Mindset and Its Role in the Interview
Updated: Mar 30
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with a dear friend of my daughter the day before she interviewed with the last university considering her application for veterinary school this year. She was feeling down and nervous because her application had already been rejected several times. Since we were talking the day before the interview, I chose to focus on things she could control. It was a powerful conversation, one I thought might benefit you as you navigate the job selection process. I have adapted it for the situation in which you might find yourself. 😊
The selection process for principals and assistant principals (or veterinary school) is full of complicated variables of which the candidate has no control: the timing of the posting, the biases of the paper screener, the mindset of the interview panel, the strengths and weaknesses of the previous employees in the position, the needs of the school, the reason for the vacancy, what the superintendent is looking for, etc. While you cannot control any of these variables, you can take control of your interview by ensuring that you are prepared. The checklist includes: the logistics of the interview, your appearance, the mindset you bring into the room and how well you’ve prepared for questions. You also have control over the amount of pressure you put on yourself and how you interpret failure (or success).
Your preparation for the logistics of the interview.
It sounds like common sense, but knowing how long it will take you to get to the interview location, park and get settled in can greatly reduce your game-day stress. Pick out your clothes a week in advance of your interview and ensure that they are ironed and ready to go. Plan the few things you will bring into the interview with you. I recommend only bringing a water bottle and a portfolio or legal pad. Do everything you can to ensure that you get good sleep leading up to the interview.
Your preparation for the actual interview.
Aim to check in for the interview five minutes in advance of the scheduled time. Be prepared to give a short answer to what is likely to be the first question: “Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you are the right person for this job.” Use your answer to paint a picture of you being successful in the role for which you are applying. Answering this question well will give you positive momentum and confidence. Practice other interview questions that you are likely to be asked. Have stories ready to tell that capture you as a caring and reflective leader. This is important regardless of your current role. Be prepared to tell a story about how you have forged strong relationships that have made a difference in the lives of a student, a staff member, and a parent (yes, these experiences can be from your time as a teacher). Be ready to weave these stories into responses to the questions you have practiced answering.
Your appearance in the interview.
How you show up for your interview will give the panel their first glimpse of you as the leader of the school for which you are interviewing and, right or wrong, panelists will begin making decisions about you as soon as you walk into the room. Do everything within your power to make sure your appearance demonstrates that you are ready to be their next leader. Build in time to change clothes if you work at your current job on the day of the interview. When selecting your outfit, envision yourself dressed at your absolute best in your new role - and then dial it up a notch. Show the panel that this interview is important to you and that you know how to rise to the occasion. At the same time, pick an outfit that’s comfortable. Walk into the interview room with poise and confidence!
Your mindset about WANTING versus NEEDING this job and the pressure you put on yourself.
I have interviewed for jobs I wanted, and jobs I felt I needed. There is a massive difference between the two. When I want the job, I am better able to show my true self in the interview. When I feel like I need the job, my nerves take over. Do everything within your power to see the interview as nothing more than an opportunity for you and the panel to explore whether there is a match between what you bring as a candidate, and what the school needs in a new leader.
Take your preparation seriously but know that whatever the outcome, you will be okay, and your life will go on... and you might even be better for the rejection. It is rare to need a job for which we are applying, yet we put so much pressure on ourselves, as if the world will stop turning if we don’t get it. The 40-plus jobs I have applied for and NOT gotten are a testament to the fallacy of that idea. There will be more jobs and more opportunities. The more you can bring this mindset into the interview, the less pressure you will feel and the better you will perform.
As of this writing I’m waiting to hear the outcome of my daughter’s friend’s interview. Will she get in? Or will she have another year to better her experience and application for next year’s round of opportunities… including her number one school that did not work out this year? Either way, her life will go on. She will do great things and our world will be better because of her.
I hope this is helpful to you and wish you all the best in your journey. You can find more resources here. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
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Kris Cosca, Ed.D.