YOUR CANDIDACY: WHAT ARE THEY REALLY LOOKING FOR AND HOW DO YOU PRESENT YOURSELF?

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

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

What They Really Want

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

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

Useful Strategies

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

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

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

Getting a Teaching Job: When All Else Fails

         “I’ve done everything I can think of; now it’s the summer, and I still don’t have a job. What should I do now?” Well, this calls for extraordinary measures. Basketball coaches motivate their players as the game draws to an end and the score is still close by telling them, “Leave everything you’ve got on the court.” This means exhaust all possibilities. Most school leaders are on vacation during July and the first two weeks of August. Upon return they almost always find that a few staff members have notified the district that they’re not returning. Some staff members decide to retire, others find new jobs or might be re-locating, some decide they want to stay home to raise their family, and still others reach the conclusion that education is not their forte and resign.

         Use your time in June and July to get prepared. Polish up your resume; read a how to get a teaching job guide…https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Your-Teaching-Larry-Aronstein-ebook/dp/B00KWEG2KQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527344934&sr=8-1&keywords=larry+aronstein#customerReviews. Get coaching from an experienced educational career coach.

        Administrators are faced with the challenge of filling these jobs within the next two to three weeks before schools open for the new school year. There is a real urgency to find new staff. Therefore, this is a great opportunity to get hired. So, here is my advice. Sit down with a local map and decide how far you are willing to commute. Draw a circle from your location using that maximum commuting distance as the radius. Identify every school district within the circle, find the websites of the districts, research the names of the assistant superintendents for human resources, and try to find the names and phone numbers of their secretaries; you might even call the district to find these names and phone numbers. Put your fear of rejection on hold. Call every one of those secretaries. Introduce yourself: “Good morning, Mrs. Fisher, my name is Carol Hines and I’m a certified elementary school teacher who’s recently graduated from Curtis State College. I understand that you may have several vacancies, including a K-5 position. I would appreciate it if I could make an appointment with Dr. Charlton, so that I could introduce myself, give him my resume, and tell him why I’m the right person to fill that position. I promise not to take more than five minutes of his valuable time.” Now, we really don’t know if there’s a pending K-5 position available. The only thing that’s important is that you get in and meet Dr. Charlton. And yes, this actually works. But, don’t be surprised if the secretary brushes you off, “I’m sorry Ms. Hines, we only accept on-line applications, and I do not believe there’s a vacancy.” Still, you are far from finished.

        If you get an appointment, that’s fantastic. You must then get in there and convince Dr. Charlton that you should get further consideration. He might just pick up his phone and call the principal and tell her that he’s sending you over to meet her. Remember, they are in a hurry to fill that job. But, if your phone calls to the secretaries all result in rejections, you must now take the next step. Put on your most professional looking outfit, plot your route, and visit as many district offices in your circle as possible within the next few days. You may encounter a security guard or will certainly have to go through a receptionist. Now, this is what you say, “Hi, I’m Carol Hines and I’m here to see Mrs. Fisher (remember, she is Dr. Charlton’s secretary).” The receptionist will either direct you to the Human Resources Office, or she’ll pick up her phone and tell Mrs. Fisher that you’re here to see her, or she will tell you that Mrs. Fisher is not available. Even if you can’t get in to see the secretary, ask the receptionist to take your resume and give it to Dr. Charlton. There is a chance that Mrs. Fisher may tell you to come up. If you get to see Mrs. Fisher, be as personable and self-confident as you know how to be and ask her if you can meet Dr. Charlton and personally hand him your resume.

        I have actually hired people who walked in off the street in July and August. I assume that these candidates are committed and are the kind of people who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to succeed. I like “go getters” and want them to work in my organization. However, there might not be a position available. Nevertheless, you might ask Dr. Charlton about other available opportunities. The following are possibilities: a long-term substitute position; a teaching assistant position; a regular substitute who is permanently assigned to a school. These may not be your dream jobs, but it is a foot in the door and an opportunity to impress school leaders. Just go for it. Nothing to lose; everything to gain.

