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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Preparing for Interviews

I was lucky enough to be called for an interview less than a month after completing my Master's Degree in K-12 School Counseling from Lehigh University. I was very excited, but very nervous. There were a few things that I did to prepare for the interview, that I feel helped me receive a job offer. 

I spent a few hours reviewing the school's website trying to educate myself about school policies and procedures. I tried to get to know the staff using the website as well. Then I spent some time reviewing the school's Twitter account to learn about different events that they had. You never know what kind of questions you will be asked in an interview. You have to demonstrate that you've done your homework on the school where you are interviewing. Researching the school can give you a general idea of some questions you might be asked so you have answers to questions they ask you. 


Portfolio Cover

I spent some time creating a portfolio of some of my best work during graduate school. I included examples of class lessons that I had created and used with success. I included group plans for a group I had created and ran myself with success. I included each lesson and group plan in a binder in a clear binder sheet protector with the materials I would need to run the lesson.

Tattle Tongue Lesson Plan
Oh The Places You'll Go Lesson Plan

This shows the people interviewing you that you are organized, well-prepared, and that you have resources at your disposal. By including materials you created, they know that you will be able to create lessons on your own. If you include lessons that worked well in the past, they know you will likely have success with plans you create in the future. Inside another binder sheet protector, I included copies of my letters of recommendation, clearances, and certificates I had received for trainings, etc. I also included 5 copies of my most recent resume and my references in a leather business portfolio that contained a notepad and pen. This again shows that you are well-prepared and organized.
Leather Portfolio, Moravian College

Note Cards
ASCA has an extensive list of questions that they suggest administrators ask school counselor interviewees that can be found here. I spent time making note cards answering each question. It made me feel more prepared and calm during the interview when the administrator asked me questions from the list. 
Other questions frequently asked include: 
  • Tell me a little about yourself. 
  • What is your biggest strength? 
  • What is an area of weakness for you? 
  • What are you most afraid of when taking on this position? 
  • What makes you more qualified than your peers? 

I spent some time researching advice from other school counselors about interviewing tips. Some other great resources include the following: 
This may go without saying, but make sure you are well groomed. Put extra effort into your hair. If you wear make up, do so, but don't overdo it. Choose  modest clothing and little if any jewelry. Costume jewelry is something to avoid. For my first interview, I wore black dress pants with a dressy white blouse and a black blazer. For my second interview, I wore a knee-length black and white dress with a black blazer. It may have seemed boring, but it was professional. For both interviews I wore a simple, dressy watch. I researched what to wear for interviews and there were some articles on the psychology of color. Avoid low-cut tops and the mini skirt you go out with your friends in. Research suggests wearing black and navy blue is more likely to get you a job, while wearing orange is least likely.

Ask Questions
One thing I wish I had done was ask more questions. I did ask what the principal would like to see from her new school counselor. I spoke of the importance of the relationship between school counselors and administrators, but did not ask her view on this relationship. If I had asked her "what do you expect your relationship with your school counselor to be like?" I might have gotten more information that would have helped me decide if this school was a good fit for me. Other things I wish I had asked include:

  • What does a typical day look like at this school?
  • I like to get in before students to prepare for my day, what time does the school day start for teachers compared to students? What time does it end for teachers compared to students? 
  • When does your school year typically run? 
  • What kind of after-school events are staff required to participate in?
  • When are your faculty meetings? 
  • Can you tell me about your curriculum?
  • Can you tell me about the school culture? 
  • Are their opportunities to try new things?
  • What professional development opportunities are there for school counselors? 
  • What kind of class lessons and groups do you expect your school counselors to provide? What time of day would lessons and groups occur? 
  • Is there a curriculum or program that dictates what kind of lessons your counselor will provide?
  • If school is in session during your interview-- Can I have a tour of the school? 

Preparing for the interview ahead of time will help ease some of the anxiety you may feel about the interview process. The less anxious you are and the more prepared you are, the more confident you will appear for your interview, making it more likely you'll receive a job offer. I hope these tips help you to find the school counseling job of your dreams. Good luck!


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