School Psychologist Interview Questions
School psychologists work in all levels of education from elementary schools to universities. They help children and young adults with a variety of mental health needs by assisting in addressing and treating mental health issues that affect the social life and academic performance of students.
School psychologists offer counseling services with the goal of addressing issues such as various types of anxiety, bullying, low self-esteem, and problems in the student’s household. This position requires the psychologist to work closely with parents and guardians to address problems.
A school psychologist’s responsibilities include:
- Counseling students with social and academic problems
- Counseling parents on proper techniques for addressing students' mental health
- Helping students form goals and plans for self-improvement
- Ensuring disciplinary actions are appropriate and don’t negatively affect students
- Putting in place effective teaching programs
- Advising teachers about the needs of their students
A school psychologist should have the following skills:
- Good communication and listening skills
- Patience to work with students on long- and short-term goals
- Empathy and an open mind
- Good problem-solving skills
School psychologist positions require a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree in school psychology or a similar master’s program in education or psychology. A doctorate is required if the applicant wants to participate in academic research in the field of school psychology. Experience in the field will bolster an application, but appropriate training at the master’s level is usually required.
Salaries for school psychologists range between $48K and $213K with the median being $79K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a school psychologist include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's, Ph.D.)
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the school administrator or district supervisor you report to, the size and type of the organization, and number of staff you manage)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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School Psychologist Interview Questions
Question: What do you like and dislike about being a school psychologist?
Explanation: This is a general question that the interviewer will likely ask early during the interview. The purpose of a question like this is to get you talking, learn a little bit more about your background, and collect information they can use for future questions.
Example: “There are many things that I like about being a school psychologist and very few things which I do not like. Chief among the things I like are the outcomes I see in the students and the progress I witness due to my intervention on their behalf. What I don’t like is the administrative work associated with this role. I would rather spend face time with the students than be head down, filling out forms, and completing reports. However, I recognize the importance of the paperwork, so I do it willingly, trying not to let it interfere with my relationships and the time I spend with the students.”
Question: As a school psychologist, what do you believe are the most common mental and emotional problems children face?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will ask to understand your approach to school psychology. Operational questions are best answered directly and briefly. The interviewer will follow up with another question if they need additional information.
Example: “Some of the common issues I encounter in my work as a school psychologist include anxiety and mood disorders, eating disorders, and sometimes schizophrenia. Some students talk about feelings of deficiency, lack of recognition, false self-image, and similar issues.”
Question: What is your strategy for working with teachers, parents, and school administrators?
Explanation: This is another operational question addressing your ability to collaborate with other stakeholders in the student’s mental wellness. You should be able to communicate your ability to work with a team of other adults concerned about the child’s welfare.
Example: “I believe that parents and teachers are the main adults concerned with a child’s health, as it relates to their education. As a school psychologist, I have to cooperate with these adults as well as other staff members, including other psychologists and counselors, to ensure that each child is prepared to reach their full potential. I make sure to include all of the stakeholders in my counseling plans for individual students.”
Question: As you are probably aware, violence is increasing in schools and sometimes results in fatalities. How do you address this in your role as a school psychologist?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is trying to determine how you perform your job as a school psychologist. You can anticipate that the majority of questions you will be asked during an interview will be behavioral or operational in nature. The best way to be prepared for this is to practice answering questions like these.
Example: “Unfortunately, on-campus violence is increasing. Even if it doesn’t happen on our campus, it still impacts the students we work with. I have found that the best way to address this is to acknowledge it and then reassure the students that the administration, staff, teachers, and other adults associated with the school have taken every precaution possible to prevent or reduce violence on campus. When working with individual students, I acknowledge their feelings and try to help them understand that while school violence is sensational, it is a rare occurrence.”
Question: What criteria do you use to help you decide whether a child should be placed in a special education program?
Explanation: This is a technical question. Technical questions seek to identify your knowledge of specific issues, terms, or practices within your profession. Like operational questions, technical questions should be answered briefly and directly. You should anticipate follow-up questions to each of your answers.
Example: “Recommending a child for a special education program is a delicate matter. Many teachers and parents will dispute whether a child would do better in such a program rather than being mainstreamed in a regular class. The criteria I use for recommending a special education program for an individual child focus on the outcome and whether the child benefits from such a program. I also make sure the teachers and parents understand the child will be periodically reevaluated to determine if they can return to a mainstream program.”
