Top 20 Assistant Principal Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

For many educators, an assistant principalship is the entry point into school administration. And what is that point marked by? Well, the assistant principal interview questions, of course.

If you’re interested in becoming one of the more than 34,000 assistant principals in the United States, here’s what you need to know about tackling assistant principal interview questions, including some amazing tips and helpful examples.

How to Answer Assistant Principal Interview Questions

Alright, before we dive into the examples, we are going to pause for a quick second and talk about something critical: how to develop a winning interview strategy.

While a list of assistant principal interview questions and example answers can give you some clues about what to expect when you’re trying to land the job, that alone isn’t enough to shine. Instead, you need a reliable technique for tackling questions that you expect, as well as those you didn’t see coming. That way, you’re ready for anything.

So, what goes into a winning strategy? Well, it all starts with research.

Currently, there are about 98,000 public K-12 schools and around 34,500 private ones, and any of them might hire assistant principals. While these schools likely have quite a bit in common, they are also incredibly different.

Each school represents a unique community, has its own set of challenges, and has different expectations of the person they hire for the role. By doing your research, you can learn more about the individual school’s needs, allowing you to work that information into your interview answers.

Once it’s research time, where do you start? Well, the best place to begin is usually the assistant principal job description. There, you learn a ton about what the district is after when it comes to skills (both the hard skills and soft skills), traits, and experience.

When it comes to what assistant principal candidates need to bring to the table, it can vary a bit. However, patience and empathy are big ones, particularly when it comes to dealing with students. Excellent communication skills, organization, dedication, and leadership are also crucial, both for helping kids and when handling administrative duties.

After that, it’s smart to check out the school’s website and social media pages. Those are all great places to learn more about its mission and values, as well as get glimpses into its culture, position in the community, and more.

Finally, taking a moment to look for recent news is a good idea. In many cases, a school’s accomplishments and challenges do make the local paper, so it doesn’t hurt to see what’s been going on recently.

After that, it’s time to come up with an approach for answering the assistant principal interview questions. You’ll want to be ready for classic job interview questions like “Why are you a good fit for this job?” and “How do you handle stress?” along with job-specific ones.

So, how do you get ready? Well, an excellent first step is to get familiar with the Tailoring Method. In the simplest sense, the Tailoring Method is an approach to interview questions that focuses on relevancy, allowing you to speak to a district’s unique needs. With it, your responses will be far more compelling, helping you stand out from other candidates.

When it comes time for behavioral interview questions, you want to combine the Tailoring Method with the STAR Method. That way, your answers are relevant and engaging, providing the district with clear examples as to why you’re the best candidate.

Top 3 Assistant Principal Interview Questions

Alright, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for; it’s time to dive into some assistant principal interview questions. If you want to see some of the tips above put into action, here’s a look at the top three assistant principal interview questions and some example answers.

1. If a teacher was underperforming, how would you approach the situation?

When a teacher is underperforming, everyone feels it. The students suffer because it’s harming the quality of their education, something that parents usually get hit by too. Other teachers are also impacted, as they may have to help students who were ill-prepared to move forward.

As an assistant principal, there’s a good chance you’ll be tasked with addressing performance issues, something that can be incredibly challenging. Ultimately, you need to show that you have a plan and that you can step up as a leader. By touching on both points, you’re usually in good shape.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“One of my primary goals is to ensure that all teachers can succeed. If a teacher began underperforming, my priority would be to find a path that helps them meet or exceed expectations.

Precisely how I would proceed could depend on the situation. However, having a conversation about expectations, as well as giving them a safe space to discuss challenges they are facing, would always be part of the equation. If there was an obstacle or issue in play that I could address, that would become one of my main focuses.

If needed, I would also conduct some classroom observations. This could provide me with crucial context, giving me more insight into what’s occurring.

Once I have a solid grasp on the situation, I would work with the teacher to develop an improvement plan. By combining guidance, support, and regular check-ins to monitor progress or make adjustments to the plan, I feel that most performance issues will improve, allowing everyone to move forward toward long-term success.”

MIKE'S TIP: If you’re trying to become an assistant principal at a school where teachers are covered by a union, it’s smart to do a little extra research to help you answer this question effectively. Often, union contracts have information about disciplinary action or addressing performance issues. By reviewing those details, you can make sure your answer aligns with what’s required, and that may help you stand out from other candidates.

