Hiring Insights from a Principal

Sandra Burns
Sandra Burns
Elementary school principal; M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
Older man sitting at a desk speaking to a younger woman taking notes.

As an educator looking to either transition from one position to another, or as someone who has just graduated from college and is excited to put their degree to use, there are many factors to take into consideration before applying for a position. Even though one may feel as if they are ready to jump “all in” when a position is posted, it truly is critical that you take several factors into consideration.

Before Applying

Before applying for a position that may seem appealing, it is a good idea to do your homework in regards to the district’s atmosphere. Look over the district’s website and gain access to any social media platforms that may be used. Take an interest in what programs are being used and read over the past board meeting minutes. If at all possible, “Zoom” into a board meeting to grasp what concerns are in the district or any initiatives the district may be interested in starting. Gaining an understanding of what the schools mission statement is and knowing what their vision is will greatly enhance and prepare you before even receiving a call for an interview.

After doing your homework, take the time to really reflect on all that you have read about the district. Are you familiar with any of the district programs that they use? Are you comfortable with the size of the school you are applying to teach in? Do you know of anyone that may have children that attend the district, or know of someone that works for the district that you could reach out to and comfortably ask questions? The more equipped you are with details of the district, the better you will be able to answer any interview questions.

When You’re Applying

There are times when a candidate applies for a position; there may be 50 other candidates that also have applied. There are other times when someone may be one of four candidates that have applied for a job. Regardless as to how many candidates there are, you want to stand out.

Most districts require an application form. Typically, this could take a good bit of time to fill out, but it most certainly is worth it. If anything is left blank, that sends the interview committee the message that you didn’t put the time and effort into completing the essay required at the end of the packet, or you just didn’t feel like uploading any letters of recommendation. The more information that you can provide in this application process, the better.

Keep in mind, people on the committee typically do not know you. They are getting to know you just by what you have submitted. If you are in a large pool of candidates and there are missing documents, you will never make it to the top of the applicant pile. Take your time, fill out the entire packet, make sure your letters of recommendation are current and from professionals within the education field, and always make sure you do not have typos in your cover letter or resume. Your cover letter is typically the very first thing that anyone reads about you. Having typos or information that is not current can also bump you to the bottom of the pile.

During the Interview

The best piece of advice to take with you during an interview is to take your time. You have been able to successfully land an interview, and now is your time to shine. Do the best you can to be relaxed and remember this is the only chance you will get to make a first impression. Breathe, take water along, and give the best “real-life” responses as opposed to textbook answers.

Everyone interviewing has generally the same base qualifications. Allow the interview committee to get to know you. Remember, just as you are going through this process and trying to land the perfect job, the interview committee is trying to find someone that will be a great fit for their school and better enhance their building. They may ask you questions about your instructional practices or professional development accomplishments, such as starting a PLN. You could also share department or school-wide initiatives or projects you’ve spearheaded.

Make sure you have provided enough time to arrive early to your interview. Being prompt is an expectation, but arriving early sets the tone that you take this seriously. Be sure to dress your best and look professional. Appearance speaks volumes when walking into an interview. Do not hesitate to shake hands with everyone sitting around the table. This is something that very few people do, but this makes a huge impression on those that are interviewing the candidates. Sit down, relax, and answer the questions in a calm and meaningful way. Connect the questions to experiences you have had and truly sell yourself. Remember, anyone can give a textbook answer, but the best candidate will make a connection with the committee and prove that they are the best fit for the position.

As the interview concludes, always have questions ready. Asking about salary or benefits is probably better left for a later time. This is also something that the human resources person can answer for you after the offer has been made to you. Ask questions that show you are knowledgeable about the district or position but at the same time want to know what the most important qualities are for you to excel in this role. For your own peace of mind, you may also want to ask what the turn-around time is in making a decision before you thank everyone for their time.

After the Interview

Once the interview has ended, be sure to follow up with an email to all those who interviewed you. If you are unsure of everyone’s name, email the administrator who led the interview. Thank them for their time and let them know that you are looking forward to hearing from their school in the near future. Be sure that you read the email over before hitting the send button. You want to be certain that it is grammatically correct and free of typos.

As time passes, you may not hear anything back; do not beat yourself up if this happens. Instead, take time to reflect on what went well and what you could possibly improve on. You never know what districts may be looking for. One thing is certain though: eventually the perfect job will find you and it will be well worth the process.

*Updated November, 2020
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