How to Recruit Principals: 6 Strategies to Hire Talented School Administrators

Caroline Chessia | April 8, 2022

School districts must change their recruitment methods to meet the demands of a “new generation” of principal candidates. “Today I lead the school. Tomorrow my students will lead the world.” – a Principal

Strong and effective leadership positively influences student achievement. Great principals don’t only affect the students they oversee, but also teacher satisfaction and retention. However, recently there has been an uptick in principal turnover – which makes it paramount for K12 districts to focus on recruiting principals.

A survey conducted by the NASSP found that the pandemic, political tensions, and limited guidance could contribute to a “mass exodus of principals.” We’re already facing a teacher shortage in many states in the USA, but the qualifications for principals are even higher than those for teachers. One roadblock to recruiting new principals is the antiquated hiring practices in many K12 districts.

Recruitment methods for principals have changed very little in decades, yet the role and expectations of principals have changed drastically. Recruiting new principal candidates requires schools to rethink their hiring strategy. We can’t control a pandemic or the political climate, however, we can plan and implement new talent acquisition strategies for recruiting principals who will be outstanding leaders and in turn, increase retention in their schools

6 Strategies to Recruit Principals

1. Hire Principals from Within By Recruiting Your Current Teachers

Districts should create partnerships with local colleges and universities to drive the development of future administrators. Many school districts are already taking advantage of student teachers, and by prioritizing the development of these students, you’ll be able to see which ones could make great principals down the line.

Make a plan with each of your student teachers – find out what areas they would like to develop in, and allow those who are looking to become administrators to see what the daily routine is like for a principal or K12 administrator. Investing in the professional development of your employees and interns is a great way to increase retention.

2. Practice Active Recruitment  

HR teams need to be constantly on the lookout for candidates. While there is a shortage of both teachers (who could potentially level up to principal roles) and principals, you cannot rely solely on passive recruiting. 

Researchers have investigated principal turnover and found the characteristic most strongly associated with job stability is experience, including those who have had internships and/or mentors in administration. Actively recruiting these candidates can set you up for success – and you’ll have even more success if you can pair a teacher looking to become a school administrator with a principal mentor.

3. Devise A Rigorous Screening & Selection Process 

Districts generally have a selection process that begins with screening for basic qualifications and moves on to interviews with multiple stakeholders. More often than not, the process does not follow common selection criteria, holds to a structured interview approach, and lacks specific rubrics to assess the criteria. 

HR teams should create a “principal profile” identifying the values, talents, and skills they are seeking in a candidate. This profile can then be used to devise a set of structured interview questions to find the candidates that possess these qualities. Once this has been set up, implement screening with connect video interviews. You’ll be able to virtually interview your principal candidates without the expense of transportation fees. When you find a few top contenders, invite them to tour the school and meet department heads so you can get an idea of how they’ll fit in.

4. Integrate Your Tech With Job Boards

School boards are still recruiting with outdated job boards and not taking advantage of the tech they already use to hire teachers for recruiting principals. Integrate a one-way video interview into your job board posting and take advantage of the speed of video interviews. Most candidates respond in 24 hours, giving you time back in your recruitment plan.

5. Extend Your Reach Beyond Your Community

Even now, many schools only recruit within their state. Licensing laws have something to do with this, but in order to effectively recruit, you have to widen your search parameters. Teachers looking for the opportunity to ascend might not be teaching in your community, but in the next state over.

In order to extend your reach, you need to be recruiting school administrators on LinkedIn, Monster, and teacher job boards in multiple states – not only the state your school is in. Attend conferences like AASPA or AAEE to spread the word and connect with educators and school administrators from around the USA.

6. Prep your School Principal Interview Questions

Principal recruitment isn’t something that happens every year. Make sure you are revising your interview questions for school principals every time you have to recruit principals for your school. Being a principal is a stressful and demanding job, and you want to make sure your candidate can take the stress in stride and deliver great results for your school, your teachers, and your students.

At the beginning of the school year my sister’s school does an interactive activity to discover the teachers’ personality types and use that to reflect on how they should communicate with others in their team. Performing this test/activity on a prospective principal helps you visualize how well they will fit into your team of teachers.

Implement Interviewstream Tools Into Your Recruitment Strategy To Hire Top Principal Candidates

As education and hiring processes continue to change, districts must evolve to recruit effective principals. Planning and implementing strategies to recruit and retain top-notch principals is essential to the success of a school. 

Talk to an expert today about how to integrate interviewstream tools into your district to step up your candidate screening process.

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About The Author

Caroline Chessia is the Marketing Operations Specialist at interviewstream. She loves color-coordinated graphs, hiking in the mountains, and every dog she meets—especially the Golden Retrievers.


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