Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interviewing 101

This post is not a claim that I am an expert on the application and interview process. Rather, it is an overview of my short experience, advice I was given, and questions to prepare for. 

As I began my application process this past spring I found myself becoming quite acquainted with a system known as Applitrack. This is an online portal for districts to develop their application from, what appears to be, a database of demographic domains, questions, and material requests. Each district tailors their application depending on their needs and the requirements of the position. I was fortunate that many districts asked the same questions of their student support staff and I could simply gear a template essay towards a given district. Once the application is completed, one simply submits it on the website and waits for a phone call or email. I had only a handful of districts require paper-based applications, which I sort of liked (I felt accomplished and hopeful dropping it off at the post office!).

There is an opening in my present district for an elementary school psychologist. I completed my application, ensuring great care that I highlighted all my work within the district and the learning opportunities I had. I also highlighted how I was an asset to the district and my internship site. After completing my application and about a week of waiting, I received a call from Central Office to come interview. (Funny part is, I was sitting in my car in their parking lot after I picked up some testing materials. The secretary asked if I knew how to get to the building and I assured her I was familiar with the location.) 

In preparation for my interview, I did what any professional does: panic about my wardrobe choices. I happened to be wearing an outfit the day  I received the interview call I had considered wearing. I was complimented on it earlier in the day and asked if I was going for an interview. Unfortunately, I had just left a meeting with the very person I would be interviewing with when I got the call. Welp, that option is out! I spent my weekend trying on clothes and ironing rather than actual preparation. This led to my panic state on Monday night (Memorial Day) as I struggled to put together some potential questions and answers. 

I reached out to my school psych crew on Twitter (#schoolpsych, #schoolpsychology) for advice. What I got in return was both extremely helpful as well as stress inducing! The possible questions I received were fantastic and things I would love to know the answer to, not provide in an interview! With some reflection I realized I knew more than I thought I did and I could in fact be successful in the interview. After developing a script for some standard "getting to know you" questions, and some of the more challenging concepts I needed a refresher on, I went on to rehearse. During rehearsal I fumbled over my words and got tongue-tied. I could hardly explain who I was and what my experiences were. A few days prior I had met with a woman about a summer position (extremely informal, accidental interview) and heard that she had positive impressions of me and my communication abilities.  With this reminder I decided I would not psyche myself out any longer and simply provide whatever response came natural to me at the time. I reviewed questions and jotted down some notes, but never wrote up formal answers. 

This method worked for me. It may or may not work for you. You know yourself best. Is it a good idea to go in completely cold-turkey? Heck no! Is it better to have a scripted (aka robotic) response for answers that are supposed to provide an impression of your personality and professional work? Also, a negative. It is important to find a happy medium and remember that you survived three years of grad school; the information is in there somewhere!

Possible Interview Questions
Some of my Twitter followers were able to provide me with some great questions to prepare and I am going to share some of the most common/interesting ones. I'm also including some questions I was asked during my interview. *Be sure to comment and add any additional ones I may have missed!*

Getting to know you
  1. Tell us about yourself.

  2. Describe your background/experience.
  1. Tell us about your educational experience.
  1. Why did you want to become a school psychologist?
  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  1. What would colleagues, supervisors, or your students say about you?
  1. Why do you want to work in this school district?
8.      What qualifications do you have that would make you successful?/ Why should we hire you?

  1. What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Experience (General)
  1. Describe your internship experience thus far.
  1. What do you see the role of the school psychologist to be in the school?
  1. Do you have any experience working with individuals with Autism?
  1. Describe your counseling experience.
  1. What has been your proudest moment in terms of accomplishments?
6.      Give an example of when you had to make an important decision. How did you make the decision?

  1. Describe your most challenging/difficult case.
8.      What is your experience with crisis intervention and techniques?

  1. What is your experience with suicide risk assessments? Threat assessments?
  1. What professional development activities have you participated in over the last year?
  1. What is your experience with bullying prevention?

  2. Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
  1. How would you address a 6th grade student who is acting out and defiant?

  2. What is your involvement in the development of FBAs and implementation of BIPs?

  3. A teacher has been asked to implement a BIP. They come to a meeting and state that they stopped using it because it didn’t work after just one week. What would you do in response? 
  1. What assessment measures are you familiar with? (I provided my “Assessment Measure” cheat sheet for interviewers)
  2. How many assessments have you completed this year?
  1. What assessment techniques would you use for evaluating low incidence disabilities? And what is your experience with low incidence disabilities?
  1. What would you do if a parent, whose child you identified as ID, questioned your chose of measures for the evaluation because s/he felt that items did not represent what the child was able to do?
  1. How do you go about determining what assessments to use for evaluating minority students?
  1. What is your experience with SRBI/RtI?

  2. When consulting with the RTI team what is your ideal role at all three tiers of intervention?

  3. What is your experience with consultation? Provide an example of a student who was identified and one who was not?

  4. Tell me about your intervention experiences and how those students did.
Special Education
  1. How do you keep up with changes in the law and research?
  1. Have you facilitated any IEP meetings? Explain.
  1. How do you assess and determine eligibility for SLD?
  1. Tell me the difference between a student with social maladjustment and student with ED? How would you evaluate each student to determine which classification is more appropriate?

  2. How do you determine if a child with ADHD needs an IEP or a 504 plan?

  3. What is your experience with parents who are unhappy with eligibility decisions? And how would you handle this situation?

  4. How would you handle an administrator (and/or parent) who insisted on finding a child eligible for special education?
1.    What is your approach in working with parents? Have you had to work with difficult parents before? Or disagreed with parents? How did you handle that?

Questions to Ask
Just as the interviewers will ask you a series of questions, you should come prepared with questions of you own. Below are some questions I had asked or thought of asking.
  1. What is the role of the school psychologist in SRBI?
  2. Are parents supportive of the school and involved?
  3. What is the caseload?
  4. Who are the support staff members in the building?
  5. What opportunities does the district provide for mentoring and supervision of early career school psychologists?
  6. What CE/professional development opportunities are available? Is there funding available to attend conferences? 
Resources for Interviewing
Additionally, here are some resources to look at to prepare for your interview(s).
Anything else to add to my list? Leave it in the comments below!

Thank you so very much to Lauren (@Lmac9), Ashley (@ashleybwright1), Jason (@theschoolpsych), and Aimee (Musings of an Urban School Psychologist) for all your help and input!

Until next thyme,


  1. Sounds like you were well prepared!! Hope you get the job!

  2. Here are questions I was asked on interviews I went on right out of grad school: http://firstyearschoolpsych.blogspot.com/2011/10/so-you-wanted-some-interview-questions.html

    1. Thank you Aimee! I've added your link to my additional resources!