How To Prepare To Conduct A Virtual Interview

Written By Guest Blogger: Rochelle Harris, Principal

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius

So the hiring season is upon us and it is time to fill vacant positions with effective, caring, passionate, dedicated individuals. Now that we are in the crux of a pandemic, how in the world do you prepare for virtual interviews?  This was the very question that went through my mind as I realized my “normal” had drastically changed and I would have to explore the virtual world. Yes, I have conducted virtual interviews in the past, but they were few and far between. Even then, I had the luxury of conducting the interviews while at my school with the other panel members sitting with me around a conference table.  So now having to do all the interviews virtually would be a new area to explore. 

My mind began to race as I thought about how I would pull it all together. You see, I hate to admit it, but I’m still a paper/pencil kind of principal. I know it’s hard to believe in this day and age where technology reigns supreme. So, this was going to be a challenge, but one I was willing to face. In my office, conducting interviews would not be a challenge at all. I would have all my color coded folders and each document sitting nicely inside. Markers on hand to label each folder for the various candidates. Using my printer to produce more copies than one could ever want. I was the queen of interview preparation, so I thought. How could a person this organized and prepared now feel stress and anxiety over something I’ve done a million times? Simple, I hadn’t made the shift, the shift to relying heavily on technology.  This was going to be my chance to finally transfer all my hard copies into digital documents stored neatly in Google folders and easily accessible.

Let’s fast forward a bit and detail what this looked like for me as I transitioned and turned things around quickly. I realized I was not digitally organized at all. I had to search every folder on my computer and track down old emails to locate the items I needed. This had to change. I was driving myself crazy and I hadn’t scheduled not one interview. So, I decide to get myself together and conquer this new challenge. I did the following things and I must say, I have been transformed:

  • Organize/prepare interview questions. Determine the questions you will ask and for which positions. Standardized questions work best so you can see how each candidate’s response compares to the others.
  • Create folders that will house the documents that you need and clearly label them. I happen to use my Google drive for this. My main folder is labeled Standardized Interview Questions. Within that folder, I created additional folders for the various positions.  Of course I have them color coded too.
  • Select your interview panel and share the process with them prior to the interviews being conducted. Provide them with a digital copy of the interview questions and determine which panel member will ask which question.
  • Select a place in your home in which you will set up your technology. Ensure the background is not distracting and gives a professional look.
  • Test your technology. Make sure your camera is in working condition and the sound quality is good. 
  • Communicate to others in the home when and where you will conduct the virtual interviews. This cuts down on distractions.
  • Schedule the interviews and be sure to communicate the time zone. This is essential, trust me…LOL.
  •  I use my Google calendar to see if panel members are available. This cuts down on the back and forth of seeing when others are available for the interview.
  • If you are feeling really fancy, create a short video to showcase your school. This is important since candidates will not be able to physically come to the building until a later date. This can be shared with the candidate prior to the interview.
  • Set a time limit for the interview.
  • Keep paper/pencil nearby to jot down responses or type them on the document during the interview. I’m still working on typing the responses while conducting the interview.
  • Lastly, be yourself and enjoy the process!

This in no way is all inclusive. I only wanted to provide a few tips that were helpful to me as I made the transition to conducting virtual interviews. Take what you need from the post and feel free to make it your own. There is no one way of doing things.  During challenging times, we must continue to rely on others and support each other as needed. It may seem like a simple task, but it has a great impact. Find what brings you joy and embrace all that is good. Enjoy the process and I wish you the best as you seek effective, caring, passionate, dedicated individuals to join your TEAM!

Rochelle D. Harris, Principal Clayton County Public Schools

Rochelle Harris is an elementary school principal in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Mrs. Harris has served as an educator for over 26 years and held a plethora of positions. Rochelle has been a classroom teacher, Early Intervention Specialist, literacy coach, and school level administrator. Education is her passion and she looks forward to serving in the education field for many years to come.

How Do You Avoid Leadership Burnout?

Written By: Mrs. Jamilah A. Hud-Kirk

For many school leaders, the approaching of the end of the year means a long to-do list that is not limited to: analyzing data, planning next year’s schedules, hiring for next year, completing evaluations, monitoring RTI, running after school or Saturday camps, monitoring collaborative planning, and keeping morale high for staff, to name a few.

We love our students and staff! We are serving in our purpose. However, even working with the best team of professionals, the job can be challenging and all consuming if you don’t consciously and purposefully make time to take care of yourself. How do you practice self care? How do you encourage self-care for your staff? Do you have a culture that encourages self-care? Here a few tips that have worked for my school or I plan to use to improve my own culture of self-care.

Value Time

When you value people’s time, this shows that you value them. I know that most leaders have their own ideas and beliefs on when and how often staff meetings should occur. Some prefer to meet face to face, flip their meetings or believe that meetings should not occur after a long day at work. Well… I have done a combination of both and depending on the demands for that year and even the make up of my staff needs, I’ve had to adjust. Try reducing the number of after school meetings, limit emails outside of the work day (except when sending information that is needed for the following week), and provide duty free, uninterrupted lunch without students. Your staff will thank you!