Question: How would you react if a parent insisted you do an inappropriate test or have a discussion with their child that you disagreed with?
Explanation: This is a behavioral question. Behavioral questions seek to understand how you would react to a specific situation common to this profession. When responding to a behavioral question, you can either cite an example of what you did before or project what you would do going forward if this situation were to arise.
Example: “Most parents want the absolute best for their children, but sometimes they become a little aggressive when it comes to assessing their child’s mental health. One of my jobs is to assist the parents in having reasonable expectations and taking appropriate actions when addressing psychological issues with their children. Whenever a parent asks me to do something I feel is inappropriate or which I do not agree with, I push back, explaining my rationale and relying on my background and training. In most cases, the parents will agree with me, and we move on. If they continue to be insistent, I engage an administrator or one of my supervisors to support my position.”
Question: What would you do if a teacher came to you about a student acting out in class?
Explanation: This is another behavioral question that asks about a specific situation. An easy way to respond to behavioral questions is by using the STAR framework. You state the Situation, present the Task you need to accomplish, describe the Actions you took or would take, and then discuss the Results you hope to achieve.
Example: “Students who are disruptive in class is a common occurrence in most schools. The majority of teachers can handle the situation themselves, but occasionally, things get so out of hand that they seek the assistance of a school psychologist. When this occurs, the first thing I do is confirm the behavior exceeds the teacher’s ability to control it. I then seek to understand the motivation behind the behavior, including issues they are encountering either at home or in school. I first work with this student to try to modify their behavior and get them back in the classroom. I then work with the teacher and parents to correct the situation a student is encountering. This normally results in the student understanding that their behavior is disruptive and them cooperating with the teacher going forward.”
Question: How would you deal with a situation in which you disagreed with your manager over the diagnosis you made for one of the students you work with?
Explanation: You probably already recognize this as a behavioral question. Disagreements with management and co-workers are typical topics of behavioral questions. It would help if you practiced your answers about how you deal with disagreements at work because these are part of virtually every interview you will go on.
Example: “It is common to have disagreements about a clinical diagnosis when dealing with children. When this occurs, I try to keep an open mind and always focus on what is best for the child. I actively listen to other people’s opinions and am willing to change my diagnosis if convinced to do so. However, if I feel that I am right, I use my communication skills to bring the other party around to my way of thinking. Whichever solution I choose, it usually works out the best interests of the student.”
Question: What types of interventions do you recommend for students diagnosed with ADHD problems?
Explanation: This is an operational question which is seeking to determine how you deal with a specific situation. Remember to keep your answer brief and to the point. Also, anticipate follow-up questions from the interviewer due to this being a common issue at most schools.
Example: “ADHD diagnoses are common in contemporary educational environments. This often causes a problem because ADHD is overdiagnosed. The first thing I do is try to confirm the diagnosis to make sure the child is not experiencing some other issues which may present as ADHD. I then work with the teachers, parents, and administrators to develop an individualized program for the student which will help them continue their education in a normalized manner with small adaptations that mitigate their disorder.”
Question: How frequently do you evaluate a student’s progress when they are in an individualized education program (IEP)?
Explanation: This is a simple operational question that addresses how you go about doing your job. Since IEPs have become common in today’s schools, you should have experience dealing with this and be able to provide the answer the interviewer is looking for.
Example: “By definition, IEPs are distinct and differ between students. There is no standard schedule for a reevaluation of the student’s progress. However, I make sure that I reassess the student periodically while they’re still in the program to determine if they are making progress, whether the program needs to be modified, or if they’re ready to return to the mainstream classroom. Evaluation schedules may range from weekly to once a month.”
Additional School Psychologist Interview Questions
What experience do you have in other fields of psychology?
What led you to pursue school psychology in particular?
Have you worked in an educational institution in any other capacity?
How do you approach counseling a student who is experiencing bullying?
How do you approach counseling a student who is considering suicide?
What teaching methods would you introduce to help underachieving students?
How would you track progress with students who seek counseling?
How would you foster an atmosphere of trust with both students and parents?
How would you handle parents who fail to work with you toward the student’s well-being?
What challenges do you expect to encounter in a school environment?
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