases your scope of experience. You will also be seen as a team player.
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 in-service 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!

Screening Interviews: How It Really Works

How is my resume screened? What is the screener really looking for? How does the screening process work? 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 continuously screen resumes as they come on-line. Most HR offices print out the resumes of all qualified candidates and send them to the direct supervisor for further screening. Let’s assume there are 150 qualified candidates in the pile. The goal is to have a screening committee interview about 15 to 18 candidates. How do they get from 150 to 15? If it takes just two minutes to review each candidate’s papers, that’s 300 minutes. I’m sorry to say that each resume will get much less than two minutes. The reviewer is a busy person. Consequently, the reviewer will speed read 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) people with 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 Ivy League schools or 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.
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; and 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.

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”.
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. Then drop the interviewers “thank you” emails. The committee’s goal is usually to reduce the number of candidates to 6 to 8. The next step is going on to the larger committee for a 30 minute interview.
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!

Do You Need to Be Coached to Get Your Leadership Job?

Trying to get a leadership job can be very much like a horse race. Recently, a school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. They received more than 250 applicants, met with 20 for a pre-screening interview, and then a hiring committee interviewed 8 semi-finalists. The Kentucky Derby had 16 horses “run for the roses”. Those horses had the benefit of the best trainers in the world prepare them.
Let’s extend the horse racing metaphor. Have you ever gotten a tip on a horse or a stock or a restaurant? Tips are for amateurs. A tip is nothing but an opinion. I never made money on stock tips, and am usually disappointed with tips in general. Tipsters aren’t coaches. A good experienced coach hones your narrative, helps revise your resume, teaches you strategies, rehearses you, gives you feedback, and acts as your cheerleader.

How much of an investment does a serious candidate make to get a leadership job? There are education expenses such as tuition, application fees, books, and expenses for commuting… then there’s buying your interview suit or outfit. That’s at least $12,000 to $18,000. Does investing a few hundred dollars for a coach make sense? Your salary can increase by 20%. What can a coach do for you? Does coaching work?
Being a well-coached candidate can mean the difference between playing a good game of checkers compared to being a fine chess player. A good coach will prepare you so that you present yourself with self-confidence; tell your story as to why you’re the right match; anticipate and prepare impressive and unique responses to the interviewers’ questions; and strategize what to say, what not to say, and how to read body language. And yes, coaching does work. Coaching should also be confidential. There’s no reason for anyone to know the secret to your success.
Coaching can effectively be done in person or even over the phone.

Your university probably offers free workshops in preparing your resume and letter and provides a list of interviewing tips. However, an experienced coach goes way beyond that. He has a network of former clients and colleagues. He/she knows the school districts and their inside politics. You will be guided in how to fashion your approach to the unique needs and wants of the school, the community and the district.

A good coach also guides you in closing the deal and assists you in negotiating your salary. Don’t leave getting your leadership job up to chance. Don’t rely on tips. Remember, getting promoted is a lifetime gain which requires a short-term investment. The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.

Dr. Larry Aronstein provides over the phone and/or in person one-on-one coaching to school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparing for interviews and in the preparation of resumes. For more information go to


As an experienced career coach, I have found that at least 20% of my clients are over the age of 45. There is no telling how many so called “older workers” are so discouraged about their age that they reject even considering applying for a leadership job. My older clients ask: “I am an older candidate and feel that my age is working against me, how do I compete against these 30-something year-olds?”
I have worked with more than 650 educators, about 600 of whom are well-qualified. Sixty (60 %) percent of my well-qualified clients successfully get a job. The success rate of “older worker” clients is the same as the rest of my clients.

Most of us are aware that it is discriminatory to ask about your age; you will not be asked that question. However, in most cases it is not difficult to figure out your age. Your resume indicates the year you graduated from college; add 22 to how many years ago you graduated, and they have your age. You are not required to include that on your resume, but you do have to include your record; add 22 to how many years ago you got your first teaching job. Of course, at some point you will submit your college transcripts; your date of graduation is there. If you google yourself, you will find a free site that provides your age. Therefore, don’t hide it by leaving your date of graduation off of your resume. You will only be signaling that you are uncomfortable with your age. My advice is to be proud of who you are. How do you do that?

Usually the first question you will be asked on an interview will be: “Tell us about yourself”. This is your opportunity to tell your story. Take what you might consider to be a deficit and make it into a strength. What is implicit is that with age comes maturity, experience, good judgment; life experience. In my book, “Landing Your School Leadership Job“:, my advice is avoid reciting your work and educational experience in answering that first question. The interviewers already have that information in front them on your resume. What you should do is to describe the characteristics that make you stand out.

Describe your life experiences. Tell them about a problem you solved or a decision you made based upon your sound judgment. Be proud of your maturity. Employers want leaders and educators who have good judgment.

Attend Dr. Aronstein’s March 7th four-hour workshop.

Resumes 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 50% of the time. If you aren’t getting this level of response, then you need to make revisions.

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

Common mistakes that candidates make 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 your resume reading like a job description. The reader already knows what a teacher or an assistant principal does. Instead, your resume needs 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?

Some 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. As an example, a candidate who was seeking a leadership position served as a chief of his local volunteer fire department. He supervised and trained scores of fire fighters.

