New Counselor? The Secret to a Winning Job Interview

Seven Steps to Take Charge of a Job Interview

Every new school counselor has to begin somewhere  and that means nailing a job interview. I can still remember finishing graduate school and the stress of looking for a job, getting called in for an interview and then ultimately learning that I didn’t get the position. I had one particular county that I wanted to work in and I actually turned down a job offer because I thought I had a job in another school that I wanted more… and then wound up not getting it.  It can be discouraging and demoralizing. Sometimes I would contact the employer to get feedback only to be told that someone with more experience was hired. It can seem like a no win situation.  After all, how can you get experience when you can’t get a job?

As someone who has now been on both sides of the interviewing process, there are several things that you can do to turn the tables and create a winning interview.

Here is what I wish had known when I was interviewing:

  • Do your homework:  It’s not just about experience, it’s about attitude, character, and fitting into the team. Spend time researching the school so that you know not only the qualifications for the job but also the culture of the employer.  Then be prepared to do more than just say you are a team player.  Instead present how you would be a team player.  Show how the values of the school line up with your values and how the vision of the school is equally inspiring to you.
  • Determine the challenges of the school:  Every school has challenges and wants employees who don’t just meet the requirements but who can take the initiative to problem solve and meet those challenges.  Be curious and proactive. Ask what those challenges are and then offer ideas for addressing them.  Demonstrate your critical thinking skills and problem solving ability.
  • Demonstrate your strengths:  First of all make sure that you not only know your strengths but also know how to share them. This is much more than indicating that you are a team player and productive on your resume.  Share examples of how you used your strengths to benefit another school or employer in the past.
  • Actions speak louder than words:  The biggest problem with the typical interview is that it is just talk. Do something that shows you in action.  Send a video prior to the interview of you at work.  For example, share a video of you teaching a class during your internship.  Put together a collage of photos that show your interests and skills.  Bring  in examples of projects completed or work done.  Do something memorable that sets you apart.
  • Offer to do a working interview for free:  More and more employers are using this technique but my experience is that it is rare in a school. However, you can suggest it.  Offer to spend half a day with the team or individual that you would work with, shadowing them and sharing your expertise.  This is a win/win for both you and the employer as you can both see if it is a good fit.
  • Practice to develop a confident mindset:  Get someone to help you practice answering the typical questions that you can expect in an interview.  Write down your answers and review them repeatedly.  Visualize yourself successfully answering questions and nailing the interview.
  • Research and development:  Finally, consider every interview an opportunity for you to learn and grow rather than a desperate attempt to get a job.  Take the approach that you are assessing them just as much as they are assessing you to determine a good fit.  Your mindset will show through.  Be curious.  Be enthusiastic.  Think how you can help them more than how they can help you.


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