Your 5-Stage Path to Success in the Admin Job Search

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to rise above the competition and land multiple offers for your next-level instructional leadership role...so you can fulfill your professional calling and have a greater impact on student learning.

This is a head-to-head competition—and to win it, you must think like an athlete.

Winners in this arena aren't chosen "when it's their time" or "when the right fit comes along." They win as a result of focused effort. 

Athletes don't show up unprepared for the big day. They train for months in advance—mastering the fundamentals, eliminating their weaknesses, and studying the competition so they can rise above. 

When you understand the nature of the hiring process, you can prepare yourself to succeed, no matter what obstacles you face. Your journey as a competitor has five main stages:

1. Discover your leadership superpowers, so you can articulate how you'll meet the organization's needs.

You are more than your degrees—you have unique strengths that need to shine through in the hiring process.

2. Recruit your references, so they'll start drafting recommendation letters and putting in a good word for you.

Don't let a surprise reference check be the first they're hearing of your job search.

3. Craft your application argument, so you're not just sending in paperwork, but making a strong case that you're the best candidate for the role—even before your interview.

Your résumé and cover letter aren't just cold facts on paper—they're an argument for your candidacy.

4. Train for interview day, so you're ready for any question—cool, collected, and ready to use the stories you've prepared to illustrate why you're the right person for the job.

If you prepare the right way, you'll be at ease—and your interviewers will hang on every word you say.

5. Race to the finish line, so you get two or more job offers, and don't have to settle for waiting another year or taking a position you don't feel great about.

This is marathon, not a sprint. Success requires training and preparation for every stage of the hiring process. 

However, you won't always move linearly through these stages—as your job search unfolds, your situation can change rapidly.

New positions open all the time, and you'll suddenly get called to interview for jobs you'd already forgotten about.

That's why it's essential to prepare—and be ready to adapt the moment you see a new position or get called in for an interview.

I was frustrated and discouraged by the highly competitive application and interview process for building leaders.

You helped me land a dream job as an assistant principal.

Nancy // Assistant Principal

The Gauntlet: 3 Gatekeepers Standing Between You and Your Dream Job

To land your next-level instructional leadership role, you must make it through a gauntlet of three gatekeepers: 

1. Application screening—the review of your cover letter, résumé, and application details, which will determine who gets an interview.

2. Interviews—two or more rounds of questioning to reveal who you are as a leader—the person behind the paperwork.

3. Reference checks—a final check to verify that you're the real deal. Most people don't realize that their references are actually involved from the very beginning of the process—in putting out feelers, putting in a good word for you, and connecting you with opportunities. 

Everything you need to succeed in the admin job search

Module 1: Discover Your Leadership Superpowers

  • Identify your most valuable accomplishments to convey in applications and interviews
  • Document current and past experience with the Ascend Leadership Journal
  • Craft the narrative of your leadership journey, so it's a logical next step on your career trajectory  

Module 2: Recruit Your References

  • Discover how to build the relationships you need to get the mentoring and advocacy that will propel you forward
  • Build your reference list, so you have a small army of colleagues advocating for you
  • Get draft recommendation letters from your references, screen them for red flags, and get the revisions you need
  • Gain the support of—or learn how to work around—a boss who finds you useful in your current role, but doesn't see your leadership potential

Module 3: Craft Your Application Argument

  • Learn how to separate yourself from the pack when applying for highly competitive positions
  • Write a Professional Objective that clearly identifies your Perfect Fit Role and lets the hiring team know exactly what you're looking for
  • Draft, revise, and proof your résumé and cover letter so your strongest qualifications leap off the page

Module 4: Train For Interview Day

  • Craft well-rounded answers to practice interview questions, so you're ready to go deep on any ed leadership topic
  • Get comfortable talking about your qualifications in detail—on camera or in person
  • Learn how to avoid the mistakes that will keep you from advancing to the next round of interviews

Module 5: Race To The Finish Line

  • Develop the Champion’s Mindset—play to win, and persist until you land your dream job
  • Apply for enough of the jobs to win the numbers game—without spreading yourself too thin
  • Break through bottlenecks and keep moving when you face rejection

I GOT THE JOB. I'm now a first year A.P. and loving my job!

