Sunday, June 18, 2017

Interviewing for School Psychologist Positions

Last month I talked about how I became a School Psychologist.  I know that there are a bunch of fresh new school psychs out there, fresh out of school (Congratulations!!!!), so I wanted to share a bit about my experience interviewing, and some tips I have.

Some background:  I'm a School Psychologist in New England.  I interviewed for my first job 5 years ago, and started in a new district this past year, due to too long of a commute, and a growing family.

1.  Be choosey
This isn't for everyone, but I'm sharing my experience today.  When I graduated, some of my classmates began applying to every district that showed a school psychology position.  They wanted jobs, and fast.  I had interned in a great district, and knew that I had worked hard in school, and was a good candidate.  I also though, didn't want a job just anywhere.  I wanted to work in only one school (not terribly difficult around where I live), and I had a list of about 8-10 districts that I wanted to, with a definite top 3.  I knew, from family and friends, that many school positions posted at the end of the summer, when education budgets began, and others found jobs.  I was patient, and in the end ended up only getting interviews in 2 districts.  It paid off though, because I ended up getting a position in the district I interned it, my top choice, and I loved working there.

2.  Bring a portfolio
As part of our classes in grad school, we put together a portfolio of information-everything from our philosophy of school psychology and child development, to work samples.  I'm not sure if some of it got looked at the first go around, but I did feel like it was helpful enough that I updated my portfolio before interviewing again this past summer.

3.  Bring extra copies of the important things
Aside from the portfolio, which really, the interview team will have only a few minutes to look over, I like to be generally over prepared, and bring along extra copies of my resume, and a sample report, plus maybe 1-2 other things (written references, etc.) in a folder that I can give to the school.  You never know what information they will have, and it's nice for them to be able to look back and have something to reference.

4.  Be over prepared
In all of my experience interviewing teachers, paraprofessionals and more, since I was hired at my first job, I never have thought "Wow, he/she was totally over prepared-terrible!".  So my advice is, wear the outfit you think might be a little too formal, bring the portfolio even though it makes you look over prepared, and ask lots of questions.  School Psychologists have to juggle a lot in their jobs, and this is your first impression!

5.  Think about potential questions ahead of time
This list from Fordham is lengthy, but covers a lot.  I wouldn't say you need to have an answer for all of these, but you do want to think about questions that will most likely come up-Why do you want to be a school psychologist?  What are you strengths and weaknesses?  Also, be prepared to share examples from your internship and other experiences.  I also feel terrible when we ask a question like "Tell us about a crisis or stressful situation and how you handled it", and people get too nervous to think of something.  Think of a few students ahead of time whom you have worked with, that you can relate things to.

6.  Be familiar with assessments
Schools and districts don't always ask about this, but some do, and because it's difficult to think on the spot (see above!), it can be helpful to just brainstorm in your head, what assessments you are familiar with.  One position I interviewed for was a preschool one, and when they asked this question, I felt like I could have researched a little more beforehand.  Then again, the answer "I'm not sure, but I'm willing to learn whatever I need to", is a great one.

7.  Research the district or school(s)
Now that everyone has websites, it's pretty easy to go on and get some general information on who you are hoping to work with?  Is if a large district with many schools?  Do they have an overarching academic philosophy?  It never hurts to do a little research beforehand.

8.  Network
Like any job you are trying to get, it helps to know someone.  If for nothing else, but that that person can speak to your strengths:  "Yes, Cara worked with my son, she is great with kids!".  Don't be afraid to contact those who might work in the same district or school to ask if they know if there are any positions available.

9.  Know the lingo
If I started a random conversation at a family gathering about IEP's, RTI and 504's, people might think I'm speaking a different language.  But it doesn't hurt to speak to what you know in education, and be familiar with all of these terms (and brush up on them, if necessary).
be comfortable talking about RI< IEP etc.

10.  Have questions yourself
In every interview for any job I've been on, the last thing is always some version of "What questions do you have for us?", and you should have some!  I've written them down beforehand at times, and others, just had them in my head.  A lot of times, many of them have been asked already, but I have one or two that haven't been. And if not, I make them up on the spot.

What other advice do you have for scoring the first school psychology job?

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