School secretary is probably the toughest and the most interesting secretarial position you can get. The scope of responsibility, and the variety of duties, take a typical secretarial job to another level. Starting with answering phone calls and responding to routine request for information, all the way to registering new students and taking care of basic bookkeeping tasks, you will hardly get bored on any day in the job. What’s more, you’ll have a contact with all stakeholders from the school district, from students and their parents to teachers, educational administrators, and superintendents.
But how to succeed in an interview for this job? What matters on the big day, and what questions will the hiring committee members ask you? And how can you make the best possible impression on your interviewers, outclass your competitors, and eventually get the job? We will try to find the answers on the following lines. Let’s start directly with the questions.
Why do you want to work as a school secretary?
Try to focus on two things in your answer. First one, the versatility of your skills–typing fast, excellent communication skills, conflict resolution, ability to multitask, and so on. Say them that you believe to have what it takes to become an excellent school secretary, including the right personality for the job.
Second thing is your preference for a role in education. Some secretarial roles (for example medical secretary or legal secretary) pays better than the job of a school secretary. Nevertheless, you understand the crucial role of education in the life of every single child, and you thrive in an environment with many young people around.
Do not forget to speak with some enthusiasm. They should get an impression that this isn’t just one of many secretarial interviews on your list. You want to be a school secretary, and you’ve done all you could to make it happen.
Can you please tell us more about your relevant working experience?
Any administrative, clerical, or even office management job is a relevant experience. The key is to explain how your previous roles have prepared you for this one. For example you can name the duties you had to take care about in your last job, especially if they match the duties on their job description. Any experience from a school environment is beneficial as well.
And what to do if you have no relevant working experience? You can sometimes still get the job, if you demonstrate excellent communication skills, and convince them of your ability to handle all your duties. Say them that you’ve read the job description carefully, and though lacking formal experience, you believe to handle each one of the duties.
How do you imagine a typical day in this job?
Two key points to keep on your mind: show proactive approach to work, and talk about a variety of duties. Needless to say, job description will help you to identify the duties you can mention, and try to mention at least five or six.
Another option is talking about your idea of a typical day: You arrive at 7am, before the students do, check the emails, voicemail, agenda for the day. Then you start working on your tasks, be it preparing some reports, or arranging appointments for the administrators, or anything else that needs your attention. Obviously phone calls will come and you will answer them in a friendly and professional manner. Soon enough you’ll have a lunch and return back to work, just to leave in the afternoon, with everything prepared for the next day. Of course this was a simplification, but I hope you got the point.
How would you describe your skills with MS Office (or other common office software)?
You will spend a significant portion of your time working at a computer, entering data to documents and spreadsheets, preparing reports, charts, and other materials for your superiors, or to meet some other purpose (school presentation, student registration, and so on).
That’s why it is important to show some confidence in your computer skills, especially with MS Word and MS Excel. Obviously you can say that it’s been a while since you’ve used the software on a daily basis, and you may need to polish your skills a bit. But you are fairly confident that after a week or two you’ll get into it, and will have no problems with the workload. If you happen to type quickly, at least above 60 words per minute, you should definitely mention it.
What do you expect from the Principal and other staff members you will cooperate with in the job?
Here you have two options for a good answer. First one is talking about communication, and clear instructions. It is obvious to you that principal will assign you a lot of work, but as soon as they communicate it to you properly, and are receptive to your feedback as well, the two of you should have an excellent cooperation.
Other option is saying that you have high expectations on one employee only–on yourself. Sure enough, the administrators know what they are doing, and it is not your business to have any excessive expectations. You will simply focus on your job, trying to do everything as well as you can, having a great communication with anyone on the other side of a line, and that’s it.
Tell us about a time when you had to work on multiple projects (or tasks) simultaneously.
This is a behavioral question, and you should talk about a situation from the past–be it from work, or from school. The most important thing is to demonstrate (with the help of the situation you decide to narrate) that you like to have some system in your work, perhaps a to-do list with a priority assigned to each task on the list, and work accordingly.
Obviously you can talk also about other ways of prioritizing, such as working always at a task with the closest deadline, or FIFO style (first in, first out), simply taking care of one task after another, making sure the pile on your table does not get too high…
Other questions you may face in your school secretary interview
- How will you make sure that student files and other sensitive data remain secure in your office?
- Tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed with work. How did you handle it?
- Do you have any experience with simple payroll, or bookkeeping?
- How do you plan to make sure that you stay compliant to all rules and regulations within your work?
- What do you do to avoid making mistakes in your work?
- What motivates you the most?
- Talking about a job of a secretary, what do you consider your greatest weakness?
- After everything we discussed here, do you have any questions?
* You can also download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, to practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
Personal preferences always play a role
As you can imagine, you are going to spend quite a lot of time with the school principal (or with one of the other administrators of the educational facility). Unless the two of you feel good in each other vicinity, it will be tough for either of you to enjoy the job, and truly thrive in the office.
Logically, personal preferences play a big role in this interview, and you should always try to make the best possible connection with the hiring committee members, the principal especially. Obviously this has nothing to do with good looks, but it has everything to do with excellent listening skills, talking to the point, sharing some interests, and simply being on the same page with your future superior.
I suggest you to do some research about the principal before the start of your interview. You can check their profiles on social networks, trying to understand their career journey, and learn something about their hobbies and family life. Maybe you can find something the two of you have in common. If you do so, do not hesitate to use the information to make a good connection with them in the interviews.
Final thoughts, next step
Interview for a school secretary job, just like any other secretarial interview, is typically a competitive affair. Many people will apply and interview for the job, and it won’t be easy to stand out. That’s why we have to label it as difficult, though you won’t face any extremely hard technical or behavioral questions.
Read the job description carefully, spend hours researching about the school and the principal, and think about a short answer to each question on my list. And do not forget to check also other sources online, just to have a complete picture of what awaits you in this interview, and how you can make some ground. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – Learn how to get rid of interview anxiety and show your best when it matters the most.
- Salary negotiation tips – Get as much as you deserve, or even more, when it comes to talking money and benefits in your school secretary interview.
- How to dress for an interview – Not sure what clothes to wear for the big day? We have the answers.