Robin // Assistant principal

Stay Focused on the Right Actions—Diagnostic

Feeling stuck? Wondering where to focus your efforts right now? Our interactive assessment helps you focus on the most important actions at every stage of your job search, with instant recommendations. 

Organize Your Search—Everything In One Place

Use our proprietary drag-and-drop organizer to keep track of the jobs you're applying for at every stage of the hiring process—plus keep your documents, answers to application questions, and other key information handy so you can apply for more jobs, faster.

I interviewed at a school where I already worked, and my principal was amazed at the confidence I projected during my interview, especially since it was my first admin interview. I did get the job, by the way. I also used what I learned to interview for my first principal job, and I got that job too.

Jennifer // principal

Practice for Interviews—On Camera

Interviews are your moment to shine—so it's essential to walk in prepared and confident. 

Most people are unaccustomed to talking about themselves, so they fail to provide enough evidence that they're right for the job. 

In our exclusive VIP (Video Interview Practice) interactive tool, you'll practice 52 handpicked interview questions—on camera, with the timer running. 

If you can give a 5-minute answer to any question, loaded with accomplishments and evidence of your leadership abilities, you'll have no trouble rising above the competition.

But preparation isn't just thinking out loud—it's about constructing answers that highlight your experience. 

In the Ascend Masterclass, you'll learn how to mine your experience for the best stories and accomplishments...

...and organize them into coherent, easy-to-remember answers...

...so you're ready for whatever questions are thrown at you. 

Wanted to thank you for your amazing resources!  I recently utilized your interview tips and practice questions. 

Watching myself was BRUTAL, but it made me very aware the importance of me to be myself.

I applied as an internal candidate for an Assistant Principal position. This past week I was offered the position. Thank you again!

Erin // Assistant Principal

used and practiced your interview questions quite a bit. I also used your advice to have some prepared stories to help (which indeed, I did beat out an internal candidate).

Todd //

Craft Your Application Argument:
Cover Letter Generator App

The Cover Letter Generator is our drag-and-drop, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank app for writing a powerful cover letter that gets you more interviews.

In less than an hour, you can have a brand-new cover letter. Simply fill in the blank fields, choose from up to 8 multiple-choice options for each phrase, and customize your accomplishments.  

Apply In Style:

10 Experience Matrix™ Résumé Templates 
with Matching "Perfect Fit" Cover Letter Templates

Stand out with these ten sets of fully customizable Microsoft Word .docx templates for your résumé & cover letter—built with precisely the right sections, in the right order, to make your experience shine through.

I started doing mock interviews with friends and people in my network just to sharpen my skillset, sharpen my stories, and get prepared for a landing my first principal position, and guess what—it worked!

It absolutely worked. This tool is incredible.

If you've been on the fence, if you're in the hunt for a new principal or assistant principal position, this is an incredible tool. 

I highly recommend it.

Danny Bauer // Better Leaders Better Schools

I don't believe I've ever told you thank you for getting me my dream job. I was a special ed teacher and had interviewed and come in second place for several principal positions. I took your advice, and it was a game changer. 

The next position I interviewed for, I was up against an internal favorite. I found out after I had the job, the district created a position for another principal who was near retirement so that there was a spot for the internal fave and another one for me!

Ann // Principal

I applied and followed your advice for interviewing.

I had my stories set for any question they had for me.

I found out that I was in the top 5 candidates, and have secured an Academy Principal at our STEM High School for next year!

I'm extremely excited! Thank you so much for the advice and guidance. I'm looking forward to continuing learning from you as I begin my new adventures!

Thanks so much!

Jen // High School Principal

Hey Justin, your videos and guidance helped my land my current job. I am so thankful for your advice! It took many interviews, but I found the perfect fit for my family and I.

Your questions were a great resource; they helped my prepare and feel confident in my interviews.

Benjamin // Christian School Principal

I just had to reach out and say THANK YOU! After 15 applications and 6 interviews this hiring season, I made it to the second round for two different positions this week.

Today I was offered my dream job as a Federal Programs Coordinator at the district level!
I know this is a direct result of your resources.

Melissa // Federal Programs Coordinator

Thanks to your amazing advice, I will be appointed to a principal job on Tuesday evening! It's an incredible job in a high-performing district and will mean a huge raise for me. Thank you! 

I know that my résumé and interviewing skills improved because I followed your advice.

Thank you for all that you do to help administrators help their schools. 

