Top 5 School Administrator Interview Questions

Written by Kate Lopaze

You know that whatever job you’re seeking, we have you covered on how to tackle interview questions—the good ones, the bad ones, and the ugly ones. You may know what general pitfalls to avoid, but what if you’re going into a very specific field as a school administrator? Your interview isn’t likely to be one-size-fits-all, so we’ve got you covered there, too. Let’s look at some common interview questions you may see in your job interview, and how to face them.

1. Why do you want to be a school administrator?

This is one you’re likely to see if you’re already a teacher, looking to move into a leadership administrative role. And if the answer to this question were a simple “fame and fortune,” you probably wouldn’t have chosen the challenging, rewarding-but-not-super-glamorous path of becoming an educator in the first place, right? This is a question where you can draw on the legitimate reasons you chose to teach in the first place, and be honest about what is making you strive for more.

For this question, it’s good to have at least two reasons in your back pocket, so you’re not scrambling on interview day.

Some examples:

  • I am ready for more of a leadership role in shaping educational process and policy for all students.
  • As much as I’ve loved the classroom experience, I want to focus more on big picture education questions.
  • I want to work more directly with students and their families on discipline and their progress in school.
  • I want to build on my expertise in maximizing resources and curriculum planning as a vice principal.

2. What are your professional goals for the next 5 to 10 years?

This is a question designed to gauge your commitment. After all, you’re applying for a role that has significant impact on the school, and potentially the community. If the interviewer thinks you’re a turnover risk, or looking to jump as soon as something better comes along, that will hurt your chances of snagging this job.

For this question, be as specific as possible. If you’re interviewing for an administrative role at a particular school, include information that shows you’ve thought about what you can bring to the school itself. Using specific goals (and statistics, if you can find them) will show that you’re a thoughtful, committed candidate who isn’t just applying to every administrative position he or she can find.

Some examples:

  • I’m committed to raising the school’s state standardized math test score average raised by at least five points over 2017’s average score.
  • I’d really like to see the school’s technology program fully brought online with our peers, supplementing our curriculum with updated computers and new devices to keep our students competitive. Ideally, I’d want to implement this program by 2022.
  • With graduation rates dipping over the past few years, my main goal is to turn that around, and make sure that students are receiving the resources they need to graduate on time.
  • Because studies have shown that students who play instruments perform better on standardized tests, my pet project is to implement a district-wide music program that encourages students to learn and appreciate music as part of a balanced curriculum.

3. Describe how you would deal with budget cuts.

As an educator, you probably know all too well the challenges of trying to accomplish your educational goals with a limited budget, or with year-to-year fluctuations handed down from your state. Budget issues are a fact of life in education, and they’re often an even harsher fact of life for an administrator, who may have to make difficult, impartial decisions about how and where resources are used. The pressure is real, and the interviewer wants to make sure you’re up to that task, should it arise.

For this question, start with any real-life examples you have, of a time you were faced with making professional choices at school based on resources.

Some examples:

  • I’ve actually faced this in my career before. It is never easy, but I found myself making changes to my science lesson plans based on a lack of funding for lab equipment. Instead, we used a “virtual lab” that allowed students to conduct their chemistry experiments digitally.
  • As an administrator, my priority would be keeping the core curriculum intact. My first step would be locating opportunities where we can streamline the support and non-essential budgets, perhaps by using more digital processes, or implementing cost-cutting measures for extracurricular activities.

4. How would you engage students’ parents as active participants in their children’s education?

This question is meant to gauge your public relations skills. Parent relationships can make or break an administrator—without their trust and engagement, it can be difficult to accomplish the school’s goals. This is also a chance to see how you adapt to dealing with different kinds of people—from non-involved parents to helicopter parents who may be camped out outside your office to discuss the issue du jour affecting their student. And with more diverse communities means more diverse students and families, so this question is also a chance to showcase your ability to engage people across cultural, socioeconomic, or language lines.

For this question, use at least one specific instance of a time you engaged a student’s parents as part of the classroom. You can also mention how engaging parents and community members factor into your own goals as an administrator.

  • For parent-teacher conferences, I created an infographic for each student, which I then reviewed with the parents. It was a fun, visual way to show what their student was learning and doing, and what I thought we could do better.
  • I would really like to host a series of monthly town-hall meetings, with all parents (and interested community members) invited to talk about new initiatives at the school, get feedback, and make sure voices are heard.
  • Participation in the Parent-Teacher Organization at this school has steadily fallen for the past few years, so I would be committed to getting the participation rate up by having more frequent meetings, and opening up an online forum so that parents can participate fully even if their schedules don’t allow them to come to the school for meetings. I want to update the format so that we can get as many parents involved as possible, even as they are juggling many priorities for their families.

5. Why should we hire you over other applicants who have similar backgrounds?

The interviewer has your CV right in front of them. They know that you graduated summa cum laude, or that you were the Teacher of the Year four years running. This is more of a free-form answer, designed to see how you see yourself as an applicant. And it’s a tough one—it’s a danger spot for getting caught in the headlights while you try to come up with what makes you special.

For this questions, the key is to prepare an answer, but not make it sound too canned or rehearsed. Think about what you bring to the table that no one else does, and your core values.

For example:

  • My parents emigrated to this country 40 years ago, and through my family’s struggles and successes, I’ve learned how much can be accomplished through effort and hard work. That’s a perspective I bring to my school every day.
  • As much as I’ve loved teaching, I’ve discovered that my real passion is working on fundraising and building awareness for the wonderful things happening in the classroom. I am a tireless advocate for improvement, inside the classroom and out.
  • My experience as a teacher working with special needs students has taught me that students need a strong advocate and guiding hand, maximizing their resources and opportunities so that they can thrive and learn.

The best approach you can take to your interview for a school administration position: be yourself. Your resume and list of accomplishments are great, and essential parts of the hiring process. But by the time you get to the interview stage, they already know those things about you. This is your chance to fill in any gaps, and tell the stories that have helped to shape the professional you are today. Your goals, your vision, your leadership skills, your problem-solving skills—these are all fair game, and are likely to come up as part of the process. It’s definitely in your best interest to come up with a stash of go-to stories that you can bust out without having to pause too much. And don’t be afraid to tell stories that show you in a less-than-stellar light, as long as you can explain what you learned from them, and how they affected your path as an educator. This is your chance to shine, and we know you will!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.