job-interviewLooking for a new position (or your first position)? – check out the advice of school counselors around the US

As we enter the long awaited, for current counselors, Spring time — or the dreaded and anxiety inspiring time frame for those looking for work — I decided that I would revamp some of the Interviewing Interviews from the past. Instead of interviewing one person – I reached out to many of my contacts around the country about five pressing questions for people in the job market and what counselors are looking for when interviewing for new hires. Thank you to all my friends who took the time to answer some of the questions – many from #scchat on Twitter and my fellow board members at CASC. I picked a few answers from each that you can look through below for tips and advice.

 [Tweet “Getting #schoolcounselor interview advice from wise counselors around the US #scchat”]

If you were hiring for a school counseling position and you had to choose by a single trait/attribute/skill/etc. – what would be highest on your list and why?

“Right now, my department could really use some creativity. I have initiative, one counselor is very organized and ethical, and the third counselor is a fountain of patience and passion. I feel that our department could definitely use some creativity and artistic sensitivity.” – Jeremy Goldman, School Counseling Department Chair, High School, Pikesville High School, Baltimore County Public Schools

“Being an independent thinker is an essential trait to possess because it propels the school counselor into action, it moves them towards initiating, developing, and implementing systemic interventions and is welcoming to growth.” – Andres Castro, Elementary School Counselor, Humboldt County, Fortuna, CA

“ASCA National Model competency! It is the highest quality because in order to run a comprehensive school counseling program in California, the National Model is an amazing framework from which to work. It provides data, relevancy and validation to all stakeholders. Most importantly, it reaches ALL students.” – Angela Tang, School Counselor – High School, Richmond, CA

“Professionalism is high on my list – Passion for helping children, staying current with new trends/programs/standards/ethics, participates in leadership activities, and an excellent communicator” – Anna Purcell, School Counselor – High School, Chino, CA

If you have been on a screening team or interview panel – what is your biggest turn-off for a potential candidate? If not, what do you think a turn-off would be for you?

“Lack of energy and coming across as unprepared.  Presentation of self is big (Dress for success and own it).” – Eric Blanco, School Counselor – High School, Central Coast, CA

“Unable to articulate individual strengths, program goals, trends.” – Anna Purcell

“Negativity would be a turnoff. There is enough toxicity in how we are perceived by the public, having a dose of that from within would be the last thing I would want.” – Jeremy Goldman

“Not admitting that you do not understand the question; the candidate should be at an internal comfort level in which they can admit that they do not understand a question and feel free to ask for clarity.” – Andres Castro

In applying for positions in your past, what is the biggest hoop you had to jump through and how did you do it with grace?

“The most difficult thing about applying for positions has been communicating knowledge and competence without coming off too strong. I made sure to bring documentation, and actually had an interview binder of classroom guidance presentations and data outcomes.” – Angela Tang

“As a new counselor (back in the day), my lack of experience could be a challenge. I made sure to stress my other experiences (retail management/business skills) and how that fits in to helping young people and the school/staff/parents.” – Anna Purcell 

“Biggest hoop was interviewing in front of a panel of 12 administrators from middle school, high school, and university level for a UC EAOP outreach position.  I made it through by coming prepared, answered all my questions with confidence and backed them up with examples/well thought out answers.  Also, made sure to make eye contact with all individuals on the panel.” – Eric Blanco

“Paying my dues. Not being valued or respected for my ideas simply due to lack of experience was quite challenging for me. I refused to give up and waited until opportunities arose when I could show the power of my program.” – Jeremy Goldman

In your interviews – can you recall the question that you struggled with the most? If not, what is your biggest weakness?

“The one I struggled with the most was being asked about what I considered was one of my weaknesses.  I am human so I have many but how do you present it in a way that can also be viewed as a plus?  I would usually answer that I need to learn how to say No and be aware of my available time.  I rather produce quality work rather than quantity.” – Eric Blanco

“The question that challenged me the most was about my leadership style. Having not been in a position that my superiors thought of as leadership, the best I could come up with was that I lead by example. I try to set a high standard for myself. When I hear kids students say, “I wish you were my counselor,” I know I am doing something right and need to find ways to motivate and support my colleagues.” – Jeremy Goldman

“14 years ago, it would have been college advisement/techniques for students to choose the right college/post-secondary training.” – Anna Purcell

What does a well prepared candidate look like to you? What are the key items in an application/interview packet that you would like to see or know?

“Have a plan and be ready to support that plan with the use of data that expresses the needs of the school community.” – Jeremy Goldman

“A prepared candidate includes pertinent and current information that specifically speaks to the school site, the district, and the community such as the sharing of the school’s missions, and the explanation as to how the prepared candidate can fulfill the description.  Also, being current and knowledgeable about ADA, Common Core, PBIS, LCAP, and curriculum.” – Andres Castro

“A well prepared candidate, from my point of view, knows what they are speaking about and can gracefully own up when they do not. The worst thing to watch is a candidate who does not know the answer to a question, try to appear that they do and botch an answer. Key items I would like to see are:

1. ASCA National Model knowledge

2. Multicultural knowledge/understanding

3. Competency and confidence to build/implement/grow a comprehensive school counseling program
Overall, I want to know that they are here to serve the kids and have their best interests at heart.” – Angela Tang

“Experience in their field of study, evidence that they not only know the material but that they understand what It means to be a school counselor.  Well thought out answers and approach to the whole application process.  Someone who is respectful and professional to all involved in the process.  Some who is knowledgeable of State and National Counselor Standards/Model.” – Eric Blanco

“Have a plan and be ready to support that plan with the use of data that expresses the needs of the school community.” – Jeremy Goldman

The Take Home

When reviewing some of these school counselors’ responses, as well as the tons of info and my own personal experiences, some keys to highlight (or work on!) include communication skills, doing some self-exploration to determine strengths and weaknesses, and learning about our national/state standards – but being able to back up our experiences and statements with the ever crucial data. Come to an interview with data as an intern and you will wow the panel. Self-confidence is also a big one in my book – when I interview, I want to see how the individual sees their own skills. If they are not confident – why should I be? Naturally, nerves play into any interview, but there is nervous behavior and there is lacking confidence. Be sure to show that you are proud of where you are but that you always have room to grow. Highlighting weaknesses as areas of growth is a great way to spin the scary “tell me your weaknesses…” question. It reframes it into a positive while maintaining that you are not perfect or all-knowing.

What do you think – are you a grad student or long time counselor? What kind of questions stumped you or do you ask in every interview? Please email or share in the comments below!

 

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Read: Insight from Awesome School Counselors – Interview & Applicant Essentials

by Jeff Ream time to read: 7 min
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