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  • Kris Cosca, EdD

How to Crush Your Next Interview: Paint a Picture of Yourself Already Succeeding in the Job

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Here's why future-forward answers give you an edge


After a nearly 40-year career in public education, including 20 years as a district superintendent, my dad, Dr. Frank Cosca, launched a consultancy that helped districts all across California recruit superintendents for another 20 years.


Before his passing in 2021, I had the opportunity to ask him about his experiences. I especially wanted to know what separated the person who won the job from the countless other capable applicants. When the selection process narrowed down to two equally bright individuals, what made the winner stand out?


After a moment of thought, my dad answered: "They painted a picture of themselves in the position they were applying for.”


He explained that if you want to outshine the competition, you need to help the hiring panel see you in the job and excelling at it.


It is a simple yet powerful technique that can be applied by just about anyone interviewing for any job. The idea is to use your interview time to do more than recite your credentials and career history. Sure, it is easy to stick with conventional answers like "I have done this..." and "I have done that..." After all, it is comfortable to talk about what we know best. Unfortunately, when you only talk about the past, you aren't helping your interviewers envision what you're capable of in the future.


Let me show you what I mean:



Example 1

Interviewer Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you are the right person for this principal position.


Answer A: Without painting a picture of yourself in the position: (condensed version) Thank you for having me here today. I am excited to have this opportunity to share a little bit about myself and why I am the right person for this position. I have served as a teacher for 10 years. I have supported students in grades K-6. I love teaching reading and math and have become an expert in both areas. My students have achieved more than a year’s worth of growth in both areas for the past five years as measured on district and state assessments. I have also served as an assistant principal for the past four years. In this capacity, I have supported with discipline, IEPs, 504s. I also support many school site and district committees.


Answer B: Painting a picture of yourself in the position: (condensed version) Thank you for having me here today. I am excited to have this opportunity to share a little bit about myself and why I am the right person to lead this wonderful school. I bring diverse experience, all of which has helped to prepare me to become the principal. I have served as a teacher in Title One schools for 10 years. I have supported students in grades K-6. I love teaching reading and math and have become an expert in both areas. My students have achieved more than a year’s worth of growth in both areas for the past five years as measured on district and state assessments. This is important to me as it shows that, regardless of the experiences, opportunities, and challenges our students face, they can perform at high levels. I look forward to learning more about what is going great here at ___ school and where we have opportunities to grow and to work with the team to determine how we can build on the team’s great strengths and where my experience can help. I have also served as an assistant principal for the past four years. In this capacity, I have supported with discipline, IEPs, 504s. I also support many school site and district committees. This experience has allowed me to see many systems that work great and others that need some extra attention. Each experience has better prepared me to lead your great school.



Example 2

Interviewer Question: What was the toughest decision you had to make in your professional life?


Answer A: Without painting a picture of yourself in the position: When I was a teacher, I found myself working in an environment that, structurally, was designed to serve some students better than others. Specifically, the students who had the most got even more. The students who had the least got even less. I worked hard to change this system, but in the end, I could not. I ended up leaving this position for a culture that respected my values that all students deserve the best and those with greater challenges need greater resources.


Answer B: Painting a picture of yourself in the position: When I was a teacher, I found myself working in an environment that, structurally, was designed to serve some students better than others. Specifically, the students who had the most got even more. The students who had the least got even less. I worked hard to change this system, but in the end, I could not. I ended up leaving this position for a culture that respected my values that all students deserve the best and that acknowledged that those with greater challenges needed greater resources. From that day forward, I committed my career to ensuring that all of the students I served had access to the best educational system possible that met their academic, behavioral and socio-emotional needs regardless of the experiences they brought to school. This is the mindset I will bring to this position.



What's the difference?

In both these examples, Answer A tells a powerful story and demonstrates your experience. Answer B takes that powerful story and paints a picture of how it will apply to your new position.


Of course, not every question opens the door to a future-forward answer. I recommend you do some "pre-game" prep by reviewing common interview questions (we have resources for you, or you can find lists online). Identify which of those questions will allow you to paint a picture of yourself in the role. With practice, you will have a higher likelihood of landing your dream job.


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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!





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