Here are the top 10 most asked Assistant Principal interview questions along with suggested answers that will help you prove you are the right person for the job.
1. Can you tell me about your experience as an assistant principal?
The interviewer wants to know whether you have previous experience. If you have never held an assistant principal role, you can talk about the experience you have had as a teacher. Your answer should show the interviewer what you have achieved in previous roles. Be enthusiastic about your previous experience. The interviewer wants to know you have enthusiasm for the role offered and that you will tackle the responsibilities with optimism and energy. Tell them what you have learned either as an assistant principal or in other roles and show how those lessons have shaped you and helped you improve.
I have worked as an assistant principal for the last three years. It has been a challenge, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed. At my current school, we have gone through a period of extensive change and improvement. At the time I started, the school was performing below expectations on standardized tests. I worked with the teachers and the principal to understand why the students were performing below expectations. Once I understood the reasons, I worked with the teachers to implement programs to help the students improve. Those programs were not all academically based, but also looked at other areas of the students’ lives that were affecting their academic performance and their behavior. Because of these programs, absence levels dropped significantly, and performance in standardized tests improved. Ninety percent of students are now performing at or above expectations. The role taught me to look beyond academic performance and to think about external factors that affect students.
2. Do you see yourself working independently or as part of a team with the principal?
This can be a tricky question to answer. Your answer should recognize the need for you to work independently, but also recognize the need for teamwork with the principal. Tell the interviewer you are ready to work independently and make decisions appropriate to your level and position, but that you understand the hierarchical system of the school leadership. Share how you see the relationship working with the principal, for example, by having regular meetings to discuss plans for the school and decisions to be made.
I don’t see working independently or being part of a team as mutually exclusive. For me, the role of assistant principal will require me to work independently and make decisions alongside working as part of a team with the principal. I would expect on a day-to-day basis to be making certain decisions and undertaking tasks without having to seek approval from the principal. But I also recognize that there will be decisions that are above my level of leadership and require discussion. I would see myself and the principal working closely and having regular meetings to share ideas and to keep one another up-to-date. We need to ensure that we are working together for the benefit of the school.
3. How do you approach student discipline?
Student discipline is a key issue for schools. Before the interview, read the school handbook to understand the discipline expectations and how the school approaches discipline. Consider how your philosophy on student discipline aligns with the school’s approach. Your answer should show that you understand discipline is about supporting students, not punishing them. If you have experience dealing with student discipline issues, you can use it in your answer.
Students are growing and learning. They will make mistakes. I see my role and the role of the school to support students in growing and learning. We are there to help them be successful. For that reason, I prefer to use restorative practices for discipline. Taking a proactive, supportive and responsive approach reduces the number of issues that are likely to arise. It also gives students the skills to deal with issues when they arise. By building relationships with the students, I get to know and understand them and also generate goodwill with them, so when issues come up, I have that to draw on to help me support the student.
4. How would you describe your leadership style?
As an assistant principal, you will have to lead students and teachers. Your answer should show the interviewer you are confident and comfortable leading a team. Before the interview, think about different leadership styles and think about which style best fits you. For example, you may feel that a coaching style best describes your leadership rather than an autocratic approach.
I would describe my leadership style as a coaching style of leadership. My strengths are in encouraging others to succeed and working with them as part of a team. It is how I bring out the best in my team. I give every team member the opportunity to discover their strengths and skills, and I give them support to develop and be the best they can be.
5. If a teacher were underperforming, how would you handle that?
There are two things that the interviewer wants to understand by asking this question. First, they want to understand how you evaluate a teacher. That evaluation will include their teaching performance, but also their behavior and relationships with students, parents, teachers and the school leadership. Your answer should show how you gather all the relevant information and evaluate that information. Second, the interviewer wants to know how you handle difficult situations and still maintain a good working relationship. Explain how you would support the teacher in improving their performance and how you would continue to evaluate their performance. If you have experience dealing with this, share that example and how you handled it.
Evaluating the performance of teachers is an important part of the role. As a school, we want our students and our staff to be successful. If a teacher is underperforming, it is important to deal with it, not simply ignore the issue. I would have to evaluate whether the teacher was underperforming. If there has been a complaint from a parent, for example, I would consider the details of that complaint and look at all other evidence at my disposal. That other evidence may include how other students are doing, where the class is scoring in standardized tests and how the teacher interacts with the students and other staff. I might pop into the class unannounced and watch for a while, for example.
