Preparing for the principal interview
Many teachers and principals are changing schools, communities and states as the field of education opens up for administrators. Taking the time to prepare for the interview can mean the chance for a second interview and not receiving a call back. If you are a current administrator you know how to “think like an administrator”, if you are a teacher beginning your administration career the first and hardest thing you must do is “think like an administrator”. If
you are a teacher heading out for the first time, talk to a current administrator, get an idea of their day, what keeps them awake at night, and ask for their advice.
Do your homework before going to the interview. Prepare yourself with some basic information:
Read the school’s mission and philosophy statement
Review state test scores for school and surrounding districts
Find out about the student population, enrollment and recent trends
Fundraising – how much and what kind
Faculty and staff – how many? Tenure?
Perception in the community – what is the word on the street?
A school web site is a good place to start for some of this information also do not hesitate to call the school and ask.
Good Catholic school leaders share some common traits:
Comfortable with and able to share the Catholic faith
Conflict resolution skills
Administrators are also well versed in curriculum and finances. If this sounds like you have to know a lot about a great deal of things you DO! It is important to understand that Catholic school administration is a unique and demanding calling and not for the faint of heart.
At the interview, the committee may ask some of the following questions:
How will you ensure the Catholic identity of this school?
How will you involve the parents, students, and teachers in the school mission?
What are the test scores at the school where you are currently working? What
measures are you employing to achieve student growth and achievement?
How would you evaluate teachers and other staff?
What would be your short term and long-term goals for the school?
How would you handle a parent complaint (usually a scenario is given)?
How do you measure the success of a school?
How would you handle a conflict between a teacher and a student?
What role do parents and volunteers have in the school?
Why do you want to be principal at this school?
What words would you use to describe yourself?
What is your administration “style”?
What type of discipline program would you implement?
Typically, at the end of the interview there is time for you to ask questions. This is a very important part of the interview because it gives the interview team an idea of what is important to you. Under no circumstances should you mention salary or benefits. This is also an opportunity for you to show off some of what you learned in your research (if you have not already referred).
Some sample questions are:
In what ways is the principal excepted to work with community or parish
How would you describe the collaboration between the principal and the pastor,
central school office, school board and/or public school?
How well does the community support the school?
What is the vision for the school?
Are there specific areas that that new principal will have to pay special attention to in
the first year?
What is the relationship between the administration and the faculty?
Are there long-term goals in place for the school?
Being prepared can make all the difference in the world. Besides preparing for the questions, candidates need to remember that how you dress, your attitude and body language also speak volumes. For teachers entering the field you must go to the interview dressed like an administrator that means business attire. This is the time to invest in a good (but not necessarily overly expensive) interview outfit. Sit up straight, do not fidget, no gum or candy chewing, if you tend to talk with your hands hold a pen or pencil. Remember to be respectful and considerate of the work the school has been doing. Come with your ideas, but do not overwhelm the committee. Also, do not think of the interview as “practice” for another interview, every interview is important. If you need to practice ask a colleague or friend to help you. Relax and enjoy yourself. After the interview, do not forget too immediately send a thank you note to the committee. It is an important gesture that is appreciated.