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 http://www.laryyaronstein.com

The Likeability Factor and Being a Good Fit

The two most important assets during an interview is likeability and being a good fit. Likeability and fit can trump everything–your knowledge of pedagogy, your qualifications, everything. Unconsciously, interviewers often decide at first sight whether they like you. Still, over the course of the interview, interviewers can change their opinions in either direction. If they really like you, they may even overlook your less-than-satisfactory responses to some of their questions. So, what can you do to get them to like you?

Ask yourself, “What is it that makes me like someone when I first meet them?” If you’re like me, I like people who are friendly, relaxed, humble, pleasant, sincere, and respectful. We probably also like people who enjoy and exhibit good humor.

Researchers indicate that being likeable bears little relationship to appearing attractive, intelligent or assertive.

Of course, there are also unpredictable elements, such as a resemblance to a highly respected friend or colleague. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about the uncontrollable. But, here are a few things you can do:

1. Smile.
2. Dress appropriately and modestly—it’s just as important to not over-dress as it is not to under-dress. Limit jewelry to a small number of modest pieces. Hair styles should be modest. Going on an interview is not like going on a date.
3. Shake hands with everyone, look each person in the eye, smile, and tell the interviewers your name. The warm firm human touch and the proximity of person to person contact are magical.
4. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Sit up, lean forward, make eye contact with whoever is speaking, acknowledge your understanding by gently nodding and smiling, and acknowledge others’ nods and smiles by nodding and smiling in return. Do not cross your arms. Do not frown, shake your head from side-to-side, or grimace in disagreement or disapproval.
5. Laugh appropriately. If someone says something funny, it’s okay to laugh, but don’t overdo it. It’s also good to say something funny within the context of the interaction; however, you’re not there to entertain. If you’re the only one who’s laughing and joking, then stop!
6. Control your emotions. If you feel interviewers are confrontational, disrespectful or disapproving, never show any signs of annoyance or anger. Keep your cool and push through it.
7. Express an air of self-confidence; but never come across as cocky.
8. Shake hands at the conclusion of the interview. Smile and thank each person.

How do you demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the school-community? First, you must research the demographics, the socioeconomic status, and what the community appears to value. Check out their website. Look at the photos; read the local newspapers (you can usually find on-line newspapers); visit the community; determine the kinds of activities they celebrate, music, the arts, athletics. In responding to the questions, try to resonate with their values and interests by matching your background and values to theirs.

Before walking into the room for your interview, your mantra should be: “Be likeable and show you’re a good fit!”

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 http://www.LarryAronstein.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. But, 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 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. http://www.larryaronstein.com

WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF

Everything you write and say should contribute to building an attractive and effective narrative. Your narrative is the story you tell about yourself as a candidate. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself physically, your answers to the interviewers’ questions, the questions you ask, your letters of reference, and what your references say about you. It’s about developing a picture of yourself, creating a chemistry, demonstrating you are a good match, an easy good fit for what they’re really looking for, and what their community wants.
Creating an attractive narrative requires a multi-step strategy for each position. Each position is somewhat unique. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before I can describe some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are really looking for.

What They Want
1. They want to know who you are, and what you’ve accomplished.
2. They want to like you. Too often interviews are sterile; you must create an emotional and compelling context through your story telling.
3. They want to make sure that you share their values and aspirations.
4. They want to see that you look and act the role.
5. They want to be sure that you’ll easily fit in and not cause conflict.
6. You need to come across as humble, self-effacing, sincere, direct, plain spoken, good humored, and authentic.
If this is what the interviewers want, then how do you go about creating a narrative and presenting yourself as that candidate? What strategies should you employee?

Strategies to Take
1. Find out everything you can about the school-community from a variety of sources.
2. Decide what they really want you to do. Do not solely rely upon their job description—that’s what they think they want; it may not be what they really want.
3. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for and that are consistent with their values as a community. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal.
4. Elude to some personal information, which is not on your resume which they can’t ask you about. If you are married and a parent, let them know. School people love family-oriented candidates who can relate to children and parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires some in-depth analyses and practice. However, the reward of moving on to the next steps of your candidacy will be worth the effort.

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

Screening Interviews: How They Really Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cover Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Ask When Closing the Deal

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

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

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

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

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

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS THAT REQUIRE MY SECRET ANSWERS

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS THAT REQUIRE MY SECRET ANSWERS

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

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

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

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