Acknowledge The Importance of Physical Health

Physical exhaustion can take a toll on our bodies, and may manifest in different ways such as colds, mood swings, high blood pressure and even unprofessional behaviors that are typically not exhibited by the individual. As a leader, it is necessary to monitor these signs in the adults that are responsible for educating our students. It may be necessary to send staff members home who are clearly sick, but do not want to take a leave of absence in fear of letting down their students. Most organizations also offer Employee Assistance Programs with free short-term counseling services for their employees. Conducting check-ins with staff shows that you care about your students, and the adults who rise to the challenge of filling the cup of their students even if it means pouring a little from their own to do so.

Incorporate Self-Care Into Your Staff Meetings

I recently pitched to my leadership team the idea of utilizing our Department of Psychological Services. Services will include training on self care strategies that will enable teachers to feel empowered to manage behaviors and the burnout typically experienced by educators during the testing season. You may also consider contacting outside providers who may be willing to volunteer their time in showing staff how to navigate their physical health through nutrition and exercise. Creating a weight loss challenge with offerings of workouts after school (exercise and yoga) to encourage healthy habits could impact your self-care culture.

Model Self-Care at the Top

I shared my story in a previous post regarding my journey in practicing balance in my personal life. A commitment to wellness and self-care begins with the culture an organization’s leader creates and the behaviors they model. If a principal doesn’t practice self-care, employees are unlikely to prioritize it for themselves. They’ll simply believe overwork is the only way and what you expect. By modeling healthy practices, you are more likely to retain your best teachers because they will feel valued as professionals in your organization. As a leader we should want to empower others to make healthy choices. I recently read somewhere that as leaders we cannot expect to bear the entire responsibility in creating a culture of success. As important as your role is in creating change, monitoring change and encouraging change, you cannot be the change alone. You are one piece to the puzzle. It must be a shared responsibility of everyone to create a healthy climate for all stakeholders. Taking this burden off of you as the leader, leaves more room to fill your own cup.

Next Steps…

  1. Write 2-3 things you will do this month to nurture your personal self-care.
  2. Write 1-2 things you will do to nurture self-care with your staff during the months of March, April and May (Testing season).
  3. Set reminders in your personal and work calendars. Keep personal and work separate.

Getting Ready for the Next Step in Leadership

Written By: Mrs. Jamilah A. Hud-Kirk

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.

– Arthur Ashe

As we approach the spring, typically administrators are gearing up for their internal letter of intents to determine who will be with them during the upcoming school year, teachers are reflecting and reviewing their options on whether or not they want a change and districts are planning their spring job fairs in an attempt to catch the high quality teachers early. As a future administrator candidate, how do you prepare for your next step in leadership?

I recently found myself in a quandary when I returned from the Thanksgiving break to discover that in approximately 2 weeks, I needed to find a new Assistant Principal for the second half of the school year. As I completed the task of finding a new AP, I reviewed all 81 candidate applications, references and resumes. You see, each document would shed a light on who the candidates were and whether or not they would be a great fit for my school. The challenge of course is how do you narrow them down to your top five for interview candidates? How do I find those resumes that provided artifacts as a  summary of their skills, abilities and accomplishments? As I reviewed the candidates, I quickly realized that people are not good at selling themselves.

What is the purpose of a resume? A resume is a quick advertisement of who you are. It is a snapshot of you with the intent of capturing and emphasizing your strengths and interests that will secure you an interview with an organization that could use your expertise.

So I asked myself, if I could speak to some of the candidates and provide feedback on some things to keep in my mind as they are beginning to apply for that leadership position, what would I say? Well, I will attempt to provide my 5 top things future leader candidates should keep in mind when applying for a leadership position.

  1. Attention to details matter. Stand out from the crowd with high quality content and a clearly written, error-free document. Don’t forget to have someone review your resume for errors, formatting and key information. Remember, your resume and cover letter is also a reflection of your writing skills and ability to communicate with others.
  2. Reflect leadership. When applying for a leadership position, be sure your resume reflects leadership experiences held during your tenure in schools. Your resume should reflect the job you are seeking. Leaders look for individuals who have experience leading others and leading change. This includes positions such as grade level chair, department chair, MTSS chair, School Improvement Team, etc.
  3. Do your homework. Research the school in which you are applying to. A web page or social media page will tell you a lot about the culture and climate of the organization you are applying to. Yes, data is important, however, data alone does not always tell the story of who the people are that make up the organization. How do you connect to their initiatives? What is important to the organization and how can you support or enhance what is already there?
  4. Update your references. Be sure you have updated references on your resume and in the online portal that your completing your application in. During my review of applicants, I found that many applicants had the same references from when they may have applied for a position with the same district over 2 years ago. In my district, we must have a reference from your current or most recent supervisor. Be sure your references are aware that you are applying and be sure they are able to give you a favorable reference.
  5. Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. ~ Confucius. Prepare for the interview. It is never to early to prepare for your interview. If this is your first time interviewing for a leadership position, ask your current leader or friends in leadership to conduct a mock interview for practice. Nervous jitters can get the best of us. Research possible questions that are typically asked in these types of interviews. I have provided a video below that I have shared with many aspiring school leaders who have expressed interest in tapping their toe in the leadership pool. Principal Baruti Kafele’s video on “More Thoughts to Consider for the Assistant Principalship,” is one of the best videos I have found that gives you the “real talk” on interview preparation. Most importantly, know why you are wanting to be a leader. Your passion for leadership will come out during your interview.

So, are you ready for your for the next step in school leadership? Good Luck!

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