Interviewers want to know a candidate's propensity to stay in a job for a long time. By asking this, they are able to gauge if this is a career that the candidate sees himself or herself doing for a long time or if it is a fleeting interest. Be genuine when answering this question since interviewers can easily tell if you are simply saying nice things to get the job. It helps to add a personal story that could solidify your answer.
"I have always been a people person and I have this inclination to help others when they need it. Help comes in different shapes and forms, but for me, I want to help others in addressing their problems and improving their situations. So when I was choosing a degree for college, I decided to pick something that would allow me to do that and that's how I ended up in counseling."
Interviewers know that not all endeavours end up as a success. Do not be afraid to share failed experiences but always ensure to add what you learned from the experience and to share what you are doing so that you won't fail again in the future.
"I remember the first time I had to talk to a parent regarding a student who was caught pushing another student. However, the parent was not that amenable to meeting with the school due to her busy schedule. I was a bit too assertive when talking to her which angered her, and so she didn't attend our initial meeting altogether. I apologized sincerely, and explained to her the urgency of the meeting, and we were able to settle the issue. So if I could redo that incident, I would have been more diplomatic when I first talked to her so we could have settled the issue sooner. Because of that, I realised that I should also learn how to talk to parents because it is a part of my job."
The format of your answer is similar to when you are asked about handling difficult/challenging clients - define the circumstance, explain your course of action and then state your desired result. This time, you just have to tailor fit your manner of answering to the type of student you are being asked about.
"Students who are known to cause violence are difficult to talk to because their tendency is to channel all their energy physically. When I counsel students like this, I make sure that the environment is conducive for talking and that there will be nothing or no one that can be an object of his/her aggression. I then ask the student what it is that he/she hopes to achieve every time they act violently. My goal is that by beginning the counselling session with that question, the student will realise that his/her action is counterproductive and doesn't benefit anyone at all."
Choose to highlight a strength that can be useful to the position you're applying for. That way, the interviewer will have an idea of how that can help you fulfill the job.
"One of my strengths is being a good listener. I have this genuine desire to help others and I believe that the best way I can do that is to first know what they need. You get that by listening to them."
Sensitive situations are tricky to address but always ensure that your answers are politically correct and impartial.
"I believe that today's youth are intelligent and discerning so matters like this should be discussed openly and truthfully. I will tell them that because the world is made up of numerous countries, it is inevitable for our cultures to be different. However, different doesn't mean bad. We just need to be more open-minded to understand the differences so we'll know how we can relate with each other more appropriately."
This should be easy for you but remember to always link your answers to important aspects of the job you're applying for.
"My passion for children is what initially inspired me to be a school counsellor. I love being surrounded by children and I want to be able to help them as they go through school life. Eventually, I learned that being a school counsellor requires more than just loving children. And so I decided to pursue that as a career hoping that I'll learn more ways to be of service to the youth."
It is not just about telling the interviewer what your skills are or the positive traits you have. This question allows you to raise the bar high and communicate to the interviewer that you can offer more than what is expected.
"Apart form having the educational background and work experience to do the job, I believe that my natural inclination to serve others will allow me to flourish in this position. As a counsellor, I need to be physically, emotionally and mentally ready to address people's concerns and being a service-oriented person allows me to do that wholeheartedly."
This is easy because your answer should come from the heart, as cliche as that may sound.
"As a school counsellor, I am most passionate about making a positive influence in someone's life. I have very high hopes for our youth so working in a school allows me to be at the forefront of creating positive influences to these young individuals. I hope that through the work that I do, I will help mold responsible, productive and compassionate citizens of this country."
Do not be afraid to use 'I' when answering situational questions. It is important to demonstrate what YOU would actually do, and not just provide a theoretical answer that would 'sound good' to the interviewer. Apart from providing solutions for the current problem, also offer a 'moving forward' strategy that would prevent this from happening again. It shows that you have the foresight and the ability to act on it.