Dr. Aronstein prepares teachers for interviews and their preparation of resumes. www.larryaronstein.com

Laid Off, Resigned or Denied Tenure

It can be devastating to your career to be laid off, asked to resign your position, be denied tenure, or resign because you are very unhappy in your job. Potentially, these events can be career ending. Leaving a job before getting tenure is a bright red flag on your resume. During every interview, you will have to answer the question, “I see you only worked in Happy Hollow for two years. Were you asked to leave? What is the story regarding your leaving?”

Assuming that you have not been involved in any serious wrong doing, you should be assured that the situation need not be hopeless. Once you clear your mind and harness your anxiety, then focus and plan your course of action. There are effective strategies available to you. However, let’s be clear that no matter how desperate you may feel, NEVER LIE. The field of education is small throughout your region; people gossip, and information about you may be on the internet. Sooner or later, a lie will be uncovered and you will be terminated for lying. That said, here are some suggestions:

  1. Get out in front—you may have some control over the timeline. If you are told that you’ll not be getting tenure, then you’re better off resigning. But submit that letter as late as you can. Do whatever you can to get assurances that a positive letter of recommendation will be forthcoming and that good things will be said about you if someone calls for a reference check. In return, promise that you’ll submit a letter of resignation. Start applying as soon as you can. If you get interviews you can honestly say at that point in time, you have not resigned.  
  2.  What happens if you resign and you don’t have a job? You will need to answer the question why you resigned; you must do so without hesitation– you can’t appear as if you’re covering something up. Most leaders have been through their own career crises and can be very understanding. Just take a breath and briefly tell your story. Your narrative must be credible and evoke empathy. A good coach can help you craft your narrative. Your narrative is the key to getting a new job. Never say anything critical of your present or past employers or supervisors. Always make a brief positive final statement beginning with: “I’d like to leave you with a final thought”. This will leave them with a powerful last impression. I suggest you say something like: “I just want to assure you that I have never done anything that I’m ashamed of. I am an honorable, hard working and sincere person who would never do anything that would discredit or embarrass me or my employer.”
  3. What if you are laid off because of budget cuts? You will be in a strong position to get excellent letters of recommendation and references. Your supervisors will undoubtedly be sincerely sorry to cut you lose. Don’t despair. You are now an experienced candidate looking to make a parallel move. Your potential new employer will have empathy for your plight. If you have a copy of a newspaper article that verifies that your position was lost based on budget cuts, then present it at your interview as documentation. It will immediately quell any doubts.
  4. What if you can’t find a comparable job? You still have options. If you are a supervisor, you can go take a step back in your career or return to the classroom. You can seek employment at a private school or a charter school. You can seek employment opportunities in a nearby big city. You can re-locate. In exploring these opportunities, you might find that you might move up the career ladder, from assistant principal to principal for example.
  5. What if you are accused of a serious infraction? If you have committed a serious infraction, then you should probably find a new line of work. If the charges are false, then find a good lawyer. Hopefully your union will provide you with one. Do everything you can to keep the situation confidential. Stay off social media. Do not respond publicly or in the media. In the interim, you should probably try to apply elsewhere.

As a final thought, you should remind yourself that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. Going through a career crisis or transition can be growthful. You learn how to be humble and more resilient, and you’ll find out who your real friends are and how supportive they can be. Larry Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with clients preparing them for interviews and perfecting their resumes. Find out about Dr. Aronstein at www.larryaronstein.com

WORDS AND PHRASES NEVER TO BE USED ON YOUR RESUME OR DURING AN INTERVIEW

Here is a list of words and phrases you never want to use on your resume or during an interview. Why shouldn’t you use them? What to say instead.

1. “UNEMPLOYED”—It makes you sound like a loser and nobody wants to hire a loser. Let potential employers figure out that you are “between jobs” and be prepared to explain what happened.

2. “HARDWORKING”—The word is over-used and therefore trite. Instead, provide accomplishments that document your work ethic and diligence and let the interviewer conclude that you’re hardworking.

3. “AMBITIOUS”—Making personality claims comes off as bragging. You want to project a modest image which is backed up by progressive accomplishments and activities.

4. “OBJECTIVE”—Stating your career object at the top of your resume is superfluous. It is clear what position you are applying for. Stating an objective in flowery language only slows the reviewer down. He/she is probably speed reading through 100’s of resumes. Just leave it out.

