4 Assistant Principal Interview Questions I Hate

I hate lazy interview questions. Hiring great people is one of the most important things school leaders do. Unfortunately, they are not always great at it, and they often roll out the same old tired interview questions year after year. The good news is that you can turn bad questions into great questions if you have a powerful answer. If you are trying to land your first assistant principal job, here are four assistant principal interview questions you better prepare for even if they aren’t that great.

Bad Assistant Principal Interview Question #1

Tell us about yourself.

Gag. There are a million better ways to ask this question and to get to know the candidate. Nonetheless, you are definitely going to get some type of “getting to know you” question, and you better have a plan for it.

Don’t tell them your life story. You need to have 3 to 5 major points that you want to get across. Ask yourself, “what is it that I want to make sure this interview committee remembers about me when I walk out of here?” Identify those 3 to 5 things, and create a narrative that allows you to seamlessly work from one point to the next without sounding like a robot.

Don’t ramble. Stick to the points. That is why it is so important to practice answering these questions out loud. I have sat through some painful interviews where the candidate just can’t seem to wrap it up. Don’t be that person. Be thorough, but concise.

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Bad Assistant Principal Interview Question #2

How would you describe your leadership style?

Have you memorized all of the leadership styles? Don’t you remember those from your master’s degree program? Of course not. There’s a good chance that if you named one of the “official” leadership styles, the committee members would either have to look it up, or they would misunderstand you.

I was asked this question in my first AP pool interview. Thankfully, I had prepared for it, and I knew that I wanted to convey to the committee that I knew my stuff. I confidently explained that I would subscribe to an “authoritative” leadership style, and I explained why I thought that was best. However, I walked away wondering if they knew the difference between authoritative and authoritarian. If they used the terms interchangeably as most people do, they would think that I would be striving to be a dictator within the school. That’s not a good look.

I must have explained myself well enough because they let me into their assistant principal pool, and I was able to take a deep breath. However, I learned a valuable lesson from that experience: sometimes, you don’t have to be “technical.” Just say what you mean.

Tip for answering this interview question:

There is no “correct” answer. As an assistant principal, you have to be able to adapt your leadership style to the situations and the people that you are dealing with. The important part is being able to identify how to lead in a given circumstance. Should I ask more questions? Should I be more direct? What does this particular teacher need at this particular moment? Your answer should include mentions of servant-leadership and adapting your leadership style to the situation as needed. Here is a short video I put together about becoming a transformational leader. I hope it helps.

Bad Assistant Principal Interview Question #3

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Know your strengths, and be able to explain how they will help you be an effective assistant principal.

Most people are going to throw out some buzz words like “I’m collaborative” or “I have a high level of integrity.” Great. If that’s what you want to do, that’s cool. Back up each thing you share with some specific evidence that illustrates that strength in your life. Don’t just list some cool words. I remember when I interviewed for my first AP job, they asked me to give them 3 words that I would use to describe myself. I remember the question. You know what I don’t remember? The 3 words I picked. They weren’t meaningful. I said 3 cool “leadership” words, and I gave some examples from my life that illustrated those 3 words. I have since changed my approach.

When I am asked about my strengths now, I actually talk about my “Top 5” strengths from my StrengthsFinder assessment (They’ve changed the name to “Clifton Strengths”). I also include them on my resume, and people who are familiar with StrengthsFinder love to see this. It is a different approach than most of the AP candidates I have interviewed, and I have gotten good feedback on it. It shows that you are a learner, and it shows a lot of thoughtfulness.

If you haven’t read StrengthsFinder 2.0, you definitely should. I honestly cannot recommend it enough, and if you only take one thing out of this whole article, make it this thing. Buy the book. Take the assessment. Learn about your strengths and how they apply to your future assistant principal position. When you buy the book, you also get an access code that allows you to take the assessment for free, and that’s the important part. Make sure you buy a new copy of the book, or the previous owner might have already used the access code.

Weaknesses… It seems like a trap. It’s a trap, right? It has to be a trap.

I would advise you to stay away from cliché answers like “I work too hard” or “Sometimes, I am just too eager to get things done” or “Sometimes, I can be too competitive.” Everyone else you interview against is going to give some lame answer like that. I’ve done it too. If you want to stand out, share something authentic, BUT you better share how you have worked to overcome that weakness. If you approach it this way, you are showing the committee that you are not going to BS them. You are showing authenticity and transparency. You are also showing them that you recognize your areas of growth, and you work to improve.

This is a great place to share a story (stories are clutch!). Tell the committee about a specific situation in which you learned something about yourself, and tell them about how you took that information and made specific changes to address the issue.

Share a weakness or two, but don’t share too much. You’re still interviewing for a job.

Bonus Tip!

You can also use your StrengthsFinder results to help you understand and talk about your weaknesses. Here’s a great resource you can use once you know what your “Top 5” are. It is called “Balconies and Basements,” and for each of the Themes identified in the StrengthsFinder assessment, this document describes what is great (balcony) and what is not so great (basement) about that strength. This is a great place to geek out while you learn some really valuable information about yourself.

Bad Assistant Principal Interview Question #4

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Here’s a funny story. I worked for a superintendent who said he did not believe in 5-year plans. He said he believes in continuously seeking personal development, so he can be ready when “the next opportunity” presents itself, whatever that might be. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is that I then interviewed for a position within that district, and one of the questions I was asked was “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I think that’s pretty funny. It was clear that the people interviewing me had not heard my superintendent’s thoughts on 5-year plans.

Who knows if it’s right or wrong, but when I am asked that question these days, I actually echo what my former superintendent told me. I don’t do it because he said it. I do it because I believe in the idea. Every time I think I have it all mapped out, I end up going in a different direction, and so far, every time I have pivoted, it has been a great move for me and my family. You may or may not be a person of faith, but this is an excerpt from the Bible that I often share with people who are trying to map out their life.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:13-14

I am not in control, and I am okay with that. I believe that there is a plan for me, and I just want to be prepared when the next opportunity presents itself. Take that for what it’s worth.


Sometimes you are going to be asked bad questions in your assistant principal interview. That’s okay. Turn them into great questions by providing the interview committee with a powerful answer. In order to do this, you need to be prepared. Plan out your answers for these questions, and practice answering them (out loud!) regularly. If you are looking for more assistant principal interview questions that you can practice, I have a couple of resources for you.

First, we are rolling out a series of “shorts” on YouTube where we share one assistant principal interview question in each video. The beautiful thing about “shorts” is that each video is less than 60 seconds long. We will continue adding to this playlist over time, so you might want to subscribe and check back in frequently for updates.

Second, we have put together our top -10 list of assistant principal interview questions and some additional tips for the interview. If you are looking for more assistant principal interview questions, you are definitely going to want to check it out.

Are you preparing for an assistant principal interview? We are excited to share the release of our first online course: The Assistant Principal Interview Bootcamp. This comprehensive course is designed to help you develop the skills and confidence you need to dominate your assistant principal interview and obtain your first assistant principal position.

If you are interested in tips and strategies to help you take the next step in your leadership journey, you can subscribe to The New School Newsletter right here:

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