2. If you were discussing a disciplinary issue with a parent, and the parent became hostile, what would you do?

One of the biggest challenges assistant principals face is discussing discipline issues with parents. Hearing that their child isn’t following rules or is causing trouble isn’t easy, for one. For another, getting what can amount to parenting advice from someone they may only know in passing is pretty difficult, too.

In most cases, you want to present a methodical approach for diffusing the situation. That way, it shows you’re ready to navigate this challenge.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“When I speak with parents, I always keep in mind that any hostility is usually an attempt to protect their child and not a personal attack on me. By starting there, it helps me remain empathetic and ensures I view the situation from their perspective.

As they speak, I actively listen to everything they share. Once they finish, I rephrase and summarize what they’d said, allowing me to ensure I fully understand their point of view. If I’m not completely clear, I ask clarifying questions to get more insight.

Once I’m apprised of their position, I focus on reassuring them. I want them to understand that my goal is to help their child succeed. Additionally, I let them know that I want to work together with them to find a solution, putting us on the same team.

Through patience and kindness, I find that most situations do calm. If hostility continues, then my priority is always to maintain a safe environment for students, and I will follow any district policies regarding the next course of action.”

3. What traits do you think are most important for assistant principals?

While this question is simple on the surface, that doesn’t mean you want to wing it. It’s a great opportunity for tailoring, as you can reference traits you saw in the assistant principal job description or those relating to a school’s mission or values.

Additionally, you want to make sure you achieve a level of balance. You want to show that you’re ready for the challenges and success. Similarly, you want to tap on traits that are crucial for the range of duties, including administrative, educational, and relationship-building with students, parents, and faculty.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“When it comes to important traits, I believe that patience is the biggest. Challenges can take time to resolve, and people take time to grow. With patience, I can be there for the journey, ensuring I can be supportive each step of the way.

“As for other traits, leadership, organization, and communication are all crucial. They help an assistant principal to serve as a source of guidance, remain coordinated, and convey information to a variety of people, ranging from students to parents to faculty.

“With those by my side, I feel equipped to handle the challenges and support greater success, ensuring everyone has what they need to thrive.”

17 More Assistant Principal Interview Questions

Here are 17 more assistant principal interview questions:

    1. Why did you start a career in education?
    2. What about this school appeals to you?
    3. Tell me about your background in education. How did it prepare you for this role?
    4. What about working as an assistant principal excites you most? What are you most concerned about?
    5. Why are you interested in becoming an assistant principal?
    6. What do you do to ensure the success of all students?
    7. Tell me about your experience with creating school schedules.
    8. How would you describe your leadership style? What about your educational philosophy?
    9. Tell me about your approach to student discipline.
    10. Describe a time when you successfully helped a student navigate a challenge.
    11. Tell me about a time where you had to share a difficult piece of information.
    12. If you saw a student being bullied by another student, what would you do?
    13. If you saw a student being bullied by a teacher, what would you do?
    14. Tell me about a time where you received a complaint about a teacher from a student. How did you address it?
    15. When you receive a complaint about a teacher from a parent, how do you handle it?
    16. If you felt a student was being treated unfairly by a teacher, how would you address the situation?
    17. What steps would you take to improve test scores at our school?

5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of an Assistant Principal Interview

When your interview is almost at an end, you usually get a chance to ask a few questions of your own. This is a crucial opportunity, as it lets you learn more about the role, the school, and more.

Plus, by asking smart questions, you’ll come across as engaged and enthusiastic about the position. After all, if you weren’t genuinely interested, you wouldn’t try to find out more information.

While you can ask a question that comes to mind during the interview, it’s also wise to have a few ready to go in advance. That way, if nothing sticks out during the meeting, you’ll still have something to say.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are five good questions to ask at the end of an assistant principal interview:

    1. What is the biggest challenge this school faces, and how could the assistant principal help overcome it?
    2. How would you describe the level of support this school receives from the local community?
    3. What professional development opportunities are made available to teachers and administrators in this district?
    4. Can you describe a typical day in the assistant principal position at this school?
    5. How would you describe this school’s culture?

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have a pretty solid idea of how to tackle the assistant principal interview questions. Use all of the tips above to your advantage, allowing you to craft great answers that really address the needs of the district. That way, you can increase your odds of standing out, making it more likely that you’ll land your dream role as an assistant principal.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.