Set Yourself Apart in Your Assistant Principal Interview

Job season is almost here for all of you aspiring administrators out there, and here’s one important tip to help you set yourself apart from the competition when you sit down with the assistant principal interview committee…

𝗕𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰.

That’s it.

Don’t speak in broad generalities. Most people interviewing for their first AP job will do this.

I fell into this trap myself.

The Story

I was in the 2nd round of assistant principal pool interviews for a large school district in North Texas. There was a panel of about 6 directors and executive directors. Things were going great. All of the panelists were giving me great non-verbal feedback. Lots of smiles. Lots of head nods. Lots of laughs. Well, all of the panelists were giving me good feedback except for the one guy at the corner of the table. He sat stone-faced throughout the entire interview. He was just waiting to pounce… or at least that’s what it felt like.

One of the last questions I was asked had something to do with supporting a struggling teacher. I jumped right in and started telling them all of the ways I assumed I would help a struggling teacher in that role, and at one point, I said something about “leveraging resources.” The stone-faced guy sat up straight. I had walked into his trap. “Exactly what resources would you leverage to help this teacher?”


I rambled a little bit, and my recovery was ok. However, he knew (and I knew) that I didn’t REALLY know what I was talking about at that moment.

Fortunately, I got into the pool despite my flop on that particular question, but I learned a valuable lesson in that moment.

The Lesson

You better go into assistant principal interviews armed with specific examples of ways in which you have already been leading in your current role.

The more you can speak to specific ways in which you have been impacting students, teachers, and your campus in your current role, the more you will set yourself apart from the crowd. Most people interviewing for their first assistant principal position, if they’ve done their homework, will know the “right” answers to the interview questions. However, they may not be able to give a specific example of how they have demonstrated (or will demonstrate) the thing that they are speaking about.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Imagine getting the question, “In your opinion, what is the one thing that can have the greatest impact on teaching and learning on a campus?” You could say, “Research shows that the work of collaborative teams is the most powerful tool a campus has at its disposal.”

That is a true statement. However, you could also say, “Research shows that the work of collaborative teams is the most powerful tool a campus has at its disposal, and here are the ways I have positively influenced the work of the collaborative teams on my campus…”

Now you’re being specific. You have shown that you actually know what you are talking about, but more importantly, you have shown the committee that you are already doing the work. This lets them know that you are prepared to do that same work in the assistant principalship.

If you can be specific, it will immediately set you apart.

The Homework

Start thinking through specific topics that might be addressed in your assistant principal interview. Here’s a good place to start. Once you have a list of potential topics, start writing down specific examples of ways you have worked within those topics. Practice telling those stories over and over again. Even if the questions vary when you actually sit down in your assistant principal interview, you will still be in good shape because you will be able to tie your stories into whatever questions they might ask. Being a good storyteller in an interview is an extremely valuable skill.

What if you do not have a lot of specific examples at your disposal? My first question would be, “why not?” You probably need to do some reflective work. Why do you want to be an AP? What are you doing to prepare? Why do you not have any experiences that you can speak to?

After you’ve done that reflective work, it’s time to start taking action. You have time to find your own examples, but you better get busy. Get out there, and start getting more involved in what is happening outside the 4 walls of your classroom. Spend time with the administrators on your campus. Watch them. Listen to them. Ask them for more responsibilities. 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺.

This is how you will set yourself apart from the competition.

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 Leader Newsletter right here:

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