Prepare for
Principal Interview Questions

Typical principal interview questions will explore your leadership qualities, your capacity to build effective relationships, your operational management skills and your job knowledge.

Man in suit sitting at desk with sign "Principal"

Use the interview answer help to prepare your own excellent answers to these interview questions.

11 Essential Principal Interview Questions

1. Why do you want to be principal of this school?

Your research and preparation is critical to answering this.

Clearly detail why you are interested and give specific facts and details. Consider aspects such as:

  • the student body
  • the staff
  • the curriculum
  • the school reputation
  • educational objectives and initiatives
  • extracurricular activities

Effective research will help make your answers both current and relevant.

2. What has been your greatest contribution to the schools you have worked in?

Make your answer relevant to the needs of this principal job when answering these type of principal interview questions.  How did you contribute to:

  • the overall effectiveness of the school
  • to student achievement
  • to staff development
  • to strengthening the school culture?

3. What would be your top priorities in this position?

The school want to know that you have an action plan in place. Understand the needs, demands, culture and values of this particular school or district. Show you are:

  • willing to confront and remediate inadequacies in the school
  • to modify school structures where necessary
  • to identify and capitalize on current strengths

4. How do you motivate and encourage staff?

Highlight the steps you take to create a climate in which people want to perform to the best of their ability. How do you assess an individual's strengths and develop them? Highlight the mechanisms you put in place to support staff through collaboration and inclusion.

5. Outline the role that parents should play in the school?

Discuss your vision of positive parental contribution and how you have facilitated and promoted this through the implementation of  school initiatives.

6. How do you set about building good relationships with staff and parents?

The ability to build constructive and effective relationship is key to success in this role. How do you establish trust and confidence? All these actions contribute to successful relationships:

  • sharing relevant information
  • setting a clear direction
  • objectives and measures
  • providing and encouraging constructive feedback

7. What professional development activities have you undertaken recently?

Research has shown that effective principals derive much of their professional development from community partnerships and colleagues.

Demonstrate how your professional development activities have addressed the personal areas you identified as needing improvement or strengthening. How have these activities allowed you to perform your job more effectively?

8. What professional goals have you set yourself for the next 5 years?

Focus on broad goals that contribute to the overall improvement of the school. Consider:

  • student results and achievement
  • staff performance and development
  • instructional quality
  • the school culture and reputation
  • community involvement

9. What are the most critical inputs you can bring to this school?

10. On what criteria do you judge your success as a principal?

11. What are your major strengths as a principal?

Focus on these 6 core principal competencies when formulating your interview answers to these 3 principal interview questions.


Leadership involves the provision of a clear purpose and direction to the school staff and students.

A successful leader demonstrates:

  • visionary ability
  • strategic thinking skills
  • the ability to motivate, develop and inspire
  • the ability to successfully implement change

How have you anticipated and made use of opportunities, communicated a compelling vision or purpose and developed a shared understanding of the school's objectives and activities?

Focus on recognized leadership traits when providing evidence of this competency.

Operational Management

This includes the ability to implement processes, procedures and policies for managing and maximizing relevant data to facilitate decision-making and goal setting.

Your answers to these principal interview questions should highlight:

  • your ability to use resources appropriately
  • your ability to focus on what is important
  • your ability to use available inputs to make improvements
  • your ability to manage data effectively

Use your knowledge of what makes a good manager to develop your answers.

Instructional Management

Principals should be a source of information on current educational trends and effective learning and instructional trends.

Successful principals clearly understand:

  • the issues relating to curriculum
  • current educational philosophies and beliefs
  • the different models of teaching
  • pedagogical strategies and assessment

Diversity Management

This includes the ability to:

  • recognize and promote the value of diversity
  • to create a learning environment that responds to the needs of diverse learners and staff
  • to adapt educational management to the needs of a diverse district

Discuss how you have fostered a climate of inclusion and integration.


Are you able to present information in an accessible and clear manner and to adapt your communication style to your audience - students, staff, parents and community?

Discuss how you facilitate teamwork and resolve conflict.

Decision Making

This involves the use of logic, inputs and experience to make appropriate decisions. How have you established shared ownership of the decision within the learning environment and community?

Decision making is one of the 12 core competencies identified as essential to success across a wide range of career fields.

Good behavioral principal interview questions

These are 5 insightful behavioral interview questions that principals may be asked in interviews.

1. Schools today have to deal with a number of complex social issues, tell me about a recent situation when you had to deal with a sensitive issue and what was the outcome?

2. Tell me about a significant change you introduced at your school.

3. Describe a conflict you experienced with a colleague or parent, how did you go about handling it?

4. Tell me how you have used available data to make an improvement in student learning and achievement.

5. Tell me about a time you had to juggle competing demands and priorities to achieve an important goal.

Principal interview questions in 2023

Principals have had to adapt to different demands following the disruption to education caused by the pandemic. Expect some interview questions about these challenges:

"What has been the biggest challenge following the school closures of the pandemic and how are you managing it?"

"How have you helped your teaching staff to deal with the consequences of disrupted education over the last few years?"

"What are your biggest concerns going forward after the disruptions in education?"

Your strengths as a principal

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a principal? Use this comprehensive list of strengths to provide an insightful answer.

List of workplace weaknesses

School principal interview pages

These complete guides to the teacher interview provides excellent guidelines on answering educational interview questions.


Teacher Interview Guide


Teacher Interview Questions

Be fully confident about answering behavioral interview questions. You can expect a number of these type of competency based interview questions.

A principal is a manager in an educational milieu. View management job interview questions as a further resource in preparing for principal interview questions.

Leadership Interview Questions

Be ready with a set of insightful principal interview questions to ask the interviewers.

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