You will have to answer tough behavioral questions, and convince the panel of interviewers that you can bring an actual value to their educational institution, that it makes sense to hire you.
What is more, you will have to demonstrate excellent communication skills, and understanding of the job they offer, and of the things they try to achieve at their school–of their goals, vision, and challenges.
While the questions will slightly differ from one school to another, and they depend also on the interviewing panel, and the experience of each member sitting in this panel, you can count to hear at least some of the following questions in your interview:
Why do you want to work at our school?
Tell them that you want to achieve something–not for you and your career, but for them, and for their students. Tell them that you have researched a lot about their school, that you understand their vision, as well as challenges they face, and believe you can help them to achieve their goals.
You can also praise them for the things they do well–for example excellent study programs, the reputation of the institution, their contribution to the local community, results that their students achieved in regional and national competitions recently, great working environment, etc.
Your goal is convince them that you have a clear reason why you applied for the job with them, and that you prefer to work for their school, and not for one of the other educational institutions in the city.
Have you ever worked as an assistant principal before? What can you say about the experience?
And if you have never done this job before? You can actually talk about the experience from the position of a teacher (if you taught before), or basically from any other position.
Your main aim is to show some enthusiastic for the role, and convince us that you know what will be expected from you in this job.
You probably know something about our school. Do you see any areas for improvement?
This is a tricky question, becasue your criticism could touch someone from the hiring committee–they could take it personally.
Therefore, if you apply for a job at a good school–one that is managed exceptionally well, you can simply say that you do not see any areas for major improvement. Elaborate on it saying that you will try to help the team of administrators to maintain the current level, and their excellent reputation in the district, and that you will focus on improving some minor details of the education process–which can always be improved.
More often than not, however, you will apply at a school that faces some major challenges (it can be the reason why they want to hire new assistant principal at first place, to tackle these challenges). In this case, it is good to mention the challenges, but to show some understanding for the situation, and basically talk about the topic in a neutral way, not blaming anyone for the situation. Focus on the future, and on things you want to do for the school..
What do you think: Should the assistant principal work independently, or should they follow a strong line of hierarchy with the school principal?
You can tell the committee that you are ready to work independently, but at the same time understand the importance of teamwork, and unity of school leaders, and hope to meet the school principal on a regular basis, to consult your ideas and decisions you plan to make.
Have you ever thought of becoming a school principal?
You can say that the idea has crossed your mind, but you understand that you are not at that stage of your career yet. Tell them that you prefer to focus on the present, and on the near future. Say that you think about getting a job of an assistant principal (that is your focus right now), becasue you feel qualified for this position, and ready to do it from day one.
Tell them that you will see what happens in five, or ten years time, and that you may eventually become a school principal one day, after you gained enough experience as an assistant principal.
What are your hobbies and interests?
Just think about it–the people who lead an interview with you (or at least most of them) are not skilled in leading interviews, or evaluating the skills of job candidates. Interviewing people for the job is not their specialization–they specialize in other areas.
These folks do not know how to scientifically evaluate your interview answers.
But they have their life, their reasons and emotions, and they are looking for a good colleague, for someone they will enjoy meeting in the school corridor, someone they can drink a cup of coffee with. Can it be you?
You can say that you are open to do all kind of activates, including sports, art, hiking, etc. The more hobbies you mention, the more likely you will connect with them.
How did you deal with upset parent whose child complained about you?
Every person (who had any kind of job at school) has this experience. You should choose a situation which had a happy ending, meaning a situation when you reconciled the conflict.
Describe what you did in detail, in order to show the interviewers that you know what to do when parents complain. Try to speak in a calm voice, showing some understanding for the emotions of the parents.
Did you supervise any school event in the past? What problems did you face? How did you handle them?
Assistant principals are often responsible for organizing and supervising various school events. Interviewers are trying to understand if you have such experience, if you have an idea about some problems that can occur during the event.
Try to stay positive, show them that you actually enjoy supervising events, that you enjoy doing things you will do in your new job. Talk about an example situation when you faced a problem, but eventually managed to solve it (can be a problem of discipline, can be organization problem, injury of one of the students, or anything else).
Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues.
Show us that you respect the opinion of another person (regardless of their position), that you admit that you can be wrong, that you try to approach each conflict in a constructive way, and that you do your best to ensure that the situation won’t have a negative impact on your relationship with your colleagues, or on your work.
What are your goals in five years time?
Interviewers ask this question to find out two things. First, they want to know for how long they can count with you.
Sometimes they need an assistant principal for a short time, and sometimes they prefer to hire someone who’d stay long. They may even be looking for a replacement of soon-to-retire principal, or have other goals on their mind. The pre-interview research should help you to understand their ideas, and you should adjust your answer accordingly.
Second intention is to see if you think only about your own career, or if your goals are somehow related to the prosperity of their institution. Try to talk about goals you can achieve together at the school…
Connecting with your interviewers
You should research about the school, and about the interviewers (if you know their names). Try to learn something about their values, their philosophy of teaching, the study programs they offer. The information will help you to connect with them, on personal level .
Most people sitting in the hiring committees at schools are not professional interviewers. These people can vouch for you (or against you) just becasue they like you (or they don’t) as a person. Connecting with them is the simplest way of winning their favor.
More questions and answers for assistant principal interview
Glen’s interview answers have helped hundreds of assistant principals to succeed in their interview, on both sides of the Atlantic. You can check his website here: http://assistantprincipalinterviewquestions.com .
We highly recommend his eBook, the Assistant Principal Interview Guide. But see it for yourself. Check his website, and see if he can help you to get this job.
Alternatively you can continue your preparation with Interview Penguin:
- Tell me about yourself. The most typical interview question all around the world. Hr managers use it mostly in screening interviews, in the first rounds of interviewing process.
- Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication?
- Job interview etiquette – Regardless of your approach to the interviews, and your strategy in the meetings with the employers, certain borders should not be crossed.