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?”

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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…

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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://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/ABW7ZAQc5E4dXDiizwQ2IMSHLlk?reason=norrinuser

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

LEAVE REPLACEMENT: AM I INTERESTED?

Should you consider taking a leave replacement position? Like most other complex questions, the answer is, “It depends”. It depends on your specific set of circumstances. It depends on the conditions surrounding the leave.
What are your circumstances?

• Are you starting a new career as a teacher or seeking your next leadership job? If you have been unsuccessfully seeking a position in teaching, then a leave replacement makes sense. A leave replacement is a far better alternative than substitute teaching or being a teaching assistant; you will be fulfilling all the responsibilities of a teacher, and the pay is better.
• Are you currently teaching or serving in a leadership job, and have you been unsuccessfully seeking a new leadership position? Resigning a secure position in order to take a leave replacement job is a high risk move. Getting your first leadership job can be a career breakthrough. Leaving a job in which you are unhappy, can be attractive.
• Are you currently unemployed, working outside of education, in the process of being laid off, being denied tenure, or ready to quit your present job? If you find yourself in any of these circumstances, then you have little to lose and a lot to gain.

What are the conditions of the leave replacement position?
• Are you an internal candidate for the position and will you be able to return to your present position if and when the incumbent returns or things don’t work out for you? As an internal person who can return to your job, there is little downside and lots of pluses. You will gain experience and acquire new skills, and positively position yourself should the incumbent not return.
• Are you an external candidate and is the incumbent expected to return and, if so, when? Most leave replacements are due to maternity or sick leaves. Most of these folks return to their jobs. You need to find out the reason for and the duration of the leave before accepting the job. If the job does become open, you will have had an opportunity to prove yourself and forge relationships. You will be in a very strong position to get the job.
• Is the incumbent ambivalent about returning? In most cases incumbents do not announce their intention to return until the contractual deadline. This uncertainty leaves the replacement in a difficult situation. You will need to decide if and when to initiate a new job search.

What are the consequences, positive and negative, of taking a leave replacement position? The most dire consequence is winding up on the unemployment line. Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to revitalize a career with a gap in your employment record. Any gap or step backward on your resume will be viewed as red flag and invite interviewers to closely question you about the circumstances of your employment timeline. On the positive side, if things work out, you can propel your career ahead. Taking a leave replacement position needs to be carefully considered before making a decision.

Interviewing: Do You Need to Be Coached?

Trying to get a leadership job is very much like a horse race. Recently, a school district posted an ad for an assistant principal. They received more than 150 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 will 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 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 http://www.LarryAronstein.com

The 3 P’s of JOB Seeking: PREPARATION, PERSISTENCE, PATIENCE

THE 3 P’S OF JOB SEEKING: PREPARATION, PERSISTENCE, PATIENCE

“I’ve applied for thirty leadership jobs over the last two years. I got six screening interviews; two of them were ‘courtesies’ due to contacts inside those districts. I moved on twice to a second interview and was then cut. I need your help.” This is a typical email that I often receive. My advice to those of you who are frustrated in your job seeking, and to those who are considering or in the process of getting certified is to practice the 3P’s of job seeking—preparation, persistence, and patience.

Preparation
Financial advisors will tell you that preparing for a secure retirement should begin early in your career, and if not early, then as soon as possible. Athletic coaches know that good preparation is the key to winning. Similarly, early and sound preparation is essential to your school leadership career, and that includes your education and where you attend graduate school. If you are considering enrolling in a school leadership graduate and/or certification program, you should think about attending the most prestigious university in your area. I understand that tuition costs and commuting long distances are serious concerns. However, a degree or a doctorate from a place like Columbia Teachers College, or even NYU or Fordham, will go a long way in making you a highly attractive candidate in the most desirable and best paying school districts.

Another major component is your accomplishments. Serving on a committee, chaperoning school dances, and participating in the PTA sponsored fashion show, although good things to do, should not be confused with significant accomplishments. Accomplishments may include: initiating a new course or program that addresses student needs; chairing an important committee, writing a report, and doing a Board and/or community presentation; winning a prestigious award or gaining community, professional, and/or student recognition; writing and being awarded a significant grant.

Of course, preparation must also include preparing an effective resume, and preparing for job interviews. A great resume requires meticulous crafting and editing. Giving a great interview means constructing and delivering a compelling narrative that goes beyond what’s on your resume and letting the interviewers know who you are. To prepare a great resume and give a winning interview could require getting quality coaching and feedback from a knowledgeable and experienced coach.

Persistence
Persistence means you stick with it; you are determined and diligent. Over the course of my career in public education I could have wall papered every inch of wall space of my living room with letters of rejection from school districts in four different states. I was runner up in scores of jobs. It took me 24 years from the time I got my doctorate until I got my dream job. I jokingly say that I was an “overnight success”. It is terribly disappointing and demoralizing to repeatedly experience rejection. Nevertheless, if you are determined to achieve your career goal, you must be persistent in your belief and your actions. If you are not getting interviews, enhance your qualifications. Chalk up impressive experiences and accomplishments. Become a summer school or evening school principal. Volunteer for important and difficult assignments. Re-write your resume. Have a career coach review your resume and suggest changes. Once you get more interviews, reflect upon and diagnose why you came up short. Adjust your responses to often asked questions. Again, work with a career coach to hone your interviewing skills and your answers.

Patience
Job seeking is not a 100-yard dash. It is usually a marathon. It requires endurance. You must believe in yourself. Your mantra should be, “Sooner or later, my time will come.” When it does come, I predict it will come easily.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in their preparation of resumes and preparing for interviews. You can purchase his ebook http://www.schoolleadership20.com/page/you-re-hired-the-inside-secrets-to-landing-your-school-leadership
Learn more about Dr. Aronstein by visiting his website: http://www.larryaronstein.com