POTENTIAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS – PRINCIPAL
________________Schools District _____
1. The following pages contain potential questions that can be asked during a principal interview. These
are provided as samples only. Feel free to adapt the question to meet the needs of the interview team.
You can also add questions to this list. The Director of Human Resources will monitor the development
of questions and review the final list to make sure all questions and the interview process meet
appropriate legal and procedural guidelines.
2. Interview team members should:
a. Determine the length of the interviews.
b. Finalize the list of questions to be asked during the interview.
c. Assign a specific member of the interview team to ask a specific question(s).
d. Maintain consistency throughout all interviews (e.g., same questions asked to all candidates; same
person asking each question with the same follow up questions if any are asked).
e. Complete individual radar diagrams prior to team discussion.
f. Smile, attempt to be at ease with the candidates, and enjoy the process!
3. The chair should greet the candidate in the appropriate room and escort them to the interview room (see
4. Give a general introduction to the candidate and ask team members to briefly introduce themselves and
share their position (parent, teacher, etc.).
5. Monitor the flow of the interview and keep time so that each respondent completes as many questions as
6. Begin with this question:
Could you please tell us a little about yourself and anything that you feel is important for us to know
about you as a candidate for the [fill in building here] principalship?
7. End with this question:
Is there anything else we did not cover that you would like us to know about you as we consider you
as a candidate for the Willow Primary School principalship?
Why did you apply for this position?
How would your best friend describe you? How would your worst enemy describe you?
Please tell us what is special about yourself and what areas you would like to improve on.
If you were offered this position, list your top five priorities for starting a new year with a new staff.
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How would you describe your leadership style?
What are the traits of an effective principal?
What do you think is your most outstanding contribution to your present school district?
Recently, professional journals have been spotlighting the evolving role of the principal. In light of this
information, what do you consider this redefined role to be?
Describe your style of supervising staff and subordinates.
o Tell me about an incident where that style worked well.
o Describe a time that you were disappointed in the results of your supervision.
o What training in the area of supervision have you had/
o What reading have you done?
What tasks or responsibilities do you typically delegate and what do you do yourself?
o How do you decide to whom to delegate?
o Describe the last major piece of work you delegated. What instructions did you give? How did you
check on the progress of the assignment? How satisfactory was the result?
o Describe the time when you were most disappointed by a delegated assignment not done properly.
Why did you choose that individual? How did you become aware of the failure? What did you do?
What feedback did you give?
Describe a recent incident that required quick reaction and good judgment on your part.
o What was the problem and how did you handle it?
o Who was in charge; how did you relate to that person?
o What was the most forceful thing that you said and did?
o What did you do that was the most effective and the least effective?
What programs or projects have you been responsible for implementing? Tell me how you planned and
executed the most important of these.
o Where did the idea come from?
o How did you initially define your short- and long-term goals?
o What unanticipated difficulties arose in carrying out the plan?
o What changes were made in your plan as it was being implemented?
o How effective do you think, looking back, your preliminary planning efforts were?
Tell me about the last time you were involved in structuring the tasks of others.
o What techniques did you use to help them become better organized?
o How did you keep track of their work?
o Describe how your efforts contributed to effective accomplishment of the tasks.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT, EVALUATION, COMMUNICATION, & RELATIONS
How might you use staff evaluation as a tool in order to help teachers and support staff develop new
competencies and explore innovations in instruction?
Please describe any experiences you have had developing a building staff development program.
Please describe what you feel a model building staff development program would look like.
Please share what professional development activities you have actively participated in over the last two
years and what specific steps you would take to promote and encourage continued professional
development of your staff.
Describe what you consider to be a good teacher and how do you make sure teachers are living up to
If you became aware of a teacher that is having difficulty with instructional techniques and classroom
management, what would you do to help? (Note: If they say mentoring, it may be necessary to ask them
to elaborate on what they mean by mentoring.)
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How will you identify the educational needs and values of the community?
Please describe the role you feel parents should play in the operation of the school.
High-risk parents are often not involved in the school process. What strategies would you use to engage
Schools tend to take on personalities of their own that are generally influenced by the leadership style of
the building principal. Based on this, what would Willow Primary School look like if you were named
When you visit a classroom, what are the first things you look for as signs that the classroom is an
effective learning place?
What do you feel are the key components of maintaining high staff morale?
What are things that catch your attention when looking at a school?
As a building administrator, what message would you want your school to convey when visitors walk
into the building?
SITE-BASED MANAGEMENT/SHARED DECISION MAKING
Successful schools build strong linkages with major stakeholders. Identify these stakeholders and
explain how you will build those linkages.
Should students at the middle school level be involved in the governance of the school? If so, why? If
What role do you feel teachers should have in the development of a building budget?
In what areas will teachers be empowered to share decisions and what areas will be reserved for
administrative prerogative with you as their principal?
What is the role of support staff, specifically secretaries, custodians, and classroom aides in a middle
school and how would you integrate support staff with the instructional team?
Creating a collaborative work environment is important in the professionalism of teaching. What
strategies might you employ to help create a team at Willow Primary School?
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION, & ASSESSMENT
Briefly describe current curriculum developments at the middle school level that you are excited about.
In your estimation, what assessment strategies should be used in determining what a student knows and
is able to do?
What does the phrase “hands on science” mean to you?
Discuss your knowledge of the current trends and best practices in reading, writing, and arithmetic and
how you plan to keep your staff involved with the current and changing educational trends.
What role should technology play in an elementary school and how can it support teaching and learning?
What is student-centered instruction and how would you work with teachers to make classrooms more
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How will you market the school instructional qualities to the community?
How will you encourage teachers to keep in close contact with parents? Also, how would you monitor
to assure this takes place?
