An Interview Question on a Mission

If you are going for a leadership role in the Business Services section of a school district, you are probably going to be asked something like the following in an interview.

If we hire you into this role, how will you advance the mission of the school district?

Not Recommended:

You created this position so I don’t have to tell you that it adds value and is mission-aligned.  I will devote myself to this job and do it well, because that’s what I do.

Source: bbcshop.com

Source: bbcshop.com

Although this may be exactly how you view the job – don’t say it.

One of my favorite TV shows is the British series “New Tricks”.  On one episode a detective is interviewing a woman whose son had been murdered.  She asks cynically if he thinks he will obtain justice for her son, or if he thinks he is going to make her feel better somehow.  “None of those things,” he says.  “I catch bad guys.  It is what I do.”

For us, finance is what we do.

Source: gocalifornia.about.com

Cliff House, San Francisco.  Rocks protect from wind and water (not lightning though). Photo Credit: gocalifornia.about.com

I have always held the view that well-managed finances are the rock upon which the instructional house is built.  When rain, flood and wind arrive (i.e. a bad economy) your house will not fall down.  My mantra: When there is no money everything is about the money, to the detriment of students.

With this attitude, I am fairly sure that if I were interviewing now I would have a hard time getting hired.

Recommended:

Earnestly and convincingly assert that you love education as a field in general and you are passionate about this district in particular.  Create a list of key words from the district’s mission, vision and strategic plan.  Populate your answer with these words (sort of like search engine optimization).  Be careful.  This will backfire if it sounds contrived in any way.

Since you function as support to support staff, and do not interact directly with teachers and students very often, describe ways you will reduce that gap.  You might join local PTA meetings, or mentor a student, or arrange for your staff to volunteer at schools a couple of times a year.  Give compelling specific examples of past activities, especially in support of school principals.

Know that expectations have changed.  Will conforming to these expectations make the district’s financial foundation more secure?  Probably. The more you understand the house, the better the foundation that you’ll build.  You’ll certainly get more accurate information sooner.

P.S. this post was inspired by cavegirlmba’s interview series.  See her blog here.

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