Kari // Principal

I did what you said...told my stories, expanded on explanations, highlighted what experiences I have, and so many other things. 

I went into the 4 (in 3 days) interviews calm and feeling prepared. Thank you so much!

Sometime soon, I will be interviewing for principal positions.

Eileen // Assistant Principal

I am very excited that my first principalship is at the school where I taught for 15 years - going back home.

I used the questions multiple times in preparation and I used your advice to video myself for interview questions and watch it back. It really helped a lot.

You will be glad to know that I got this job after my very first principal interview as well.

Jon // High School Principal

Deep-Dive Bonus Trainings

Interview Prep Game Plan

The Interview Prep Game Plan training will help you prepare for your next job interview—whether it's tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.

How To Write Accomplishment Bullets For Your Résumé

The How To Write Accomplishment Bullets For Your Résumé training will help you rise above other candidates who merely list their duties.

How To Craft Your "Perfect Fit" Cover Letter To Get More Interviews

How To Craft Your "Perfect Fit" Cover Letter To Get More Interviews—training + 150-slide PDF to give you specific language to use to construct your cover letter, line by line. 

Ascend Leadership Journal

What should you talk about in interviews and application materials? It's often difficult to recall the specifics of work you did months or years ago. The Ascend Leadership Journal is loaded with prompts to help you identify the most compelling experience, accomplishments, and stories.

Experience Matrix™ Résumé Blueprint

The Experience Matrix™ Résumé Blueprint is our 16-Page PDF guide to the perfect résumé—so you know exactly what information to include...and what to leave out. Too many résumés are cluttered with unsupported claims and unnecessary detail. Give the reader just the right facts in the right order, so you land in the "Yes" pile and get more interviews. 

Frequently Asked Questions—FAQ

How long will I have access to the Ascend Masterclass? Does anything expire?

You get lifetime access with no expiration—you can use the Masterclass and the included tools to prepare for interviews now and at any time in the future.

How quickly will I get access to the materials?

You will get access  immediately upon checkout. Your login info should arrive within 10 minutes.

What jobs will the Ascend Masterclass help me get?

The Ascend Masterclass is designed for K-12 principal and assistant principal candidates.

The included tools and strategies could be used for any type of job, but the practice questions and tips are geared specifically toward landing your next educational leadership role, e.g. central office, principal, assistant principal, dean, instructional coach, etc.

Can I access the trainings from a mobile device?

Yes, you can watch the trainings and read the PDFs on a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone. However, you'll want to have access to a computer to prepare your application documents such as your résumé and cover letter. 

To edit the included PowerPoint and Microsoft Word templates, you'll want to be on a Windows or Mac computer.

The included Google Doc templates can be edited from a Chromebook or Windows or Mac computer.

Do you have a money-back guarantee?

Yes, if you're not satisfied with the Ascend Masterclass, contact us within 30 days at 1-800-861-5172 or [email protected] for a full refund.

About The Author


Director, The principal center

Justin Baeder, PhD is Director of The Principal Center, and has been a full-time author and consultant since 2012.

His trainings and resources on the admin job search have helped thousands of leaders land their current roles—from dean of students to superintendent.

Dr. Baeder is the host of Principal Center Radio, a weekly podcast featuring interviews with leading authors and thinkers such as John Hattie, Charlotte Danielson, Robyn Jackson, Douglas Reeves, Ken Williams, and more than 300 other distinguished guests

Justin served his entire career in public education as a principal and teacher in Seattle Public Schools. He holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction from Seattle University and a PhD in Educational Leadership & Policy from the University of Washington.

Dr. Baeder is the author of Now We're Talking! 21 Days to High-Performance Instructional Leadership (Solution Tree), the leading book on classroom walkthroughs, and Mapping Professional Practice: How to Develop Instructional Frameworks to Support Teacher Growth (with Heather Bell-Williams).

About The Principal Center

At The Principal Center, it's our mission to help instructional leaders:

  • Confidently get into classrooms every day
  • Have feedback conversations that change teacher practice
  • Discover their best opportunities for school improvement

Founded in 2012, The Principal Center has over 15,000 participants in our free and paid programs, representing more than 50 countries around the world.

Money-Back Guarantee

If you are not satisfied with the Ascend Masterclass for any reason,
contact us within 30 days for a full refund.