"I will call the attention of the bully and the victim immediately and ask for their presence in my office separately. I believe confronting both of them in public will not solve the problem. First, I will talk the victim to let him/her know that I (and the school) care for her and that this issue will be addressed. Then, I will talk to the bully to get to the bottom of this act and reiterate the repercussions of his/her actions. Afterwards, I will notify the parents of both parties to request a meeting so that this issue can be discussed further and sanctions can be implemented. Moving forward, I will seek the approval of the school management to conduct an information drive on bullying to raise awareness amongst students and their parents. If there are already anti-bullying initiatives in the school, then I shall propose a relaunch to affirm victims of bullying that the school is with them in this, and that bullies will not be tolerated."
When answering technical or theoretical questions, it is important to create an outline of your answer to demonstrate an organized train of thought. Provide concise answers and throw in an example to clarify the definition.
"There are two important factors that differentiate these concepts. First, is the approach. As a counselor, we focus more on understanding the individual's past to help them resolve or heal from a particular problem or issue. Meanwhile, coaching is more focused on setting goals for the future and the action plans that the individual has to do to achieve them. Second, counseling and coaching differ in their educational and training requirements. For example, a counselor is required to have a specific degree such as Psychology or Counseling, while coaches are not. Coaches can undergo trainings offered by coaching institutions regardless of their educational background."
A job that involves students would involve their parents. It would also help to research the general profile of the students in the school so you have an idea of the kind of parents you will encounter (e.g. middle class/upper class, rural/suburban) That way, you can tailor fit your answer depending on their profile.
"There was a time when we had to conduct an information drive on negative effects of bullying and we had to involve the Parent-Teacher Association to create a symposium. It was challenging to get everybody together to plan the event, but because I was able to discuss the objective of the program to everyone involved, it became easier to get their support. Overall, the event was a success, and as a follow through, we allot a section of our succeeding Parent-Teacher meetings by discussing any concerns, incidents or questions that they may have regarding bullying."
When it comes to prioritizing, remember that apart from importance, urgency is also a major consideration. Don't forget to throw in an activity that you do for yourself to show that you make time for your well-being.
"One of the principles I learned from Time Management is the urgent-important matrix. So what I do is to assess which tasks are urgent and important, then list them down accordingly. That way, I am able to dedicate my effort and energy to the things that need my attention the most. I also believe in work-life balance, so outside of work, I try to dedicate a full day for myself to recharge and relax."
This is your chance to highlight your best assets and what you can offer to the school. It is also an advantage if your beliefs or values are aligned with the school's so you can use it as leverage. However, be conscious of your tone. You want to sound confident of your skills, but not arrogant.
"Apart from my educational background and work experience, I believe that my values are very much aligned with the core values that your school espouses. For me, that is important especially as someone who represents the school and, who will work with the students and their parents very closely. I am also very passionate about this profession and I know that I can take on the responsibilities that this job requires."
This is a question that you have to be brutally honest about. Special Education students have specific needs so you have to be transparent with how much experience you have. If you have a lot, then best to give an extensive explanation. Otherwise, be honest but say that you are open to learning what you do not know.
"(if limited experience) Unfortunately, my experience with Special Education students is quite limited. I was involved in ensuring that all the teacher aids for these students have been oriented and trained, and that I was there when they met the students..... (if extensive experience) I was very much involved in handling the classes where the special education students were involved. I also ensure that I meet with the parents regularly to ensure that their needs and concerns are acknowledged and addressed (then you can add more of your experiences)"
Normally, scenarios like this would require school staff to respond a certain way. What is important to remember when asked a question similar to this one is to also show consideration for the emotions of the student.
"I would first ask the student 'What made you decide to drop out of school?' instead of asking 'Why?' I've learned that asking why would put people on the defensive and I want to know the circumstances that led to the student's change of heart instead of making him feel that he needs to justify dropping out. Once he has shared his reasons and feelings towards dropping out, I will ask him what he will do when he finally does it. I believe that by asking the student to expound on his plan after dropping out will they realize how difficult the real world is, and how limited opportunities are to those without sufficient educational attainment."
