Always Be Yourself When Interviewing
Updated: Aug 21
Tempted to become whomever you need to be to get your dream job? Don’t give in to that temptation
Your dream job is finally open, and you REALLY want it. You know that the school doesn’t value some of the things you do. Or maybe you know you have some significant differences of opinion to what the district holds? Temptation creeps in to be someone other than who you are in the interview or to temper your true north values so that you can get the job. Have you found yourself in this position? Maybe after some rejections or just because this job is the one you have been waiting for? I have given in to this temptation, gotten the job, and then struggled to be the person I put on stage during my interview. I learned the hard way, that being someone other than myself in the interview is a recipe for struggle down the road. Learn from my mistake.
Finding the Match
The interview’s goal is to determine a match between what you bring and what the school needs. Many remember that it is the school’s opportunity to determine this match, but often forget that it is your opportunity as well. One of the best ways to take advantage of this opportunity is to remember that you are interviewing them while they interview you. Another is to commit to being yourself, measuring how the panel responds to you, and how their response makes you feel. When there is a match both parties will feel it.
Does the Match Matter?
In the early stages of my leadership journey, I minimized the value of the match. I felt like I could do any job if just given the opportunity. In hindsight, I know I was wrong. The match does matter. I base this on my lived experience and having led principal and assistant principal interviews for more than a decade. I have placed close to a hundred principals and assistant principals. I have found matches in many of these cases. I have missed some others. Finding the match is tremendously complicated as not every school needs the same thing. There are often shared perspectives going into the interview process… this school needs an experienced leader, an internal candidate, an external candidate, a particular gender, or whatever. Sometimes these perspective hold and a match is found within those parameters. Other times, the right candidate walks in, tells their story, paints a picture of themselves succeeding in the position (or get the video here), and convinces the panel that, even though they look different from what the panel thought they needed, they are a match! I have seen candidates who I thought were a match tell their story only to demonstrate that they were not a match (and I see this as a win for both parties).
As heartbreaking as each rejection is for me, typically, I look back on the jobs I didn’t get and am thankful that I did not get it. I wasn’t a match, and the right decision was made… even though my ego still thinks they made the wrong decision. ;-)
Who Will Show Up on Day One… And Every Other Workday?
Your life experiences write your story. Use the interview to tell your story: to share what you value about relationships, leadership, supporting staff, students, and their families. Use it to share your beliefs about teaching and learning, equity, student discipline, communication with staff and the community, and whatever you hold close to your heart. Describe how you will handle difficult situations. Be yourself. Your story makes you the leader you are and who will show up to work on day one and each subsequent workday. Being someone other than who you are in the interview might get you the job but won’t help you determine if a job is a match for you.
Interviewing is hard. Preparing is essential. Only through preparation are you able to bring your best self into the interview. Please use the tips available in this blog post and other free resources on my website to increase the odds of you walking into the interview room with poise and confidence, ready to tell your story and find that match!
Let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything else I can do to help!
Your dream job could be just a click away. Click here for your free 10-page PDF with 15 steps to help you get your dream principal or assistant principal dream job or here for a seven-minute video that will help you better paint a picture of yourself being successful in your dream job! And here if you want some principal and assistant principal interview questions
Kris Cosca has dedicated his career to public schools for 30+ years as a teacher and administrator. Most recently, he served as superintendent of a 7,500-student K-12 district in Novato, California. Kris has experienced the joys and the challenges at every level – from the classroom to the school board room. He navigated curriculum changes, enrollment challenges, pandemic restrictions, labor negotiations, and staff burnout. As a leadership and career coach, Kris now shares his expertise with Next Level Leadership Services clients.
Public service runs in the family. Kris' father was a long-time district superintendent in Southern California, his mom was an occupational therapist in a state hospital for her entire career, and Kris married a high school science teacher with whom he has two adult children who are both studying to teach science. Dedicated to his Napa Valley community, Kris serves on the Connolly Ranch Education Center board of directors and supports local, environmentally-friendly acts of kindness through his Facebook Group, Earth's Everyday Heroes.
Kris also is an avid outdoorsman who fly fishes, ties flies, backpacks, hikes, completes ultramarathons, and cycles.