Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Graduated, So Now What: The Interview

For the past few months, I have been in the middle of interview season.  Hospitals and clinics will interview as they have openings. Schools will generally interview anywhere from March or April through June.  For them, it doesn't necessarily make a difference if you are hired in March or in June, because your start date is still August.  But for you, it does make a difference.  It makes it easier to sit around, knowing you have something coming up in a few months!   So interviews will be the topic of today's post. Warning: It's fairly long since all of this information is fresh in my mind. Hope it's helpful!  

Last summer, we had a panel at school to talk about interviews.  Check out what I learned from that night here.   Another helpful resource is from Jenna at Speech Room News.  I used her 101 guide the night before my interviews to help prepare me.  Check that one out here.

The most important thing I've learned throughout the process is that you truly just have to be yourself.  Of course, you must be professional, but let your personality shine.  One of my professors told me that you should only be yourself.  If they don't want you for who you are, then you don't want to be working for them.  It was pretty good advice, and I think it's held true so far.

Another thing I've learned is to be confident. You know what you know.  I had the head of special education services tell me that she was excited I was a new graduate.  You never know what your audience is thinking, so don't go in with the attitude that they don't want CF candidates.  Even if they don't necessarily want a CF, show them your strengths and tell them why you think you would be a great fit anyway.  Show them how you will go above and beyond for them. You are (most likely) the person that is most current on their research because you just had to learn it all in school.  They are excited about that.

I've learned to be honest.  Be honest about what you don't know.  It's better than you sitting there and lying to them.  Of course, follow it up with a comment that you are willing to learn the information/ study it over the summer.  It is ok that you don't know the IEP system, as long as you are able to show them you are willing to learn it.  It is ok that you don't know the exact numbers for the state regulations on how students qualify, as long as you know they exist and are willing to learn them.

I've learned every setting is a different audience and that will determine the course and feel of the interview.  For a hospital interview, I was in a room with a speech-language pathologist and the head of the rehab team.  For outpatient clinics, I met with a speech-language pathologist for one.  For the other one, I met with the whole team of speech-language pathologists and then met with the owner (who was also an SLP).  For schools, I met with the head of special education, a current speech-language pathologist, the principal, and the assistant principal.  Some of them felt like conversations while others felt like the traditional question/answer session.  Prepare yourself ahead of time for those differences and how their questions may differ because of the setting (see below).

Lastly, I've learned that the market is tough.  There are a lot of qualified candidates out there, all competing for the same job as you.  I have a running list of the companies, applications, interviews, and thank you cards to track this.  I have applied for many and haven't heard anything back from them.  I'm not trying to be discouraging. Rather, I want to encourage you to think about how you can set yourself apart.  How can you show them that you are the best candidate in the market?

Now let's talk about the interview questions.  I was so thankful I talked to SLPs ahead of time about what interviews may look like.  My mock interviews last summer also helped.  When it came down to it, there was a lot of overlap in questions, which helped me prepare and feel more confident in my answers.  I'll break it down by setting, though realize there is some crossover.

Every setting:

  • Tell us about yourself and how you got into the field.
  • Tell us about your clinical experiences. 
  • What are two or three of your strengths?
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • Scenarios (Ex. If a 30 month old came in for an assessment, describe where you would start) 
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years (or in the future)?
  • Which standardized testing measures do you know of and which ones are you familiar with?


  • If I called a supervisor, what would they say about you and how you approach a clinical case?
  • Do you have any experience in the NICU?
  • Talk about a difficult experience you had with a supervisor and describe how you handled it. 
  • What style supervision do you prefer?
  • Describe your experiences working with a therapy team (OT, PT). 
Outpatient Clinic:

  • What are you most nervous about in this setting?
  • What are your experiences with billing insurance?
  • Have you heard about our ______ group here at the clinic? (Ex. Feeding)
  • How did you hear about us?
  • Describe your experiences with IEPs.
  • How would you integrate the Common Core State Standards into your therapy sessions?
  • How would you use positive reinforcement in your sessions?
  • Describe your experiences with group therapy. 
  • How would you address multiple goals in one therapy session?
  • Why did you choose to apply to our district?
  • Name three adjectives to describe how you approach a work situation. 
For You to Ask:
  • Have you had CFs in the past? How does supervision work?
  • What materials and tests are available? Will I need to provide my own?
  • How would you describe the work environment/ community?
  • What resources/ supports are available for a new employee?
  • What are the top goals or priorities for special education this year?
  • What is the typical caseload?
  • What is the makeup of the SPED team?
  • What does the evaluation process look like and how often will I be evaluated?
I'm sure there are SO many more you could ask.  These are just a few to get you started and thinking.  The questions YOU ask show them that you are prepared and have thought about it.  

Now for the million dollar question: What should I wear? My number one recommendation is to dress above the level that the interviewer will be dressed at.  For example, if the interviewer is in jeans and a polo, you should wear dress pants and a nice blouse.  If the interviewer is in dress pants and a blouse, you should at least be at the same level with a blazer on. Otherwise, you should be in what I call a "power dress."  Of course, it's difficult to know what the interviewer will be wearing.  If you want to be safe, I would suggest one of the upper levels.

Here's a scale for women:
-Dress pants and blouse
-Dress pants and blazer
-Power dress and cardigan
-Power dress and blazer

For men:
-Khakis and a polo (probably not appropriate for our field)
-Dress pants and a button down
-Dress pants, button down, and a tie
-Dress pants, button down, tie, and sport coat (think suit jacket but different color than pants)

The bottom line is that you need to be comfortable.  For myself, I am more likely to wear a dress than pants, because I am more comfortable.  When you are more comfortable, you will likely appear more at ease/ confident and will answer better. 

Now let's talk about color and jewelry.  I've been told by many people to only wear neutrals.  That means black, white, gray, and tan with simple jewelry.  I started out the interview process this way.  Let me tell you- it was difficult for me to find something that plain.  I have a closet full of color!  Finally, I decided to switch to a blue dress and black cardigan with a chunky pearl necklace.  I was more comfortable, it was more of who I was, and it was still professional.  So no, it wasn't anything crazy out there, but it was something more than your boring neutrals.  I could let a little bit of my personality shine through. 

Last section- what to bring with you.  This can vary based on setting, but here are some general things to include in a portfolio for you.  Put all of these in a nice folder or buy a leather portfolio from Target or one of your office supply stores. 
  • Your resume
  • A reference list
  • The cover letter for that job
  • Example data sheets
  • Writing sample (report)
  • Transcripts (if needed)
  • Reference letters
  • Materials you have made
Phew!  That was a lot of information.  I hope that helps!  

Let me know of there is anything else you would add

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