Phone interviews are often the first step along the hiring path when you are a candidate for a head coaching job. Basically, you can think of it as the second level of screening. Your resume/cover letter/application is the first. As a result, what often happens is you get a set of clearly standardized questions. If you are on with a group of interviewers (i.e. the search committee), usually each one has a specific question they ask. They ask these questions of each person they interview in the same order.
Here’s a sequence of questions I had in an interview. They can give you an idea of the sort of thing to expect when you have one yourself.
Question 1: Tell us about your background and how it relates to the job. This is almost always the first question you get in any initial interview round – phone or otherwise. I talked previously about its importance here.
Question 2: What would your recruiting strategy be? This one featured drill-downs on specifics in terms of demographics, location, and related topics. Obviously, we’re talking about a college job here. It’s a question not just of your knowledge of that specific program, but also of your ability to create a working philosophy.
Question 3: What would you define as being successful 5 years out? This is something specific to the situation of the program. As a result, you need to know where it’s at – and clearly demonstrate that. Obviously, you also need to have a concept of where you’d want to take the program. This can be a tricky one if you don’t have a sense of the administration’s priorities for the program, however.
Question 4: What do you think the players’ impression of you is? In other words, what do your players think of you as a coach? This is not just something you should understand, but is something you should think about actively managing.
Question 5: How would you get players to succeed? This one could link it with the success question from above. In other words, “You’ve defined what success will be. How will you get the players there?” You need to understand, however, if this is primarily a volleyball question, or one with broader implications.
Question 6: What are you like to work with as a colleague? Obviously, when working in an athletic department, especially on a full-time basis, your ability to work with others matters. People want to know if you’re someone they’ll enjoy having as a colleague.
Question 7: What’s the hardest part of coaching? Clearly, this is a very personal question. We’ll all answer it differently.
Question 8: What would your approach be to developing Graduate Assistants? At this particular college assistants were primarily GAs. Further, those GAs were generally part of a Master’s degree program focused on developing them as college coaches. The question, however, could just as easily apply to assistants who don’t fall into this specific category. It speaks to your focus on staff development and your leadership philosophy.
Of course, this is just one sample set of questions. There are plenty of other questions you might get, so make sure you don’t prepare just for these if you’ve got an interview coming up. Well, except for the first. You should always be prepared for that one!
Here’s a list of phone interview questions I got once for an assistant coaching position.