How to Prepare for an Interview for a School-Based Therapy Position

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Occupational Therapists

Are you searching for a school-based therapy job?

Want to feel confident and prepared in your next – or first – interview with special education department staff?

No matter what your profession – speech-language pathologist (SLP), occupational therapist (OT), physical therapist (PT), Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or another – pre-interview jitters are commonplace.  Any stress can affect your confidence – in turn, altering how the interviewer perceives your expertise and ability to deliver therapy services or evaluate students.  Remember: regarding therapy, special education personnel’s primary concern is the student body entrusted to their care; the interviewer is aware the level of confidence YOU project could influence each student who receives therapy or evaluations.

Over decades, peak performance coach Anthony Robbins has spoken much about success.  Let’s look at two of his well-known sayings, and extract ideas on how they can help you prepare for a school-based therapy interview.

“It’s not knowing what to do; it’s doing what you know.”

You know what to do in an interview: answer questions.  And you know what to do in your job: provide therapy services and/or perform therapeutic evaluations. But in a school-based therapy job interview, do you “do what you know?”

You actively chose a therapy career; at the same time, realize that you were chosen for this career precisely because of who you are – because you have what it takes to serve the needs of special education students.  That said, the best way to shine through the interview is to stay in touch with who you are at your core. This will empower you to do what you know as a school-based therapist interviewing for a special education job:  show interest in the interviewer and propose solutions that are tailored to their specific needs.

You can convey this in an interview by avidly focusing on the interviewer(s) and communicating (in various ways, throughout the discussion) that you are eager to contribute to the school’s mission, recognize the potential in special education students, and equip them with the tools they need to make progress.

During the interview, you may be asked such questions as how you would work with students in lower grades versus higher grades; your communication style with parents and administrators; if and how you would use technology during students’ therapy sessions; how you could approach a situation in which a student was exhibiting extreme behavioral dysfunction; how you have modified therapeutic plans and interacted with Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams to recommend changes, etc.

Besides your academic and experiential qualifications, the interviewer may inquire about the uniqueness of your approach to therapy.  Don’t be reticent about showcasing your creativity, determination and passion. For example, did you modify an existing lesson, game or exercise that helped one or more students make progress?  Explain the challenge, the solution you brought to the table, and the result.  Then, describe the impact on student engagement and parent confidence in your treatment methods.

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

The interviewer might ask: “Do you have any questions for me?”  According to John Kador, author of 301 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, passing on the chance to ask questions would be a grave mistake. In his book, Kador shares that recruiters unanimously agree that “job seekers who fail to ask at least a few intelligent questions are destined to remain job seekers” – leaving the interviewer with the impression that you think the job is trivia, aren’t comfortable being assertive and/or are easily intimidated, or believe you know everything there is to know about the therapy job, and are resistant to learning more.

Be sure to select your questions carefully, because the ones you ask could make you positively stand out among other school-based therapists vying for the same job.  Kador notes that – with the right questions – you can communicate the following:

  • Interest (you took time to investigate the job, the school’s mission and culture, etc.)
  • Intelligence (you truly understand the job requirements, and would be fully invested in it)
  • Confidence (you have everything it takes to do the job)
  • Personal appeal (you are the type of person who would fit in with school administrators, other school-based therapists, and the students)
  • Assertiveness (humbly asking for the job, based on your confident ability to serve their students)

After determining the best questions you can ask, practice them to eliminate the possibility of forgetfulness or awkwardness with timing.  Jot your questions down beforehand to – first, help ensure you don’t miss a beat – and second, show the interviewer that you’re the type of person who prepares thoughtfully.

A few sample questions to ask a special education interviewer are:

  • What expectations can I meet or even exceed within the first month on the job?
  • Are there resources your department needs that I might be able to help provide?
  • How can I help you support parents and encourage their involvement?
  • What are some key strengths you seek in the ideal therapist – and do you believe our interaction thus far has addressed them?
  • Have you encountered challenges with receiving thorough and clear progress reports for students? Is there anything I can do to make your job easier in this sense?
  • Is there any other way I can support the special education department to make your job easier?
  • Do you have any concerns about me fulfilling the responsibilities of this position?

Are YOU preparing for an interview – or have YOU experienced a successful school-based therapist job interview?  If so, please comment below with your insights or advice!

 

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