Interview

25 Principal Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a principal, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

As a school principal, you are responsible for the academic, social, and emotional well-being of the students in your school. You also manage the staff, create a positive learning environment, and ensure that the school is in compliance with all state and federal laws.

To become a school principal, you need to have a deep understanding of educational theory and practice, as well as management and leadership skills. You also need to be able to articulate your vision for the school and be able to work collaboratively with other educators, parents, and community members.

If you’re interested in becoming a school principal, you’ll need to be able to answer some tough interview questions. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a list of common interview questions for school principals and tips for how to answer them.

Why are you interested in the principal position?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your motivations and goals. It’s important to show that you’re passionate about education, leadership and helping students succeed. When answering this question, it can be helpful to talk about what drew you to becoming a principal in the first place. You may also want to mention any personal experiences or mentors who inspired you along the way.

Example: “I’ve always been passionate about education and helping children reach their full potential. I started out as an elementary school teacher, where I worked with some of the most amazing kids. After five years, I decided to pursue my administrative certification so I could help other teachers develop their skills and support them in the classroom. Now, I’m ready to take on the challenge of being a principal.”

What are your qualifications for the role?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your background and how it relates to this role. When answering, be sure to include all of your relevant experience, including any education or certifications you have that relate to this position.

Example: “I am currently working as an assistant principal at a local middle school, where I’ve been for five years. In my time here, I’ve worked with students from kindergarten through eighth grade, which has given me valuable insight into what makes each age group unique. Additionally, I hold both my master’s degree in education and my certification in special education.”

What would you change about your current school?

This question can help the interviewer get a better idea of your leadership style. It also helps them understand how you would implement changes to benefit students and teachers. When answering this question, it’s important to be honest about what you would change but also focus on the positive aspects of your current school.

Example: “I would like to see more funding for our arts program. I know that we have limited resources, but I think if we could find a way to increase funding by 10%, we could hire another art teacher. This would allow us to offer more classes and give students more opportunities to learn about different artistic mediums.”

How would your current students describe you?

This question can help the interviewer get to know you better and understand how your students feel about you. It also helps them determine if you are a good fit for their school’s culture. When answering this question, it can be helpful to think of specific examples of what your current students have said about you.

Example: “My students would describe me as someone who is always there for them when they need support or guidance. They would say that I am approachable and friendly, but also hold high expectations for my students’ behavior and academic performance. My students would also say that I am very organized and efficient in the classroom.”

What makes you a good fit for this school?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your background and how it relates to this specific school. It’s important to do some research on the school before you go into the interview, so you can speak specifically about what makes you excited to work there.

Example: “I’ve been teaching for five years now, and I’m ready for a new challenge. When I was looking at schools in the area, I saw that yours has an excellent reputation for its teachers and students. I think my skills as a teacher would translate well to being a principal because I care deeply about helping children succeed.”

What skills and experiences will help you be a successful principal?

This question is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you have what it takes to be a successful principal. When answering this question, think about which skills and experiences helped you succeed in previous roles. Consider mentioning any leadership or management skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills or ability to work with others.

Example: “I believe my ability to communicate clearly and effectively with all types of people will help me be a successful principal. I am also passionate about helping students learn and grow, so I would use my problem-solving skills to find solutions for challenges they may face. Finally, as someone who has worked in education for many years, I understand how important it is to collaborate with teachers and other school staff.”

What is your favorite part of teaching?

This question can help the interviewer get to know you as a person and your teaching style. It also helps them understand what kind of teacher you are, which is important for a principal who needs to be able to work with their teachers. When answering this question, think about what aspects of teaching you enjoy most. Consider mentioning something that relates to the job or school you’re interviewing for.

Example: “My favorite part of teaching is when I see my students learn something new. Whether it’s mastering a concept they’ve been working on all year or figuring out how to solve a problem on their own, seeing my students succeed makes me feel like I’m doing my job well. I love being able to inspire my students to do their best.”

What do you want to accomplish in your first 30 days here?

This question is a great way to see how the candidate plans and prioritizes. It also gives you an idea of what they think are important for their new school community. When answering this question, it’s best to focus on your goals rather than specific tasks or projects.

Example: “I want to get to know my students’ families as soon as possible. I plan to hold open-house events every week in the first month so that parents can meet me and learn more about our curriculum and expectations. I’ll also be meeting with each teacher to discuss their individual classroom needs and goals. I want to make sure that we’re all working toward the same thing.”

What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing education today?

