It has been so exciting participating in the 60th anniversary of the TSHA convention in Fort Worth, TX! Sarah and I have gotten the opportunity to chat with SLPs from a variety of settings. In addition, we have had many university students stop by who will be graduating in May with their Master’s degrees in Speech-Language Pathology.
TSHA has an interview area set up for attendees to interview for jobs right here at the convention. Several of the grad students have expressed excitement and nervousness about this process. I am involved in SLP interviews for my school district and would love to help calm some of those nerves.
My first tip is to just relax. An SLP colleague in Arizona, Mary Keeney, once said, “Smell the birthday cake (insert deep breath in here), now blow out the candles (insert exhale here).” An interview is a chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge and interest in being a part of a school district. They are as genuinely interested in you as you are in having a job.
Next, try to anticipate things you will be asked and think through your answers when you’re calm and not on the spot. Questions I ask include:
- Describe your experience working with school-aged children. Here I am listening for your clinical experience working with different age groups, types of disability areas (e.g. Autism or severe cognitive disabilities), AAC, and multicultural backgrounds.
- Describe how you would conduct a language assessment, articulation assessment, and/or assessment for a student who is unable to complete standardized assessments. Here I look for the familiarity of different comprehensive standardized assessments (e.g. CELF-5 and GFTA-3) as well as if you use descriptive assessment (e.g. language sample, observation, narrative, expository, classroom data) in your evaluation. I also like to hear about the way you connect and interpret results from descriptive assessments with the standardized testing results. For students who cannot take a standardized assessment, I listen for information about using checklists (informal or standardized, such as the Functional Communication Profile), observations, and teacher/parent interview.
- What are your thoughts/beliefs about collaboration? Here I’m listening for an openness to work on a team and a willingness to provide collaborative services even if you’ve only provided traditional pull-out therapy in the past. Collaboration is one of the primary aspects that sets us apart from a clinical model, and one of the best things about working in a school setting.
- How do you differentiate between when to provide pull-out or push-in services? Here I listen for the acknowledgement that there is a continuum of services, and not all students can have their needs met in one catch all service delivery model.
- Describe your knowledge of the academic standards and how that applies to your role as an SLP. Here I listen for an understanding that the primary role of an educational SLP is to help students have the communication skills necessary to access their curriculum. In order to do that, we need to understand the curriculum and standards the student is expected to learn in the classroom.
- Name a time you had to work with a difficult adult (not a client) and how you handled the situation. This question is not specific to the school setting, but just interaction and problem solving skills in general. I’m looking to see if you can identify the root of a problem, communicate effectively, and address first with that individual vs. involving an administrator/manager.
- What are some strategies you use when a student is not cooperating with you during intervention? Here I am listening for in the moment behavior management strategies as well as the idea of being proactive in preventing negative behaviors (e.g. “caught being good” reward charts, breaks, fidget toys, focus on student engagement) vs. reactive (e.g. taking away something like recess or a toy, negative reinforcement).
- How do you describe yourself in terms of organization, paperwork completion tasks, materials and lesson planning, and interpersonal skills? SLPs are inundated with paperwork. We are required by law to meet deadlines for IEP and MET implementation so organization and adherence to timelines is huge. Also, being a part of a school equates to being a team player. You will be interacting with teachers at all grade levels and a flexible personality is a must!
- What questions do you have? You should be interviewing the school district also to see if they are a good fit for you. Common questions I hear include information about caseload size, support systems in place for SLPs, mentoring programs, software used by the district for Medicaid billing and IEP/report writing, school placements (e.g. are requests for certain age groups/school locations honored), and access to assessments and therapy materials.
Bottom line - be yourself! Dress professionally but there is no need to wear a suit. A smile and open attitude is the most important thing you will wear that day. You will do great! And to all of you soon to be graduates, CONGRATULATIONS! You did it!