5. “DEDICATED”—This is another over-used, stale personal claim. Describe your passions and your actions over a period of time to fulfill them.

6. “UNION”—Remember that unions often sit on the other side of the table pushing back on leaders’ decisions and actions. Leaders make personnel decisions and may not welcome people who are “union-friendly” on their team. Leave out any mention of unions.

7. “LIFE-LONG LEARNER”—Another trite expression. Your on-going participation in professional development opportunities demonstrates your willingness to learn and grow. During the interview, ask about professional development opportunities and who would be mentoring you. That question implies that you want to grow and learn.

8. “ROCK STAR”—No one likes a braggart. You’re not Elvis, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga.

9. “DABBLED”—Either you know or did something significant about something that is important enough to mention. Who wants to hire a dabbler? Use strong verbs like led, created, directed.

10. “EXPERT”—Be careful what you claim. A skillful interviewer may probe or challenge your expertise. “What does the research say on the topic of…? What research and literature have you studied?” If you claim to speak a foreign language, don’t be surprised if an interviewer asks you a complex question in that language and asks that you respond in that language.

11. “A BIG FAN OF…”—Speak like a professional. I’m a big baseball fan, however I wouldn’t tell a group of professions that I was a big fan of differentiating instruction. I would describe how I go about differentiating.

12. “Like”—Using the words “like” or “you know” at the beginning, the middle, and the end of every sentence as a “filler” makes you sound juvenile and will hamper your professional image. Work to change that speech pattern.

These are just a few examples of words and phases to avoid. There are many others. I would also caution you about referencing anything related to politics and religion, or what might be perceived as controversial topics. Needless to say, never use any words even bordering on profanity. Everything you write and say as a candidate creates your narrative and your image. Choose your words carefully.

Assistant Principal Job: What Does the Principal Really Need?

Oftentimes, the entry-level job into school leadership is the assistant principalship. There are more assistant principal jobs than any other leadership roles. At this moment there are thirteen positions being posted on Long Island. During the selection process, the principal is usually the key person in deciding who will get the job. The fact is that the assistant will be the principal’s right arm. What does the principal really need?

In my experience, despite what the job description says, principals need an assistant who can do six things. They are: (1) STUDENT DISCIPLINE; (2) OBSERVATIONS AND EVALUATIONS; (3) LARGE GROUP SUPERVISION (bus duty, cafeteria duty, corridors); (4) PARENT COMPLAINTS; (5) TEACHER SUPERVISION; (6) SCHEDULING. These responsibilities may not be very glamorous, but they are essential in assuring that the school is well organized, safe and orderly.

Of the six responsibilities, STUDENT DISCIPLINE by far is the highest priority. Realistically, the assistant principal’s school day is dominated by dealing with time consuming disciplinary cases, mostly small but sometimes more serious. Therefore, the principal is looking for an assistant principal who exercises good judgement, is thorough, is effective with kids, and knows how to speak with parents in a tactful and respectful manner.

The ability to command respect by just being a presence is vital; some call it “gravitas”. That is the ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, others listen. In order to be an effective supervisor in large group settings, and in dealing with staff or parents, it is a requirement to project gravitas.

You should assume that the reviewer of your resume and your interviewers, and particularly the principal, will be looking for evidence that you have some experience, knowledge and skills in fulfilling most of these six responsibilities. Be aware that these “top six” needs do not include such wants as professional development, curriculum development, personnel or budget management among others, even though these functions might be included in the job description. The principal is going to choose a candidate based on what he/she needs and not what’s wanted.

Your resume should prominently include evidence of performing these six functions, and you should prepare answers to interviewers’ questions pertaining to these areas. Expect “what would you do” scenarios that are aimed at assessing your judgement and practical knowledge of how these various processes work. A few sample questions might be:

  1. Walk us through step-by-step how you would deal with a fight in the corridor?
  2. Role playing the assistant principal who receives a phone call from an irate parent complaining that his child is being treated unfairly by a teacher.
  3. How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not addressing recommendations you made on his/her observation report?
  4. How would you go about doing a formal teacher observation?

The key to be a successful candidate is preparation. Focus your preparation on the real priorities of the person to whom you’ll be assisting.

