School Counselor Interview Questions
School Counselors support students and provide personalized recommendations to parents and educators that promote wellness and academic achievement. They also help students emotionally deal with many common, school-age problems such as bullying, peer pressure, relationship issues, and family struggles. Depending on the level of education they work in, a School Counselor may help students with upcoming transitions such as entering high school or preparing for graduation.
School Counselors are advocates for students’ well-being, and it is their responsibility to ensure every child builds the skills they need to thrive in every area of their lives. Qualified School Counselors must meet their individual state’s requirements, which includes a bachelor’s or master’s in counseling, professional training and licensure. Choosing the right School Counselor interview questions will ensure your next hire holds both the qualifications and characteristics necessary to provide the highest quality of care to students.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests, and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are School Counselor interview questions to help you get started:
1. What inspired you to become a School Counselor?
What you want to hear: A strong passion for helping children is absolutely essential, and it should shine through in a candidate’s response to this question. In addition to loving the counseling process, a School Counselor must also be genuinely committed to helping children on a personal level. It is their job to ensure students are well-adjusted and reach their fullest potential.
Red flag: A candidate who appreciates the theoretical aspects of child development but does not understand the practical aspects of working with children could struggle to bond with students. Your School Counselor must be someone extremely warm and approachable, someone who students will trust and feel secure confiding in.
2. What made you choose to counsel students at this level?
What you want to hear: Counseling needs and techniques are vastly different among elementary, middle and high school students. A School Counselor should demonstrate why they are passionate about helping students at a particular stage of development; they may love watching personalities emerge among elementary students or have a passion for helping high school students transition into college and become well-rounded adults.
Red flag: A School Counselor who doesn’t seem particularly tied to their work is likely to be distant and emotionally disengaged with students. A candidate should be an expert on the nuances of the school’s age demographics; this makes it possible for them to ensure students are developing properly and communicate with them in the most effective manner.
3. Do you take notes during your sessions with students?
What you want to hear: Good notes are an important part of counseling; they help the School Counselor record any important details and structure future interventions with parents and instructors. Strong candidates may mention the importance of being fully present during counseling and utilize a method called SOAP notes to gather the most important details while still giving students their undivided attention.
Red flag: Notes promote accountability and result in more accurate, focused recommendations. Lack of note taking may also indicate poor organizational skills. Most importantly, notes give the School Counselor the ability to refer back to sessions and ensure they’re always providing the most personalized suggestions for their students.
4. What steps do you take to handle an angry or aggressive parent?
What you want to hear: These types of situational interview questions help you assess a candidate’s personality and communication skills. The School Counselor should always strive to achieve the best outcomes for students, which means being an active listener, showing empathy and striving to find common ground with parents.
Red flag: A School Counselor is someone who can remain calm around hostile people. They have clear boundaries and maintain professionalism, even when they are faced with criticism or baseless anger from parents. If the candidate seems to tense up during this question or doesn’t mention the importance of respectful communication, they may struggle to communicate effectively at work.
5. What do you do if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected at home?
What you want to hear: Abuse reporting can be a traumatic experience for a child. To minimize the risk of psychological harm, a School Counselor should look for various signs of maltreatment including social withdrawal, behavioral problems and decreased academic performance. They should also speak with the child about their family to ascertain whether the child is being cared for adequately. If they suspect abuse or neglect of any kind, they must file a report with social services.
Red flag: A School Counselor who does not think reporting abuse is part of their job is a hazard to children. Sometimes, the only people who ever notice and speak up about childhood maltreatment are educational professionals who have the courage to do so. It is not something they should feel obligated to do in only the most extreme cases; looking after children’s well-being is the heart of their entire job, and they should do so with vigilance.
6. How do you deal with criticism from parents and teachers?
What you want to hear: This question assesses the candidate’s emotional regulation and self-esteem. School Counselors should recognize that criticism is a part of their job, and they are willing to accept any negative feedback as long as it helps them create the best outcome for students.
Red flag: An inability to handle criticism is likely to divert attention from students and lead to arguments. A School Counselor’s top priority should never be defending themselves or proving a point; they must focus on meeting students’ needs and ensuring they have everything they need to succeed.
7. Describe a time you had to work with a child who was resistant to counseling. What did you do to resolve this?
What you want to hear: There are many approaches a School Counselor can take to gain a child’s trust and reduce resistance. The School Counselor should focus on being open and transparent, building a positive relationship and even use humor to alleviate anxiety.
Red flag: Inexperience with resistant students could cause a School Counselor to struggle when working with those who need their services the most. The School Counselor should recognize resistance as a normal, common occurrence and have strategies in place to resolve it.
8. What do you do if a student reveals they have suicidal thoughts or plans?
What you want to hear: Many heavy topics emerge in high school, including depression, self-harm and suicide. If a student confides in a School Counselor, they must first speak to them openly; avoiding the subject is not a solution. They should also let the student know that they have to reach out to their parents and offer to do so together. They should then ensure that the student receives the mental health services they need.
Red flag: If a School Counselor doesn’t take suicide seriously, they cannot be trusted with any other matter. High schoolers experience a broad range and incredible depth of emotion that should never be trivialized by an adult, especially one who is appointed to counsel and support them.
9. How would you go about resolving a conflict between a student and teacher?
What you want to hear: Accepting the student’s feelings and understanding their origin is important. Before any solution can be implemented, the School Counselor should first meet with both the child and teacher to gain a full understanding of the problem.
Red flag: A School Counselor cannot take sides based on principle alone. Siding with a teacher because they are in a position of authority could lead to mistreatment being overlooked; likewise, only siding with students could ignore maladaptive behaviors that need to be addressed. Ultimately, it is the School Counselor’s job to promote a healthy learning environment for all students and staff members alike.
10. In your opinion, what is the most important quality a School Counselor should have?
What you want to hear: This question gives you an opportunity to hear about a candidate’s values. They may think open communication is most important, or they could say patience. A love for children and empathy are also possible answers. What matters most is the authenticity of the answer. Strong responses will be justified with reasoning.
Red flag: School Counselors cannot rely on knowledge alone, especially when they work with children and adolescents. Responses to this question should be rooted in interpersonal skills to emphasize the importance of communication as the gateway to connection and positive change.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your School Counselor position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Understand the developmental and emotional milestones of the age groups they are working with.
- Have friendly, compassionate personalities that will make children feel welcomed and safe.
- Understand the school’s mission.
- Demonstrate a desire to help the school improve on both systematic and individual levels.