Interview Tips From a High School PrincipalOne of my courses is "Counseling the College Bound Adult," which is helpful in my work with high school students participating in a dual enrollment program at a community college. Most of the students in my class are in the School of Counseling program, so when the principal of a local high school spoke to our class regarding the interview process, much of his advice was geared toward future guidance counselors.
Despite the fact that I'm interested in a different field, I really liked his tips and found them to be pretty universal in application. Here are some of his finer points:
Do Your Research
Make sure you read up on the school. Know the school's mission. Demonstrate your knowledge by incorporating your research into your cover letter. This will make you stand out from other candidates. You want to prove why you are a good fit.
Have Questions Ready
If you don't have any questions, you may as well walk out of the interview. Make sure you have good questions too. You don't want to ask for a factoid that you can easily find through a quick Google search.
You Better Be a Reader
Don’t stop reading! During interviews the principal asks each candidate what he or she is currently reading. Once he had an otherwise great candidate who really stumbled on this question. Finally she asked if the Bible counted. Of course it counts! He wants to know that you're interested in learning and continuing to learn. Reading is important.
Use a Binder
It's great to bring a binder with supplemental material, but don't pass the binder around the room. The search committee will glance over the pages and not truly absorb the information. Instead use the material in your binder as a reference point. For instance, if the committee asks how you would construct a lesson plan, say, great, let me show you a lesson plan I created...
It's Okay to Have Talking Points
If you're nervous and need talking points to keep you focused, it's okay to have those written down in your binder. It's also okay to have questions written down beforehand. (I always assumed it reflected badly on your preparatory skills if you couldn't memorize your questions or talking points beforehand. Guess I was wrong!)
Know Your Core Values
Know your core values, and don't apologize for it. The principal cited his own interview for a vice principal position at a high school in California. Someone from the search committee demanded to know what he wanted to be when he grew up. The now-principal stood up and said, "I want to run a school in an urban district and implement policies and practices that will help underrepresented populations pursue higher education." BAM. He was hired for the position. The point is that you want to find the right fit, so don't be shy about voicing your values.
When scheduling the interview, ask who you are interviewing with. This will prepare you for what to expect during the interview. At the principal's high school, candidates will interview with the search committee, students, and parents. One candidate cried during an interview because he was entirely unaware that he was interviewing students and parents too. (Back when I interviewed for a position in December, I really wished I had asked who I was interviewing with. This would have helped immensely when I wrote my thank-you letters. I had to do some serious investigating to remember who was on the search committee.)
Visit the School
Ask for a visit before the interview. This will give you the opportunity to get a sense of the school's culture and student body. (For us higher ed people, I've always been encouraged to visit the campus before the interview. It's a great time to talk to students about current issues on campus, and then you can later incorporate these conversations during the interview.)
Hope these tips helped! :)