Dr. Aronstein coaches school leaders thru their interview process and in developing their resumes… http://www.larryaronstein.com

TEN LESSONS LEARNED AFTER 10 YEARS OF COACHING SCHOOL LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

Over the last 10 years, I have coached more than 500 candidates seeking school leadership jobs. Most of my work has focused on revising resumes and preparing for job interviews. Once my clients get their new positions, they sometimes reach out to me to get advice on the next step in their careers or how to deal with problems they might be facing in their new job. Looking back and reflecting on my experiences as a coach, I decided to share my “takeaways”, lessons learned, that might help candidates be more effective.

  1. GET INPUT ON YOUR RESUME AND INTERVIEWING STRATEGIES—your resume is a work in progress. Advice you get will be well-intentioned, however, the field of public education is unique. You need to get guidance from an experienced educator who has reviewed countless resumes and interviewed 1,000’s of candidates. Don’t waste years of job searching trying to figure it out by yourself.
  2. CRAFT YOUR NARRATIVE—the first question you will probably be asked is: “Tell us about yourself”. In response, most all candidates review their work and educational experiences. After listening to a series of 15 to 20 candidates, interviewers grow weary –begins to sound the same. They’ve already reviewed your resume. So, craft and tell your story. They are dying to find a compelling candidate.
  3. BE AUTHENTIC—your story must be coherent, credible, and relatable. Be real. Present yourself as someone who shares their school-community’s values, and will easily fit in. Tell a short story about a success you had. Mention your own experiences growing up. Talk about your family.
  4. STICK TO 2 MINUTE RULE—most candidates talk too much. They repeat themselves. They go off on tangents and don’t answer the question. Discipline yourself to limit your responses to two minutes. If the interviewers want to hear more, they will ask you to elaborate.
  5. QUANTIFY ACCOMPLISHMENTS—speak to your accomplishments, not your job description. Wherever possible, quantify the accomplishment. “The result of switching to the new approach to literacy, our school-wide achievement went up by 12% over three years”.
  6. BE INFORMED BY PREVIOUS QUESTIONS—take note of the topics of questioning as you go to the next rounds of interviewing. It is reasonable to anticipate that you will be asked similar questions in future rounds. It’s an opportunity to fine tune your answers.
  7. OFFER INSIGHTS INTO THEIR PROBLEMS—do your homework in researching what’s going on in the school and the district. Find out what kind of problems they are facing. Prepare answers that will address their problems.
  8. BE AWARE OF STEREOTYPING—unfortunately, we in education tend to stereotype educational work experiences. There is a strong tendency on the part of decision makers to take a negative view of school settings that are different from their own. For instance, leaders in affluent suburban districts are dismissive of candidates from big cities, parochial and private schools, charter schools, vocational and special needs schools. This practice is not limited to suburban schools; the opposite is valid as well.
  9. STEER CLEAR OF CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES & DISAGREEMENTS—interviewers can be confrontational, and questions concerning controversial social issues can be asked. Avoid taking the bait. Try to remain neutral.
  10. GET OBJECTIVE FEEDBACK—the need to get objective and candid feedback from an experienced coach cannot be over-stated. Every interview is a learning experience. You don’t have to be in it alone.

Interviewed by a Board of Education

Over the last several years boards of education have become more actively involved in interviewing and selecting candidates for leadership positions. State laws dictate that only the Board can make personnel appointments. Of course, board members are elected officials and as such they have their own priorities and can be influenced by their constituents. Consequently, if a candidate is going to be interviewed by the Board, you need to find out who they are and what their priorities might be.

Find out the occupation of board members. The kind of questions that a professional educator might ask are different from those of an accountant, or a techie, or a real estate agent. Does the trustee have a child in the special education program, or is he or she involved in youth athletics, the music boosters, or the performing arts? Board Members for the most part are parents and will ask the kind of questions that parents ask. Be prepared to answer questions like these:

  1. What expertise do you bring to your staff in enhancing student learning through the use of technology?
  2. How would you go about assisting a teacher who is having difficulty with disruptive kids?
  3. How would you go about determining what your priorities should be in your new position?
  4. How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is burned out?
  5. What characteristics do you look for in an excellent teacher?
  6. What would you do if your supervisor made a decision that you disagreed with and you felt would harm children?
  7. 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.
  8. If you interviewed candidates for a teacher vacancy, what three questions would you ask them?
  9. What would you do to attract more students into the music and arts programs?
  10. What would you do to support the philosophy of inclusion in our special education program?
  11. Do you have any ideas about saving money?
  12. What’s your approach to student discipine?

