The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that there are 90,400 public school principals in the U.S. as of 2015-16 (most recent data).

Females comprise 54% of this position – an increase of 10% from the 1999-2000 data. The majority (69%) work in elementary schools, followed by 22% in secondary schools, and only 9% in elementary public schools. In addition, a significant percentage (78%) is white, compared to only 11% being African-American.

The NCES states that 61% of principals have a master’s degree, whereas a mere 10% had a doctorate for the 2015-16 school year statistics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 275,400 principals in the U.S. for public and private schools from elementary to high school. The average wage is $95,310 (May 2018 data) with a master’s degree. The job growth is expected to be 4% or a change in only 11,200 jobs from 2018-28. This number equates to just over 1,100 jobs a year for ten years. Therefore, a small amount of openings creates few opportunities for aspiring principals.

When a principal’s job is posted, there could be an overwhelming response from eligible candidates. One way to improve the chances of a job offer is to prepare for the interview. Mastering interview skills is paramount in any profession or vocation. It is a two-way communication where the interviewer and the applicant gather information. As the interviewee, you are in the spotlight.

There are hosts of qualities that apply to all interviews. Examples are self-confidence, poise, professional dress and demeanor, communication skills, enthusiasm, and determination. These are soft skills. Of course, the tangibles include your degree, experience, awards, recognition, and additional training and certificates.

The role of the principal is one of communication and leadership. You are the CEO of the school who typically reports to the school board. The teaching staff looks to you for direction and decisiveness. In the interview, you may display your administrative acumen by relating committees or community organizations where you assumed a leadership role. This experience is crucial for the first-time principal. Individuals advancing from teacher to principal will need to demonstrate when and where they were in a position of authority.

Here are some of the questions you may encounter.

What do you know about our school?

The question may arise when you interview for a job in another district or another state. Then, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the school, the staff, and the community. To gather the information may require a trip to the school. Talk to the teachers; check out the school’s sports programs and extracurricular activities. Armed with this knowledge, you can offer ways to enhance academic performance, for example.

What is the primary goal of a Principal?

The school board wants to see their schools excel academically. By conferring with the teaching staff, you set goals to increase grades where students lag behind the state averages. What programs could the teachers and principal implement to make this happen? Your answer to the above question provides the interview with your skills as a collaborator in the pursuit of success for all students.

How do you cultivate leadership in others?

You want to engage the leadership skills of the assistant principal and encourage teachers to be leaders. What means are there to make teachers more influential in the classroom? Studies show that effective leadership at all levels within a school promotes higher math and reading test grades.

Encourage teachers to participate in community activities and form clubs for students. Involvement in after school projects can be beneficial in low-income neighborhoods with high crime statistics.

How do you imagine a typical workday?

A collaborative study by the University of Minnesota and the University of Toronto concluded that high-scoring principals frequently visited classrooms. Short spontaneous visits provided opportunities for instructional feedback to the teachers. A positive approach to these sessions can encourage professional development where needed.

How do you see the role of being a Principal?

The question opens to the door to expound on the tenets of management and your personal views on the topic. In schools or corporations, the supporting cast can play a significant role in the success of the one in charge. There could be multiple layers of managers at the corporate level, depending on the employee population. In schools, the teachers can be the source of accolades. Stellar teachers create high-achieving grades, which elevate the status of the school. Consequently, the school board or superintendent recognizes these accomplishments as a testament to your leadership skills.

To assist you with the question above, visit your local library and read books on management and leadership. Many pertain directly to the educational system. One place to start is Goodreads, which has an enormous list of educational leadership books.

Additional Resources:

What is usually done for a background check of teachers? 

What kind of work should I do to get on the path to becoming a principal? 

Do I need a Ph.D. to be a school Principal?

Does becoming a Middle School principal have different requirements from a High School principal?