As a new principal in a school, how would you go about building relationships of trust and collaboration
with staff, parents, and students?
How do you rate your ability too express your ideas and opinions orally to others?
o Describe a recent incident that illustrates your self-rating.
o Explain in detail how you have been effective in orally gathering information from someone.
o How did you word your questions?
o What did you do and say to show that you were listening?
Tell me in detail about the last time you explained something complicated or difficult to someone.
o What were the points of confusion?
o What questions did the other person(s) ask?
o What was the most effective thing you said to clarify the matter?
Describe the most significant piece of writing you have recently completed.
o How did you organize it?
o Describe the format you used.
o How much time elapsed between receiving the assignment and starting the actual writing? What did
you do during that time?
o How efficient were you on that assignment?
o What else were you responsible for during this time?
Describe a recent time that you were unexpectedly in a position of orally promoting or defending
a. How convincing were you?
b. How dogmatic or inflexible?
c. What arguments did you spontaneously think of during the discussion?
d. How did it turn out?
Tell me about your most highly visible oral presentation in the last few years.
e. Who was there? What was the purpose of the meeting? What were your objectives?
f. What did you do to prepare?
g. What resistance did you encounter, and how did you handle it?
h. What was the most trying moment of the presentation for you?
i. What was the outcome?
How do middle school practices differ from those of a junior high school?
When is ability grouping appropriate and when is it not appropriate?
Middle schools are traditionally grouped into teams or communities of students and teachers. What are
the benefits of such a grouping? What are the disadvantages?
What factors are critical considerations regarding how you would evaluate student scheduling decisions?
What are the most important characteristics of a strong instructional team?
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What experiences have you had in working with low income and “at risk” students?
What experiences have you had in working with gifted students?
“At risk” is a term that is used frequently by educators to describe a targeted segment of the total school
population. Please discuss with us your interpretation of this group of students.
Research indicates that retention of students is usually not successful. In what situations do you feel
retention would still be justified?
What discipline standards or procedures have you found to be effective when dealing with students?
How do you evaluate the breadth of your knowledge about your field? Explain and justify your
o In what areas do you have special expertise?
o How did you develop that expertise?
o How have you utilized that expertise?
What do you do to keep up to date in your field?
o What regular professional reading do you do?
o What is the most recent new, good idea in your field you have learned about?
o Tell me about the last time you were surprised by some development or finding in your own area of
Tell me about the last time you made a decision that backfired.
o What caused you to choose that particular course of action?
o What options did you consider?
o Whom did you talk to about it?
o What feedback did you get?
o What did you learn from this experience?
Tell me about the decision you’ve made which you feel has had the most impact.
o How did you come up with the idea for your decision?
o What risks did you take when deciding on this course of action?
o How did you evaluate the results?
Describe the most important situation you have faced in which the best action was not prescribed by
o What was the situation?
o What was your rationale?
o What have you done to prevent this type of situation from reoccurring?
How do you view your ability to solve problems innovatively?
o Describe the last time you did that.
o What was the outcome?
o Tell me about the time you’ve felt best about being innovative or creative.
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What kinds of people do you get along with best? Least? Why?
Tell me about the last time you served as a group member.
o How frequently did you speak?
o How successful do you think you were in convincing others?
Think of the most upset person you’ve had to deal with lately (a coworker, client, other). Describe how
you handled it.
o How did it come to your attention?
o What did you say during the most tense moments?
o How did you show that you understood the other person?
o How did you resolve the problem?
Tell me about the last time you had a disagreement with a coworker, boss or someone else at work.
o What did each of you say?
o What was the discussion like when it was the most heated?
o How did both of you show your frustration or anger?
o How was it resolved?
o How was your relationship with that person after the incident?
When was the last time you had to smooth a disagreement between two other people?
o How did you become aware of the problem?
o When did you intervene?
o What did you say?
o What effect did that have?
o What was the end result?
Tell me about the most long-term, sustained, extra-hours effort you have ever put in.
o What was the assignment or project?
o In what ways did you put out extra effort to get the job done?
o How successful were you on it?
o What have you done most recently that has been beyond the call of your normal duties?
What was the most unpleasant task or project you have been assigned in school or at work?
o Tell me about it.
o How did you go about performing it?
o How long did you wait before beginning work on it?
o What encouragement did you get (from your boss or instructor, for example) to start working or
keep working on it?
o How long did you take to finish the assignment?
o How long before or after your deadline did you get it done?
Describe a situation in which you displayed the greatest amount of initiative in getting an assignment
underway and going.
o How did the need for initiative arise?
o Describe step by step how you proceeded.
o What was the outcome?
Did you institute any new work methods or make other improvements in school or work? Tell me about
o How did you get the idea for this improvement?
o How did you implement your ideas?
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What has been the hardest change for you to adapt to over the years?
o How did you handle it at first?
o What was it that you objected to most?
Occasionally our needs and plans cause difficulty for someone else. During the last year or two, what
was the most critical interaction in which you and someone else were pressed to bargain to reach both of
o What were initial positions?
o What strategy did you employ?
o What specifically did you say? What was the response?
o What was the outcome of the situation?
o What was your next encounter with this individual like?
Tell me about he period of time when your work has been the most hectic.
o What did you do to keep it under control?
o What hours did you work then? What is more typical for you?
o What did you do when you were “stretched the thinnest”?
o What work got placed “on the back burner”?
What has been your most disappointing or frustrating supervisory experience?
o What different approaches did you try?
o What directions did you give that were misunderstood?
o How did you handle objections to your directions or commands?
o Looking back, what could you have done differently?
What has been the most unreasonable demand at work someone has made of you (a user, requester,
supervisor, or client)?
o How did you first respond?
o What was your approach in trying to meet the demand or in not attempting?
o How did the other person feel about your handling of the situation?
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