Beware that some Board Members can be aggressive and/or argumentative in how they ask questions and may challenge you. Do not fight back. Keep your cool, remain professional, and if you don’t agree, just say: “That’s an interesting point. I would have to think about that”.

A final reminder. Remember that the two most important factors in getting a job is being likeable and being a good fit for the school-community. Be pleasant, smile, and try to resonate with the cultural norms and values of the Board.

Making Adjustments: The Interview Process in Four Stages

Most interview processes have four stages: the screening interview, a committee interview, a small group interview with some Central Office administrators, and an interview with the Superintendent which may include the Board. The nature of each step is different, calling for different interviewing strategies. How you make adjustments to your approach of interviewing at each stage of the process is critical to your success in getting to the next step. You can compare the four-step process to the four quarters of a football game. A successful team makes adjustments each quarter; that means they change their game plan.

In interviewing, each step is different with regard to the duration of the interview, the cast of characters you meet, the nature of the questions that are asked, the questions that you might ask, and what the interviewers are looking for.

Step 1–Screening interviews usually run 10 to 15 minutes. Typically, there are about three people who will be interviewing about 12 to 18 candidates. Let’s assume you are a candidate for an assistant principal position; you will probably meet the principal, an assistant principal and a teacher (usually an officer in the Teachers’ Union). Their goal is to get an impression of you to determine whether or not you’d be a good fit. Likely, they’ll probably ask you: “Tell us about yourself”; “What do you know about us?”; “Why do you want to be a leader?” They’ll only have time for about 4 or 5 questions.

Step 2–The committee interview team may vary in size from about 6 to 10, depending on the time of year. After schools close in late June, fewer teachers and parents are available. They will probably speak to 6 to 8 candidates for about 30 minutes each. Be prepared to wait because it’s difficult for a large group to stay on time. Oftentimes, the committee will receive a list of suggested questions, and each member will be asked to choose a question. The senior members usually will go last. Expect that they will turn up the heat by getting specific, following up on your previous answers, and picking over your resume. You should also be prepared to solve an open-ended scenario, or even role play how you’d deal with a challenging problem.

Step3–If you make it to the next step, they’ll be down to 3 or 4 candidates. Expect to meet with Central Office people for about 45 minutes. They will pick apart your resume and challenge your judgment. Example questions might include: “Why did you leave…?”; “How would you deal with a veteran teacher who is not responsive to your suggestions? “; “What if you disagree with your supervisor’s decision?”

Step 4–The final step may be with the Superintendent, or even the Board. I call this “closing the deal”. Don’t be surprised if the Superintendent does more of the talking. She/he may want to give you some background and share some of potential problems with which you’ll be faced. Try to make the interaction into more of a conversation rather than an interrogation. Expect that you’ll be asked about how you’d deal with these problems. They will probably ask you about how you spend your first two months on the job, and how you’d go about setting your priorities. Be prepared at the end of this interview to ask one or two of your questions of them. I also suggest that you prepare a closing statement.

Each step in the process has its own inherent challenges. You have to be prepared to make strategic adjustments. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of having a good coach along the way to help you strategize and make those adjustments. As any experienced football or basketball coach would tell you, don’t expect what works in the first quarter will necessarily work in the next quarter.

Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who assists his clients prepare for interviews and in the preparation of their resumes. Find out more about Larry Aronstein and read his blogs on http://www.Larryaronstein.com.

Stand Out from Other Applicants

Have you re-written your resume and cover letter multiple times over the last year? Have you applied for every job for which you’re qualified within 40 miles? But you are still getting very few interviews and the interviews that you are getting rarely advance 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? Are you giving poor interviews? As a candidate, your goal is to stand out from the rest of the field and be seen as better qualified, a better fit, and most desirable. How do you stand out from everyone else? It should be emphasized that your goal is not to have an abundance of bullets on your resume; it is to provide impressive and significant statements.

