15+ Best Principal Interview Questions & Answers

principal interview questions

If you are looking for principal interview questions and answers, we've compiled the absolute best guide to be able to help you with your upcoming interview. Being hired as a principal is not an easy task, it is vital that you spend the time to prepare in advance of your meeting with either the school board or other faculty members who are making the decision about hiring. Let's go ahead and get started.

What is the role of a principal?

The role of a principal is to essentially act as the general manager of an institution. Usually, the institution will be between kindergarten and 12th grade. Principals aren’t apart of any university or college level education programs. Principals work with teachers, parents, students, other faculty and board members to direct the course work for an entire year. Then manage the cadence of the school and success it’s driving for both the students and the community. Principals take a very active approach in the overall management, budgeting, proposals, operations and leadership within the school. If you were to compare a Principal to a role that would be outside of an institution, it would be similar to a CEO position.

Why it’s important to study interview questions for a principal

Getting hired as a principal is not an easy task. For the most part, many teachers spend nearly their entire careers trying to gain enough experience to one day be leading an entire school. Principals are also under a large amount of scrutiny, both from the faculty level, parent level and from the community. Because most of the city level funding comes from taxes, it can be a difficult position to not only get hired within but to keep for long periods of time. The average time it takes to hire a principal can be up to 90 days. This gives you some idea of the diligence that happens when a principal is hired.

15 Principal and assistant principle interview questions and answers

Table of Contents


1. How would you help advantaged and disadvantaged students gain equal opportunities and relate to each other?

The first step is always to treat each and every student with the utmost respect, regardless of their backgrounds. Traditional school leadership styles force a deep dividing line between students and faculty, which I don’t believe works in our current culture. I believe that being in a leadership position is an opportunity to help build a community between students and faculty.

When it comes to helping disadvantaged students excel, I think that building a classroom based on principles of equality is key for helping students of all backgrounds build a community with each other. Disadvantaged students tend to struggle, depending on financial, family, and learning problems. More focus should be put on helping those students catch up with the rest, but I would make sure to keep an eye on students that are excelling as well. From the perspective of a principle, rather than a teacher, it should be the principle’s responsibility to facilitate a school-wide culture of support between teachers, faculty, parents, and students.

2. When dealing with problematic or difficult students, when do you choose to contact the parents? How do you commit to this communication?

When it becomes apparent that the student is struggling with things that aren’t solely their schoolwork, I think it should be a priority to involve the parents to help. Still, when it comes to building trust, faculty should commit to providing mentorship and in-school therapy to students before dumping the problem on the parents. In communicating with parents, I think it is vital to come from a place of concern for the student’s well-being, rather than antagonism.

3. Was there a time where you discovered a student was affecting the well-being of students or bullying, and how did you handle the situation?

The answer to this question will vary depending on experience. Look for answers that show a dedication to trying to level with the student, rather than strict punishment.

4. If a student or group of students made a complaint about a teacher, how would you handle the situation?

The safety and well-being of students is wholly the focus of a principle. I would immediately discuss the matter with the teacher, hear the students out, and investigate the situation further with tact and understanding.

5. How do you empower teachers to be leaders?

I would put more focus and worth into weekly and monthly meetings. Rather than seeing these meetings as mandatory events with little substance, I would take meetings as opportunities to provide teachers with team building resources and leadership training. Consistency is key.

6. What do you consider the traits of effective teachers and how do you interview for them?

Empathy, strong relational skills, and history of equally good relationships between the teacher and students as well as the teacher and faculty. I focus a lot on the references provided when hiring a new staff member.

7. Many teachers complain about a lack of administrative support. How do you feel about this and how would you address the issues?

Teachers are the foundation of a good school. It’s important to take the time to listen to any grievances or critiques from teachers. I would make sure to use meetings to give teachers a chance to voice their concerns and work with them to improve how the administration supports them.

8. Why is it so important to get parents involved in children's schoolwork?

It's really important to get parents involved the classwork because it shows the children, of all ages, that the classwork is important. It creates a vital connection between what the young child is spending their day doing and how the parents value that. It creates motivation. And that can be a powerful way to push a child to greatness.

9. How can you help teachers improve their methods of instruction?

I’m very interested in innovation and using technological tools to help teachers build their classrooms. I’m very aware that a lot of the time, too much tech can be difficult for teachers to keep up with. But I think surveying tools with the teachers can be a great way to find what will work more effectively from the educator’s perspective.

10. If a teacher is beginning their first semester at a school, how would you support them?

Mentorship is vital for new educators. I would either pair the teacher with a teaching assistant to help with the often overwhelming load of the first year or pair them with a seasoned educator that can provide them with insight and guidance. I would always make sure every educator and staff member knows that I have an open door policy. If there is a struggle or issue happening with a new teacher, I want them to know that I’m available to try and help solve their concerns.

11. Was there ever a time where you had to give negative feedback to a long-standing teacher? How did the situation play out?

Answers will vary. Look for answers that suggest a level of tact and respect for the educator, as well as a mutually beneficial solution.

12. How would you improve the school’s level of involvement with the local community?

I think fun events can really bridge the gap and offer an initiative for students and community members alike to get together. Fundraising for festivals, luncheons, sports events, and other events can help students invest more in their community and see the school as a part of it.

13. What do you believe are the strengths and weaknesses of our school?

This can be a touchy question, as the interviewee definitely does not want to make a comment that could affect their likelihood of employment. However, you should look for answers that are confident but also have significant merit. If the prospective principle seems to have done a lot of research on the school’s financial situation and graduation rate, that means they are invested.

14. Describe your vision of an effective and successful school.

The answers to this question will be quite mixed. Look for answers that blend disciplinarian elements and overall student success elements. Heavily in one way or another can show how the interviewee is set in one particular principle style, which can often be a problem. A willingness to be fluid between leadership styles shows that the interviewee sees themselves as a leader and part of a team, not a boss.

15. How would you describe your leadership style? Would you consider yourself as a disciplinarian?

This question is quite similar to the above question. The difference here is that the interviewee should show an understanding of the benefits of being fluid as a student and faculty leader. For example, the interviewee may cite their history of a “no third chances” leadership style as a factor behind high student graduation rates. This may not be an accurate assessment and the interviewee may have too intense of a disciplinarian, traditional leadership style.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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