Some additional suggestions are: Have your resume reviewed by a well informed and respected mentor, and get objective feedback. You may be 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 in terms of the number of 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, 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 6-8; prior 3-5; 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

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders. His e-book is available at: Check out his website at

Overcoming Nervousness

“I get so nervous when I interview that I freeze.” For most of us, interviewing is an unfamiliar, somewhat intimidating, and uncomfortable experience. It is natural that interviewees feel nervous. There’s a lot at stake. You have invested a great deal of time, effort and money in trying to take the next step in your career. You’re walking into a room all alone to meet a group of strangers who are going to ask you difficult questions and make judgments whether they like you, if you’re a good fit, and if you are qualified and ready. Being rejected is a real possibility.

So, what can you do to calm your nerves and become more effective? You should take some comfort in knowing that the interviewers who are across the table have been on your side of the table and understand your nervousness. They are quite forgiving of a shaky voice and a little perspiration. But how do you avoid freezing? My formula for shedding your nervousness is:

(1) be familiar with each step of the interview process;
(2) be prepared by anticipating many of the questions by preparing and practicing your answers;
(3) learn how to read and respond to the interviewers’ body language and non-verb clues;
(4) find comfort in your knowledge and skillfulness;
(5) stay out of “your own head” (how am I doing; are they liking me) by just focusing on answering the question;
(6) only speak to the individual who asked the question (don’t look at the large group);
(7) plant seeds in your answers that will lead the interviewers to ask a follow up question for which you will be well prepared, thus gaining some control over the direction of the course of the interview.

Perhaps an analogous situation might serve to illustrate my approach. I must confess that sometimes I get anxious when I travel. I imagine that the taxi is going to drop me at the wrong terminal; the flight will be over-booked and I’ll get bumped; the plane will leave late and I’ll miss my connecting flight; upon arrival I’ll be told that my hotel reservation was for last week and they are now all booked up. However, I’m happy to report that over time I have figured out ways to alleviate most of my anxieties. I take a page from my own formula. I familiarize myself in advance with my ticket which identifies the terminal; I try to book non-stop direct flights; I re-confirm my hotel reservation; and if unanticipated problems arise, I have copies of all the documentation and contact phone numbers in my possession—you get the idea.

A good coach will walk you through the interview process step-by-step. You will learn what forms of body language to look for and how you should respond verbally and non-verbally. You will analyze and practice answering the most often asked questions. You will role play and have a dress rehearsal. You will report back as to your actual performance and will get feedback on how you might improve. You will find comfort and self-confidence in the knowledge that you are well prepared, and as a result your nervousness will be minimized.

Project Your Gravitas: Win the Job

In interview situations, I’ve coached many school leaders and teachers about the importance of presenting oneself in a confident manner. Some refer to this as gravitas. Gravitas is the ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, others listen. Do not confuse gravitas with arrogance. People who project gravitas are thoughtful; they think before they speak and bring substance to the conversation. Remember that the court jester never becomes the king or the queen.

In seeking a position as a school leader or a teacher, you must convince your potential supervisors that you are the kind of person who brings a certain bearing to the position. The teacher must be the adult leader in the classroom. In the context of a job interview, here are several methods to project your gravitas.

1. Be present, listen, and speak once you’ve formulated a response

People with gravitas are attentive to what is really being asked, the underlying issues and agendas. So, you must listen to the question, take a moment to formulate a thoughtful response, and draw upon your self-assurance that your response will have value. This can be done quietly without trying to compete in being the smartest person in the room. Be respectful of the other people around the table who may be more accomplished and experienced than you. Be confident in knowing that your thoughts have value too.

2. Guide the conversation

It’s not about winning an argument or out shining a competitor. It’s about putting forth relevant ideas that add to and guide the conversation. Someone who is self-confident and secure treats everyone with respect, even those who might not treat you with respect.
Remember the lyrics to the old song, “You’re got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em …”. Be mindful about timing what to say and when to say it. Try to make your ideas concise, on point, and clear. Don’t repeat yourself. When possible, try to tailgate onto someone else’s idea. Ask questions, but keep them on topic, and avoid long introductions to your question. Questions are not “gotcha” opportunities. Your goal should be to try to guide the process in productive directions.

3. Communicate like an adult

As an employer, I want to hire professionals—adults. People with gravitas speak like adults. Too many young people saturate their sentences with word fillers and phrases such as “like”, “you know”, “at the end of the day”, “to be honest,” and “in reference to”. You know what I mean! Also, avoid ending your sentences with an upward inflection to your voice as if you’re asking a question rather than making a statement. You want to be taken seriously. Therefore, you cannot just dress and look like a professional, you must also sound like a professional.

4. Do not confuse confidence with arrogance

There is a thin line separating arrogance and gravitas. Arrogance means that you’re perceived as coming across as overbearing, conceited, a know it all, someone who has a lot to say but really offers little in the way of substance. Most of us are repelled by arrogance in others. To me, the opposite of arrogance is modesty. Oftentimes, less is more. We admire wisdom. I once asked an extremely successful businessperson about his newest venture. He described his new business in one sentence. I commented, “You did that in one sentence.” He smiled politely and responded, “If you can’t explain something in one sentence, then you don’t understand what you’re talking about”. That’s gravitas.

5. Monitor yourself

How are my responses being received? Is my audience hearing me? Are they resonating with my ideas? Are they nodding and smiling? Exercising your gravitas is not a trick—it’s a matter of being effective. When gravitas is lacking, people notice, and when it’s there, it’s magic.
When you walk away from the table, you want your audience to say, “That candidate really held our attention and was most impressive.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in developing their resume and preparing for job interviews. Learn more at