This question can help the interviewer get a sense of your knowledge about education and how you might approach challenges. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention something that is relevant to the school or district where you’re interviewing.

Example: “I think one of the biggest challenges facing education today is making sure students are prepared for their future careers. I believe we need to start teaching our kids more practical skills earlier so they have a better idea of what career paths they want to pursue when they graduate from high school. In my last role as an English teacher, I started a program where students learned basic coding skills in order to give them a head start on learning computer languages.”

What is your educational philosophy?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer your beliefs about education and how you would implement them in this role. Your answer should include a few key principles that are important to you, such as collaboration, creativity or critical thinking.

Example: “I believe that every student deserves a quality education regardless of their background. I also think it’s essential for students to learn how to work together with others who have different opinions than they do. In my last position, we started a program where students had to collaborate on projects with other students from different backgrounds. This helped students develop empathy and communication skills while learning new information.”

What experience do you have with leading a faculty meeting?

A principal is responsible for leading faculty meetings. These meetings are often the time when teachers and staff members can ask questions about their curriculum, discuss student behavior or share ideas for improving school culture. Interviewers want to know that you have experience with this type of meeting and how you plan to lead it effectively.

Example: “I’ve led faculty meetings in my previous role as a vice principal. I find that these meetings are an excellent opportunity to get everyone on the same page regarding our goals for the school year. In my last position, we had a lot of new teachers who were still getting used to the curriculum. I would start each meeting by reviewing the objectives from the day before and what students should be learning at that point in the semester. This helped me ensure that all teachers understood the expectations.”

Have you ever had to discipline a teacher?

This question can give the interviewer insight into how you handle conflict and whether or not you have ever had to discipline a teacher. When answering this question, it can be beneficial to mention that you are willing to hold teachers accountable for their actions and provide examples of when you did so in the past.

Example: “In my current role as principal, I have disciplined several teachers for various reasons. One teacher was consistently late to work, which affected her ability to teach effectively. Another teacher was caught using inappropriate language with students, which is against school policy. In both cases, I met with each individual privately and discussed the issue at hand. After discussing the consequences of their actions, they were given a warning and then ultimately terminated if the behavior continued.”

What strategies do you use to motivate your teachers?

Motivation is an important skill for a principal to have. It’s their job to keep teachers motivated and excited about teaching, which in turn keeps students engaged and eager to learn. A principal needs to be able to inspire others and help them achieve goals. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention specific strategies you use to motivate your team members.

Example: “I believe that the best way to motivate my teachers is by showing them I care about them as people. I make sure to get to know each of my staff members on a personal level so they feel comfortable coming to me with any questions or concerns. I also hold monthly teacher meetings where we discuss our progress and celebrate our successes. This helps build camaraderie among the faculty.”

Describe a time when you made a decision that upset many people. How did it turn out?

This question can help interviewers understand how you make decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. It also helps them see if you are willing to take risks in your leadership role. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a situation where you made a decision that was unpopular but turned out well.

Example: “When I first became a principal, there were many teachers who had been teaching for decades. They didn’t like some of my changes, such as requiring students to use laptops instead of textbooks. However, after explaining why we needed to change our curriculum, they understood and supported me. In the end, the laptop program helped students learn more effectively.”

What would you do if you saw a student stealing from the lunch line?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would handle a challenging situation. As a principal, you may need to address many different types of situations with students and staff members. In your answer, try to explain what steps you would take to resolve the issue while also emphasizing the importance of honesty.

Example: “If I saw a student stealing from the lunch line, I would first ask them why they did it. If they said that they were hungry, I would find out if there was anything we could do to make sure this didn’t happen again. For example, maybe we could add more food options or offer smaller portions so kids don’t go home hungry. If they say they stole because they wanted something specific, I would talk to the cafeteria manager about adding more variety to their menu.”

What would you do if a parent was angry about their child’s grade?

As a principal, you may need to mediate conflicts between parents and teachers. This question helps the interviewer assess your conflict resolution skills. Use examples from past experiences where you helped resolve such issues.

Example: “I once had a parent call me because they were upset about their child’s grade. I asked them what was wrong and how we could fix it. They told me that their son deserved an A in the class, but he got a B+. I explained to them that while the student did deserve an A, there are many factors that go into grading. The teacher gave extra credit for students who turned in their homework on time, which lowered his grade. We talked more about the importance of turning in assignments on time and agreed that next semester, the student would do better.”

