Types of Questions You May Be Asked

According to U.S. News & World Report (2014) there are six different types of interviews or interview questions. Five ofthese apply to graduate student interviews. These include: (a) standard, (b) behavioral, (c) situational, (d) presentation, and (e) panel interviews.

Standard interview questions include the basic questions you would expect at an interview. Examples of standard questions include:

  • • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • • Why do you want to be a counselor?
  • • Do you have a specialty area in mind?
  • • What population do you want to work with and why?
  • • Why did you choose our program?
  • • What drew you to the field of counseling?
  • • What types of experience do you have related to counseling?

Behavioral interview questions are used to try to understand how you might behave during certain situations that may arise once you are in the program based on past behavior. This is a time when the program faculty members gauge your openness to others, understand how you handle conflict, and ascertain your views on multiculturalism. Examples of behavioral questions include: "You are working with a group on a project and several of your group members are not pulling their weight. What do you do?” and "Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a colleague and how you handled the situation.”

The situational interview, in contrast to the behavior interview, measures your content knowledge and problem-solving skills in the moment. As part of the interview, you may be presented with a scenario and asked to respond. For example: "Clients often bring up topics that are sensitive to you as a counselor. What topics do you see as challenging when working with clients? What would you do when one of these topics is brought up during session?” In the presentation style interview, you may be asked to prepare a presentation prior to the interview on a specific topic or be asked to present on a topic to the other applicants at the interview and/ or the faculty. This type of interview assesses how you think on your feet. It helps the admission committee determine your comfort level when speaking in front of an audience. These types of questions can range from simply introducing yourself to presenting your own research.

The final type of interview is the panel interview. During the panel interview, several faculty, and possibly current students, will have prepared questions for you to answer, which may include any number of questions as discussed above.

Other considerations related to the interview process:

  • • Do your research. Before the interview you need to research the counseling program and the program faculty. You need to know specialty areas offered by the program, the length of time to complete the program, and/ or what others have said about the program. CACREP-accredited counseling programs are specifically required to post information on their websites about pertinent program issues such as (a) admission requirements, (b) accreditation status, (c) delivery systems used for instruction, (d) minimum program requirements, (e) matriculation requirements, and (f) financial aid (CACREP, 2016). In addition, CACREP-accredited programs are required to post updated program outcomes (from the Annual Vital Statistics Survey), which include (a) number of graduates in the past year, (b) completion rate, (c) licensure or certification examination pass rate, and (d) job placement rate of students/graduates (CACREP, 2016).
  • • Review professors’ curriculum vitae (resumes), and read their research, demonstrating your initiative and interest. Be sure to address faculty correctly. Do not call them by their first name, and address them as "Doctor” or "Professor” unless you are sure they do not hold a doctoral degree. It can be insulting for a faculty member who has earned a doctoral degree to be addressed as Ms. or Mr.
  • • Meet current students. Current program students are often a part of the interview committee and will have input on admission decisions. Do not interact with the current students unprofessionally or be dismissive about their presence. Take the time to ask the students their opinions about the program, including positive and negative aspects of the program. Ask about the biggest obstacles for them, or how available the professors are for advising and working with students.
  • • Make sure your goals match that of the program. Read the program mission statement and share how your beliefs align with the stated learning outcomes developed by the program. Be able to articulate your assertion that you will contribute to the program based on the philosophy and goals of the program.
  • • Know the field. Be able to articulate your understanding of the practice of counseling and the basics of credentialing. You need to be able to demonstrate your understanding of your chosen work setting (e.g., school, mental health) and how you will obtain the ability to practice (e.g., certification, licensure). Be clear about your professional goals and the discipline of counseling (rather than psychology or social work, for example). Know the correct path to follow to get where you want to be.
  • • Be positive about their program and the interview process. If you are offered the opportunity to provide feedback, choose carefully the information you will share. If you are admitted to the program, you may find more appropriate opportunities to share your feedback if you participate in the interview process as a student.
  • • Show flexibility and acceptance of ambiguity. Counseling is as much an art as it is a science. Being overly rigid and needing too much structure can be a detriment to your interview for a counseling program.
  • • Think about appropriate personal information you would like to share that will be helpful when deciding on your acceptance, even if they do not ask. Find ways to emphasize that personal information without being intrusive.
  • • Follow up. It is customary to write a thank-you note after any interview, and the graduate school interview is no exception. We suggest sending a handwritten note to the committee or program chair, as well as the entire faculty that were present during the interview. This allows you to convey your interest and your appreciation of the opportunity to share your appropriateness for program admission. While an email thank-you note may be acceptable, a written note may be particularly appreciated by professors as demonstrating extra effort and a knowledge of written etiquette.

The bottom line when interviewing is to be professional and at the same time be yourself. Finding the best fit is a goal for both you and the program. Choosing a program that is a good fit for you, not just based on convenience, will hopefully result in a satisfactory decision for both you and the program.

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