Once it was clear the teacher was underperforming, I would evaluate the areas in which they were underperforming. They may struggle with only certain parts of the role and only require support in certain areas. I would have a discussion with the teacher, and I would start that discussion by asking the teacher open-ended questions to solicit information for him or her. That discussion may be difficult, particularly if the teacher feels they are performing well, but it is an important conversation to have. I would remain calm. I would explain where they were underperforming, and together, we would come up with a plan to improve the performance.
I would be clear about the expectations of the role and that I am there to support them through the improvement plan. It is important they see me as supportive and that they feel encouraged to develop themselves.
6. How do you motivate students and teachers?
Motivating students and teachers is an important part of the position. The interviewer wants to see how you influence students and teachers to do what you require. When students and teachers are disengaged, that affects performance. As assistant principal, you have to deal with the issues. That involves knowing and understanding your students and teachers.
There are lots of ways to keep students and teachers motivated. People respond differently to different methods. To make sure I was using the correct method, I would want to get to know the students and teachers as much as possible so I could tailor my approach to their needs and drivers. Most people respond well to positive reinforcement. For some, a compliment is enough encouragement. For others, they like to receive certificates or public recognition. I would try to find a system that works well for everyone and is fair and consistent.
7. Which of your skills do you think are most relevant for an assistant principal position?
An assistant principal role can be stressful and high-pressure. It also has high visibility, as you are representing the school alongside the principal. The interviewer wants to know that you understand the skills needed for the role. When choosing which skills to highlight, think about how those skills correspond with the role. Being an assistant principal requires excellent listening and communication skills, alongside problem-solving, critical and analytical thinking, excellent time management and strong interpersonal skills (emotional intelligence).
I recognize that being an assistant principal requires several different skills. As I will represent the school, having good interpersonal skills is critical. I have had many opportunities to show and improve on my interpersonal skills by representing our school at many district meetings and conferences when the principal hasn’t been available. My communication and listening skills are also important and go hand-in-hand with my interpersonal skills. Being in a position of authority, I will have to communicate with a variety of different people and need to communicate my message and expectations clearly to them while also truly understanding what they are communicating to me. In my current role, I have introduced drop-in sessions for staff and students to allow them to approach me with questions and concerns. Those sessions are always well used. That shows that staff and students trust me and are comfortable coming to me.
8. What role do you think parents should have in the school? How do you engage with parents?
Parents trust you to do what is best for their children. That doesn’t mean they take a hands-off approach. The interviewer wants to understand what role you think parents have to play in the school. Your answer should show that you see parents and teachers working together for the good of the school, rather than against each other. You should tell the interviewer how the school can engage with parents to get them involved.
I recognize that parents have an important role to play in the success of the students and the school. It is important for the school to get parents involved and keep them up-to-date with what is happening at the school. When parents are involved, academic achievement tends to increase and satisfaction with the school increases from the parents’ perspective because they feel involved. When parents are dissatisfied, it is usually because they think there is a lack of sufficient and useful communication from the school.
There are many ways we can communicate with parents, and it is important to use the method that works best for parents. We need to communicate with them regularly and keep them informed on a timely basis. We also need to make it easy for parents to communicate with us.
9. How do you handle angry or upset parents?
Parents are heavily invested in their child’s education and success. As an assistant principal, you will have to interact with parents, as part of formal and informal meetings and conferences. Parents can become upset or angry during these meetings, and the interviewer wants to know that you can handle emotionally-charged situations. Your answer should show that you can deal with an angry or upset parent, diffusing a tense situation while resolving the issues you came together to discuss, which will usually be their child’s behavior or academic performance. If possible, give an example as part of your answer. If you have not had the experience of dealing with such a situation, explain how you would propose to handle it.
I understand that parents want their children to do well, and it can upset a parent to hear that their child isn’t behaving or performing academically. Parents are simply advocating for their children. My role is to support students, but that also involves helping their parents to support them. When parents get upset or angry, I stay calm. I keep my voice calm. Raising my voice to match theirs will only inflame the situation. I listen to what the parents say, acknowledge their feelings and respond to what they have communicated. I always try to understand what they would like to happen so I can manage their expectations and find a resolution that is satisfactory for everyone involved, including the student.
