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Feb 03, 2018

Interviewing for a field placement? Questions worth asking

I still struggle with the notion of interview preparation.  I’ve interviewed hundreds of job candidates, coached students on interview strategies, and gone on my fair share of interviews.  As for interview preparation, I’ve always felt there’s a fine line between being prepared and being rehearsed.

While I personally rather err on the side of spontaneity, there’s one exception: I never leave home without three planned questions to ask my interviewer. 

For students who are currently seeking internships, here are a few questions to keep in your notes:

Can you tell me about your experience as a supervisor for counseling students?  This question is particularly helpful if your prospective supervisor hails from one of our sister professions.  Social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists can all make effective mentors, but they do have their differences compared to counselors. Get a feel for whether they share some of our most salient philosophies of wellness, a developmental orientation, and advocacy.

What is your supervision style? On an interview, a prospective supervisor once told me that she was very “hands off.”  I interpreted this as, You’re on your own, kid, which quite frankly, turned me off.  Strike up a conversation regarding what supervision would actually look like.  This is an essential part of your training, and you deserve a supervisor who fits your needs.

How many interns do you usually accept? My co-interns were an indispensable part of my third internship.  They added validation, levity, and a tremendous amount of insight to my experience. In contrast, I was the sole intern at other sites (which also had its perks, including individual supervision).  Consider your preference (solo or team) and get a sense of whether that site can offer you the camaraderie or the independence that you desire.

Do you allow recordings at your site? If your supervision class requires audio or video recordings, ensure that the site can provide that opportunity for you.  I know many students who had to search for second sites because their primary placements would not permit recordings.  This is an extra stressor that you’ll want to avoid, if possible.

Do you anticipate that I’ll be able to earn all of my direct hours here? I’ve had valuable experiences at all of my sites, but it took me an extra month to accrue my practicum hours because the caseload just wasn’t there.  We don’t all have an extra month to spare.  Try to gauge early in the process if you’ll need a secondary site for supplementary hours.

Is there any room for flexibility, if my schedule changes during the semester? Considering all the moving pieces of the graduate school experience (coursework, internships, outside jobs, research assistantships, conferences, family life, self care, etc.), chances are, you will need to make some changes as the semester progresses.  Get a sense of how much latitude you’d have to switch days or double-up your hours on a given week.

Have interns ever been offered positions here after graduation? Indeed, I have seen interns stay at their sites after graduation, in a full time (paid!) capacity.  It’s a beautiful thing---if you like your site.  I encourage you to check if this is a viable place of future employment.  On the other hand, as tempting as it may be to select a site because you might get a job there one day, this does you no good if you don’t actually like the work!  A three month stint at a placement that you love will be much more meaningful for your professional development than a lukewarm experience that turns into a job.
Christine Hennigan Paone is a counselor in training at Monmouth University as well as an aspiring counselor educator.  Her research interests include creativity in counseling, multicultural career counseling, and pedagogy.


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