Employers want to hire people who can go the extra mile. For this question, just cite an experience that you feel is beyond your normal scope of duty but you did wholeheartedly, which produced a favorable or positive result. Share how you felt during that time, and if you received any commendations for that action.
"There was a time when (share experience). At first, I was nervous to actually do the job but fortunately, I was able to complete it even if it wasn't something I regularly do. I felt very proud of myself and my immediate superior was also very happy with the output that I delivered. Because of that, I was hailed 'Employee of the Month' for that period."
Offer multiple solutions so the interviewer knows that you have considered different scenarios as you plan this action. Having enough options is important so you are ready for unexpected scenarios.
"For me, prevention is still better than cure. Because of this, I will ensure that information drive in the school is intensive across all grade levels. Students who are prone to being violent should know that we do not tolerate violence, while the rest should know that they can turn to the school for help and support should they be the object of violence. Apart from this, I will also encourage the implementation of school activities (e.g. sports, arts, music). Violence is a result of negative energy so I believe that if we keep students busy with productive activities, it will make them more positive individuals."
Questions like this would also test your knowledge of the due process. It's not just about comforting the student but also being able to proceed with the right course of action especially if it will turn into an administrative/criminal offence such as sexual harassment or abuse.
"I will first get the facts from the student such as the details of the incident. I will also ask the student if he/she has told anybody so that I would know how to proceed with the incident. Normally, students are afraid because they are threatened by their abusers. As such, I would assure the student that I am there to help. I will escalate this to the school officials so that an investigation can be conducted. Meanwhile, I will ensure that the student is cared for by making sure that his/her family is informed and that there is protection from the suspect."
This is somewhat similar to 'what influenced you to become a counsellor'. You can cite childhood experiences or probably something you did in college/past job that made you confident about being a counsellor.
"Before I pursued counselling as a profession, I was a part of an organisation that welcomes the freshmen in our school. We'd serve as their guide and they ask us for tips or advice about getting through college. I felt fulfilment in being able to help them, listening to their concerns and guiding them as they overcome their problems. I knew then that my ability to listen and give sound advice would help me in this career."
Sensitive cases like abuse, that have legal implications, need to be dealt with seriously. When answering, consider all sides of the case such as the well being of the student, the protocols of the school and your moral responsibility to protect this child from danger.
"First, I will ask the student further on the kind of abuse that he or she is experiencing so I would understand the situation and the next steps that I need to do. Next, if the school has a protocol for cases like this, I will follow the proper escalation process so we can remove or protect the child from the abusive environment. If we cannot remove the child from the abusive environment immediately, I will provide the child with contact numbers or methods to reach me in case he or she is abused again so we can alert the authorities."
Time and records management are very important skills that you need to have. They are easier said than done so keep your answers short, practical and believable.
"I always keep a to-do list to keep track of the things that I need to do for the day. I also make sure that my work space is clean, organised and properly labeled so that throughout the day, I maintain an efficient work environment. Lastly, I prioritise those that need my utmost attention so that my schedule is well-planned and easy to manage."
Research is key! Always prepare yourself to answer questions involving concepts in your field that could create confusion. You don't have to be too technical in the definition but it should be concise.
"One of the differences would be how extensive their services can be. For example, school counsellors may address cases that require immediate action (e.g. school fights) or periodic counselling with students depending on the severity of the issue. However, therapists may offer services for a longer period of time because they use multiple approaches during therapy sessions and would require more time to observe behavioural patterns that need to be addressed."
Similar to the other questions, the basic guide to answering situational questions is to describe the circumstance, explain your course of action and then the result of your action. Answering this way also shows the interviewer that you know how to organize your thoughts.
"There was a time when I had to counsel a student who was giving me an attitude the entire time because she didn't want to talk to me. I told the student that if she didn't cooperate, she'll be seeing more of me in the coming days because I'll schedule more sessions until she decides to cooperate. I believe she wants to get it over with and so she cooperated. In return, I made the sessions worth her while by being very understanding of her concerns. Eventually, we were able to complete her sessions with me."
Working for a school means that you would also have to work with the parents. For questions like this, be sure to outline your answers according to your course of action and the expected output of said action. You should be able to illustrate clearly how you will manage situational questions.