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

Significant Professional Accomplishments

In your present position, lookout for unique and interesting growthful opportunities. Examples might be piloting a new curriculum, serving on a high profile committee, making a presentation to the Board of Education, 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 or local civic organization, writing an impactful report, or helping to develop and write a plan to improve school safety or student achievement. When possible, quantify gains in student achievement or advancements that were made as a result of your work.

Unique or Well-Developed Skills and Knowledge

The goal is to identify valuable skills and knowledge and present them in the best light on your resume and during 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. 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. Volunteer to assist in supervising lunchrooms and bus duties. 

Leadership

You should consider filling semi-administrative roles such as serving as an administrator in summer school, night school, or alternative school; you will learn supervisory skills and be noticed by your school leaders. Another way to stand out as a leader is by serving on committees. Volunteer to play leadership roles on committees in order to have an impact and get noticed. Volunteer to serve as a committee chairperson, write portions of plans and reports, and present at school board and faculty meetings.

Motivation and Agility

Being an inside candidate is the best and fastest path to advancing as a school leader. Do what you can within your school and district to be visible, cooperative, and useful. Be a team player by voluntarily moving to another grade level and/or school. This also demonstrates your flexibility and cooperation and increases your scope of experience. 

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 professional development 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!

DO YOU NEED HELP IDENTIFYING AND DEVELOPING YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS? I have designed a unique questionnaire that you can easily use. We would then use your responses to enhance your resume and further develop your narrative for your interviews. Contact: larryaronstein@yahoo.com or text 516-423-0240 for further information.

Blueprint for Answering Interview Questions

It is your final interview. Three Central Office Administrators are questioning you. “Do you have questions for us?” the Superintendent asks.

“Yes, what do you see as some of the greatest instructional challenges that the district has that I, if I’m lucky enough to get this job, would be expected to address?”

The Superintendent nods at the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. She responds to your question. “As you know, we have three elementary schools. Each of the schools has four or five classes at each grade level. What we have found is that despite our K-12 science and social studies directors having provided several teacher trainings that emphasize an inquiry approach to teaching in these content areas, there is little evidence that our teachers are demonstrating effective inquiry-based instructional strategies. Most of our teachers are pretty experienced and seem satisfied with the way things are. By the time the kids get to middle school, their content knowledge and skills are all over the place.”

The candidate silently reflects for a short moment, and responds, “What I’m hearing you say is that there is a need for greater teachers’ abilities to stimulate critical thinking and framing open ended questions that challenge students’ to tap into prior knowledge and identify evidence that justifies their answers. I encountered a somewhat similar situation in my experience. What I learned from these experiences was that the attempt to fix the problem could in some cases make things worse, but that there are approaches that work. This problem has obviously existed for quite a while. What I anticipate is that there are no easy quick fixes. It requires a well-planned and coordinated comprehensive approach that includes a comprehensive approach to professional development, feedback, demonstration lessons”.

The interviewers lean in and encourage the candidate to elaborate on how the problem was solved. The candidate briefly provides an overview of the context, the key steps and an analysis as to the advantages and disadvantages of alternative strategies. The interviewee then sums up his/her “lessons learned” from the case he/she described.

What is the “blueprint” for being a successful interviewee?

1. Find out what the interviewers perceive as their needs.

2. Paraphrase that need to demonstrate your understanding of it and, if needed, to get further clarification.

3. Concisely describe the context of a similar problem (i.e., situation, need) that you encountered, and briefly tell your story of what was done and what your role was.

4. Outline alternative strategies that were considered and briefly analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

5. Summarize the key lessons learned, and the guiding principles that were the basis of how you solve problems and make decisions.

As an interviewee, effectively and spontaneously applying this blueprint is quite challenging. However, being aware that there is a blueprint and preparing yourself by practicing this process, is the best way to prepare yourself. A good coach can hone your ability to effectively respond to these questions. Your skillfulness in answering challenging questions will impress the interviewers and can seal the job for you.

Dr. Larry Aronstein is an experienced career coach who assists school leaders and aspiring leaders through the interview process.     www.larryaronstein.com