Your experience as a teacher and administrator is pivotal for the success in this interview. Members of the hiring committee will inquire mostly about your achievements, problems you faced at school, and the way you addressed them. Scenario-based and behavioral questions typical prevail.

What’s more, various stakeholders will typically have their representative in the interviewing panel. Someone will be there for the school district, for the teachers, for parents, perhaps even for special needs students. Try to think about interests of each party while talking about your vision for the school, and presenting your idea of the job, and things you’d like to achieve as their new Dean. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face.

 

Can you please walk us through your resume?

Contrary to interviews for other jobs, you do not have to be brief while narrating your previous working experience. They will likely ask you some follow-up questions, and it is not uncommon to see that the discussion of your education and experience takes thirty minutes or even more.

Now, you should try to tell them a story, a meaningful one. Story that starts with your education as a teacher or administrator, the degrees you earned, certifications you obtained. It continues with your work at school, in which you demonstrated proactive approach, designing new programs and activities for students, advocating for them, addressing various challenges.

Your short (or long) story culminates exactly at this point. With all the knowledge and experience you’ve accumulated over the years, you decided to apply for a job of a Dean of Students. Here you are, interviewing for the job…

 

What is your vision for our educational institution?

This is not an easy question, and you should do a good research about their place before interviewing for this job. Try to learn something about the social programs for students, extracurricular activities, exchange programs for international students, challenges they face at school–especially challenges related to a job of a Dean.

Try to think about the vision you have for their place, one you can impact from a position of a Dean. For example, you can say that you imagine a school where all students enjoy going, regardless of their race, religion, or social status.

You plan to help to build a place of equal opportunity for everyone, and you envision that students will knock on your door anytime they experience some major problem or crisis. Obviously if you identified any particular challenges while doing your research, you can point out to them in your answer, explaining how you’d address them.

Try to present a meaningful vision of a place where the entire community can thrive. Be positive, and do not hesitate to be bold in your expectations on yourself, and in your vision of their school.

 

Describe a time when you demonstrated your leadership qualities.

Try to pick something major for your answer, a situation when you did not have it easy with your leadership. For example, you wanted to move forward with an unpopular decision, facing opposition from your colleagues in school administration. But you knew it was good for students and school and eventually managed to convince your colleagues.

Or you found yourself in the middle of a crisis situation. Students protested against one of the teachers, or the discipline deteriorated across the board. Chicane or bullying ruled at school.

Instead of quietly onlooking from your comfortable office, you stepped out of your comfort zone, and suggested (and implemented) strong disciplinary measures and rules to protect the weak, or to restore the discipline in the school, etc.

Try to show proactive approach to work. Good dean is definitely a good leader.

How do you imagine your cooperation with student council, academic affairs, and other bodies at the college?

This really depends on the organization of responsibilities within the campus. In any case, ensure the interviewers that you want to cooperate with all bodies that represent the interests of students, and may have anything to do with your job.

You can say that you plan to have a one on one with the leader of each office on a weekly basis, or even more often, if situation requires it. Inquiring about the challenges they face and discussing any opportunities for improving the student life, your regular contact with the representatives of these offices help you to achieve your goals as a dean.

 

Describe the biggest challenge you faced while working as a school administrator.

In an ideal case you should pick something that relates to student life. Obviously each of us has different experiences, and each school present us with a variety of different challenges.

The key is to describe the situation in detail, using the STAR format:

  1. Situation. Clearly specify the challenge you faced (high dropout rates, problems with discipline, outdated teaching methods, conflicts among teachers, recruitment problems, lack of student applications, etc).
  2. Task. Explain the tasks you set for yourself, trying to address the challenge. You can point our particular milestones or one big goal you had in your mind, and few minor goals.
  3. Action. Describe what you did you in order to achieve your goals, while trying to address the challenge you faced at school.
  4. Result. Self explanatory. Some challenges are hard to address, and you do not have to be ashamed of failing. Each partial improvements counts. You can also explain the lessons you learned while trying to address the challenge, and how they helped you to become even a better administrator.

 

We face this or that problem at our school (they describe a problem, typically one which relates to student life). What will you do from a position of a dean to address it?

Unless you are 100% sure about your answer, I suggest you to actually start with questions. Say that first and foremost you need to understand the problem better, the core, the solutions they’ve tried already (with no or little success).

Do not hesitate to ask follow-up questions any member of a hiring committee. Doing so, you demonstrate the right attitude to your work of a Dean. Instead of trying to solve everything on your own, without consulting anyone, you try to gather information first. Opinion of other bodies at school, including representative of students and teachers, helps you to propose the best possible solution.

 

Other questions you may face in your Dean of Students job interview

  • Describe your experience with managing student admission office.
  • Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with one of the teachers. What did you do to solve the conflict?
  • Please give an example of an experience when you documented a teacher who was not performing up to expectations. Describe the steps that you followed and the outcome on the teacher’s performance.
  • What role does reporting and monitoring play in your work? Tell us about the tools you use to monitor your performance in work.
  • How would you promote diversity at school from the position of a Dean?
  • Please give a situation where you have been a Manager, a Leader and a Boss. Rank them in importance.
  • How do you define quality?
  • How will you measure your success after the first year in this job?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to one of your colleagues. What did you do to eventually get your message over?
  • What strategies have you used in the past to confront and manage bullying?
  • What do you consider your most outstanding contribution to your present school district?
  • Each of us experiences a low period in work once upon a time. What do you do to stay motivated and to perform to the highest standards, even when you are feeling low?
  • Is there anything else we did not cover that you would like us to know about you as we consider you as a candidate for the position of a Dean of Students.
  • Do you have any questions?

* You can download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

PDF, dean of students interview questions

Conclusion, next steps

Prepare for a long and difficult hiring process. You will typically interview in front of a small panel, each person representing interests of a different group of stakeholders at school.

They all advocate for their group, and may have different expectations on an ideal candidate for the job of a Dean. Sometimes it can be difficult to satisfy one of them with your answers, without saying something other member of the committee won’t like to hear.

Do a good research about their place, and prepare to talk a lot about your former jobs and challenges you faced in them. Try to write down a short answer to each question from this article, and check also other online sources. This is a difficult job interview. To succeed in it would be almost impossible if you underestimated your preparation…

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Glen Hughins
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