"I will first ask the parent to calm down. After the parent calms down, I shall ask for his/her concern so I can start addressing them. It is important that during the discussion, I empathize with them and tell them that I understand where they are coming from yet still making sure that all their concerns are addressed truthfully and accordingly. However, if the parent does not calm down, I will respectfully but sternly communicate that being angry will not solve anything and so he/she has to calm down so we can discuss the matter as how mature adults should."
You can be more candid when answering this. Interviewers do not want a robot so show a little of your fun side and maybe highlight activities that could show how well-rounded you are (e.g. sports, music, arts, etc.)
"In between work or during the weekends, I hang out with my friends to watch a movie or try a new restaurant. Keeping myself active also helps so I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. However, when I have more time in my hands, I go out of town or out of the country to travel. It helps me recharge and really take my mind off work."
It is always best if you read and understand the job description because some schools may require more of a specific task than the other. By reading the job description, you'll be able to focus your answer on the highlights of the job.
"As a school counsellor, I am not just after the welfare of the students but also everybody who is involved in the child's life as a student of the school. That means, I should be able to initiate programs and be proactive in making sure that the students, teachers, parents and school staff are in sync in making the school a conducive environment for the children"
Criticisms can either be negative or constructive, so it would help if you could share an experience for both. This would show your ability to discern the feedback that you get from others and how you act on what you hear from them.
"Before I react, I try to assess first if it was a negative or a constructive criticism. Constructive criticisms are helpful, so when I receive one, I reflect on what I did and try to look at it through the eyes of my critic. Then I take note of what I need to improve on or change moving forward. But if it's a negative criticism that was given just for the sake of criticising, I ignore it and focus my attention on more important items."
This is the interviewer's way of communicating to you that being a school counselor involves other stakeholders, not just the student. School counselors are not only for the students. As such, it is important to prepare yourself by researching the typical concerns of teachers/parents/administrators and the types of activities that could encourage their engagement and participation.
"Since school counselors are there to support, guide and address concerns involving the students, we have an important role in ensuring that these are communicated to the other members of their immediate social circle, that is the school, their teachers, and their families. For example, if children are having a difficult time in school, one of the things that we can do as School Counselors is to engage teachers, parents, and administrators to ensure that the classroom, the household and the school, are conducive in fostering a holistic and healthy environment for the children."
Share an experience where you took an active role in a team. Emphasise on what you personally did or contributed, not just what happened to the activity in general. Questions like this allow interviewers to see if you have leadership potential or if you can work well with others. After describing the experience, you may also share how you felt about the whole endeavour.
"There was a time when all the school personnel had to work together to organize the school's anniversary. I was a part of the Secretariat Committee together with 4 teachers, and our task was to arrange the registration list and the invites for the event. I personally handled the release of the invites and monitoring the RSVP. Everything was released on time and nobody in the list was left out. As a group, were able to accomplish our task and I was proud to have contributed to the success of the anniversary."
I know it's difficult to share a weakness because you might feel that it will turn the interviewer off. But interviewers know that nobody is perfect. Everybody has flaws. It's a matter of how aware you are of it and what you are doing to address it.
"I am not a good public speaker. Put me in a room with 10-15 people, and I'll be fine. But ask me to deliver a commencement speech and I will be a ball of nerves. Working for a school has helped me to overcome that slowly since I am constantly surrounded by people. Meeting new faces regularly helps in building my confidence. But definitely, I still have a lot to work on."
This is a question that you should tread very carefully. It is best to highlight that you will engage more help to support the child while you are on suicide watch.
"Definitely, I will try to find out where he/she is coming from and what circumstance made him/her feel this way. I will tell him that I am here to help him and refocus his thoughts by asking him about what makes him feel good. Basically, I want the student to know that he/she is not alone in this battle and that I am here to listen to him/her. However, I will still escalate this to a clinical pyschologist/mental health professional who is focused on suicide watch so that we can protect the student better."
School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions, by helping them choose a career or educational program.