How would you make our school more welcoming?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your interpersonal skills and how you would interact with students, parents and teachers. Your answer should include specific examples of how you plan to make the school a welcoming place for everyone.

Example: “I believe that making the school a welcoming place starts with creating an inclusive environment where all students feel safe and supported. I have seen firsthand how schools can create programs and initiatives that help students understand their differences and celebrate them. For example, my previous school created a program called ‘Be Kind Club’ where we taught kindness and empathy to younger students. We also had a student council that organized events like food drives and clothing swaps.”

What would you do to make our communication more effective?

Communication is an important part of any school’s success. The interviewer wants to know how you would improve the communication between teachers, parents and students. Give examples of how you’ve improved communication in your previous roles.

Example: “I think it’s important for everyone to have access to information about what’s going on at the school. I implemented a weekly newsletter that went out to all parents with updates on upcoming events, current projects and other relevant news. We also created a parent portal where they could see their child’s grades, assignments and attendance record. This helped keep parents informed while giving them tools to help support their children.”

What qualities do you look for when hiring new teachers?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your hiring process and how you evaluate potential candidates. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few specific qualities that are important to you and the school’s mission or goals.

Example: “I look for teachers who have experience in their subject area, but I also value creativity and innovation when making hiring decisions. Teachers with these skills can help students develop new ideas and encourage them to think outside of the box. In my last role, we hired several new teachers who were passionate about their subjects and had innovative teaching styles. These teachers helped our school achieve higher test scores than ever before.”

How do you help underperforming students?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your strategies for helping students who are struggling in school. Use examples from your experience that show how you help students overcome challenges and improve their academic performance.

Example: “I recently worked with a student who was failing all of his classes, but he had the potential to succeed if he put in the effort. I met with him weekly to discuss his progress and encourage him to work hard. After several weeks, he started turning in his homework on time and raising his grades. He eventually raised his GPA enough to pass all of his classes.”

Describe your process when giving teacher evaluations.

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your leadership style and how you evaluate the performance of others. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific process that you use when evaluating teachers and other staff members.

Example: “I meet with each teacher individually once per year to discuss their performance. I give them an overview of what they did well during the previous school year and areas where they could improve. Then, I provide resources for professional development or training so they can continue improving in those areas. I also hold monthly meetings with my department heads to discuss any concerns they have regarding individual teachers.”

What would you say to parents who are unhappy with the teachers?

This question can give the interviewer insight into how you handle conflict and address parents. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a specific situation where you helped resolve a parent’s concern or complaint.

Example: “I would first ask them what they are unhappy about and then listen to their concerns. I would try my best to understand their perspective and empathize with their feelings. Then, I would explain why I think our teachers are doing an excellent job and provide evidence for my claims. If there is something that we can improve upon, I would offer solutions on how to do so.”

Describe your process for evaluating yourself.

This question is a great way to assess your self-evaluation skills and how you use them to improve yourself. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe the process you used for evaluating yourself in previous roles.

Example: “I have found that one of the best ways to evaluate myself is by using an annual review system. I typically create a list of goals at the beginning of each year and then revisit those goals throughout the year to see if I am meeting my objectives. This helps me stay focused on what I need to do to meet my goals and also allows me to reflect on my progress as the year goes on. Another method I use to evaluate myself is through peer feedback. I find that asking colleagues for their input on my performance is a great way to get constructive criticism about areas where I can improve.”

What is your philosophy on discipline?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your approach to discipline and how you would handle a situation where students misbehave. Your answer should include examples of how you’ve handled similar situations in the past, as well as what your overall philosophy is on disciplining students.

Example: “I believe that it’s important to maintain a positive learning environment for all students. I have found that when students feel safe and supported, they are better able to focus on their studies and behave appropriately. In my previous role, I had a student who was constantly disrupting class by talking out of turn. Rather than sending him to the principal’s office, I pulled him aside after class one day and talked with him about his behavior. He apologized and promised to do better. After that conversation, he never disrupted class again.”

How would you handle a student who is misbehaving?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would handle a common problem in schools. It’s important to show that you have the skills and knowledge to manage students who are acting out or disrupting class. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to address the student’s behavior and ensure they’re following school rules.

Example: “I’ve had experience with this situation before, so I know it’s important to remain calm when addressing misbehaving students. When I first notice a student is being disruptive, I’ll ask them to step into my office for a private conversation. During our talk, I’ll let them know their actions are distracting other students and outline the consequences of their behavior. If the student continues to act out after this meeting, I may call their parents to discuss the issue.”

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