10. Why do you want to be an assistant principal?
This question may seem to ask about your desire to be an assistant principal, but you should use this question to show the interviewer that not only do you want to be an assistant principal but you want to be assistant principal at that school. Use your answer to show your passion for the role and for the school. Talk to the interviewer about the impact you think you can have there.
Being a teacher, and in particular, an assistant principal is not just a job. To be a good assistant principal, you have to have a passion for teaching and helping others. As a teacher, I enjoyed the benefits of helping students to be successful, supporting them to become the best they could be. Being an assistant principal gives me the opportunity to help more students because I will support teachers to become the best that the teachers can be. That benefits the students.
One reason I want to be assistant principal here is that this school focuses on more than just academic ability. Academic ability is one marker of success, but you recognize there are other markers of success. I want to be part of that. I want to help students see that success comes in different shapes and forms. I think being the assistant principal at this school would allow me to do that, continuing on the work the school has already done.
Next 40 Most Asked Assistant Principal Interview Questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- What would you hope to achieve in your first ninety days?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How would students describe you?
- How do you handle bullying?
- Tell me about your experience working with at-risk students.
- What strategies do you have to deal with your own stress? What about for helping students deal with theirs?
- Where do you see the biggest room for improvement in our school?
- Why should we hire you instead of the other candidates?
- What experience do you have dealing with students with disabilities?
- How will you measure your success in this role?
- How do you prioritize your work each day?
- What consideration do you give to cultural or background differences when working with parents, students, and staff?
- Tell me the skills on which you wish to improve.
- What role do you think teachers and other staff have in decision-making?
- Do you think students should have a say before important decisions are made?
- In what ways do you think an assistant principal can or should help teachers with classroom management?
- Do you have experience building school schedules? Can you tell me about that?
- What is the best piece of advice you have given to first-year teachers?
- There is a conflict between a student and a teacher. How would you handle that?
- What experience do you have managing costs in a school?
- What relationship do you see between student achievement and teacher evaluations?
- What do you see as the key challenges facing schools in our area in the next twelve months?
- Have you ever disagreed with the principal? How did you handle that?
- How do you build an effective team?
- What is your biggest professional achievement?
- Describe a time where you made a wrong decision. How did you handle that?
- Have you ever faced difficulties supervising school events? What were those difficulties, and how did you handle them?
- Tell me how you conduct parent conferences.
- Have you ever involved parents in disciplining students? What was the outcome?
- What do you see as the primary duties of an assistant principal at this school?
- What do you find most difficult as an assistant principal?
- What does a highly effective school look like?
- How would you describe your management style?
- What does a typical day look like for you in your current role?
- Tell me about a time you had to overcome a challenge.
- Can you describe your process when making decisions?
- A student tells you they have been the subject of assault or abuse. What do you do?
- How would you describe your relationships with your coworkers in your current role?
- What do you know about the demographics of our students?
10 Best Questions to Ask in an Assistant Principal Interview
The interviewer will normally give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Choosing the right questions to ask can help you reinforce your interest in the role and the school, and gain more information. You should have some questions prepared. If you are given an opportunity to ask questions and do not ask any, you will likely look unprepared or uninterested.
- What qualities are you looking for in an assistant principal?
- What do you expect of me in the first six months?
- Can you tell me what a typical day might look like?
- What do you enjoy about working at this school?
- What are the priority areas for improvement in the next school year?
- In general, how well do parents engage with the school?
- What are some challenges you expect the assistant principal to face in the next twelve months?
- How will success be measured?
- How would you describe the leadership style of the principal?
- Can you tell me more about how the students interact with the teachers?
Before the interview, research the school. Understand the demographics of the school population, the areas where the school is doing well, and the areas they need to improve on. Think about your skills and how they can help the school improve and succeed. If you can find parents, teachers, or other staff at the school through your personal network, you might consider speaking confidentially with them before your interview to understand some of the issues and challenges of the school that you will not be able to uncover with online research. By being prepared, you should be able to relax during the interview and make it an open dialogue where your calm and engaging personality shines through. You can do this!
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.