top of page
  • Kris Cosca, EdD

Behavioral Interview Questions and How to Answer them!

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Don't get tripped up by those tricky "how would you handle this situation?" questions. Here's how to nail every answer.

Congratulations! You stood out from dozens of candidates and scored an interview for your dream job in education. But are you ready for the most rigorous part of the process – the behavioral interview questions? The way you respond to these situational questions will help your interviewer connect with the person behind the resume, the "real you," so you need to make every answer count.

Fortunately, you can 100% prep for this part of your interview by identifying and polishing your most compelling stories. Let's start with the basics.

What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions strive to determine how the applicant has or would deal with a particular scenario: "Tell me about a time when...", "Give me an example...", "How did you react when..."

Why do most employers ask behavioral interview questions? Because past behavior is commonly considered the best predictor of future behavior. How you answer these questions provides insights into your leadership style, personality, problem-solving skills, and strategies.

Here's a sample behavioral interview question for a principal candidate: “An angry parent walks into your office and immediately begins yelling at the office staff. You are in a parent meeting in your office and hear the commotion. How do you handle the situation?”

Given the right experience, this is your opportunity to tell a powerful story and really connect with the panel.

How can you prepare for behavioral interview questions?

In preparing for your interview, dig deep to remember some challenging situations and compelling resolutions. It is best to have multiple stories – like having many arrows in your quiver. You do not know if you will need a particular arrow, but it is there should you need it!

Your powerful stories should include students, parents, and/or staff. They should start with a challenge and end with a positive outcome and, hopefully, an improved relationship.

Answering behavioral questions using STAR

When answering a behavioral interview question, there are many strategies. I'm not a fan of scripted answers, but I am a fan of being ready to answer multiple types of questions. One common strategy is called the STAR method. This is a four-step strategy as follows:

Situation: If you experienced a situation similar to the question, review the specific situation you found yourself in and what you needed to accomplish. If not, provide a hypothetical example. Include specifics.

Task: What was your goal as you navigated the situation?

Action: What specific actions did you take? What did you contribute? I highlight you as you must highlight what you did. The panel does not want to hear what the team did or what your supervisor did. They want to hear about you. I know this is hard for many educators, but the interview is your opportunity to highlight you!

Result: What happened as a result of your strategies used to navigate this challenging situation? What did you accomplish? What was the impact short-term and long-term? How did this interaction change how you navigate similar situations moving forward?

It is not essential that you use this strategy, however, it gives you a frame for building a solid answer to a behavioral interview question.

Typical behavioral interview questions for school leadership positions

Typical behavioral questions in school leadership include dealing with an angry parent, a teacher who is underperforming and not responding to feedback, a school board member who is acting outside of their role. Some other sample questions for various campus and administrative leadership roles:

  • Describe a time when you had to support a new teacher during their first year.

  • How have you resolved a conflict between adults on campus?

  • Tell us about a situation where you had to give negative feedback to a veteran teacher.

  • Describe a time when you had to make a decision you knew would be unpopular.

  • Tell us about a situation when a student struggled behaviorally and the point at which you involved the parents.

  • Describe a time when you managed a budget and faced making cuts.

  • Tell us about a time when you set a goal and accomplished it.

  • What was the most challenging obstacle you faced in your work?

Mock interviews: Practice with a professional

There's a clear competitive advantage to working with a career coach who can help you identify and polish your most compelling stories. A good coach will identify the most common behavioral interview questions for your chosen position and help you find your voice. Ask your coach to record your mock interview so you can review your performance together and get specific feedback.

One last piece of advice: They say practice makes perfect, but perfection should not be your goal. As I mentioned earlier, you do not want your answers to sound scripted and memorized. Your ultimate goal is to be comfortable and confident while sharing experiences in a genuine and reflective way.

Good luck!



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!


bottom of page