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Many people are attracted to a career as a residential counselor by their desire to help others. Residential counselors work with patients receiving treatment at live-in facilities, such as rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities or group homes. They counsel the patients, facilitate group and individual therapy sessions, and plan day-to-day activities. The median salary for a residential counselor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $37,530 as of May 2020. Potential residential counselors can take several steps to make a great impression in the interview.
Research the Facility
One of the most important steps in preparing for an interview as a residential counselor involves researching the facility. Facilities vary in many ways. Some facilities focus on youth with behavioral problems. In these facilities, the residential counselor may spend more time supervising the participants and directing their behavior.
In a faith-based facility, the residential counselor may be expected to counsel patients from the perspective of submitting to a higher power and using prayer in each session. Smaller facilities may allow the residential counselor to spend more time with individual patients. Larger facilities may require the residential counselor to lead more group sessions.
Identify Personal Experiences Related to Resident Care
Once you understand the focus of the facility and how it operates, you can identify key points to share in the interview. These key points demonstrate your ability to handle situations that may arise while working at the facility.
Reflect on your professional experiences and write down any that demonstrate your ability to interact with residents, problem solve, or resolve conflicts. If you lack professional experience, consider any experiences from your personal life.
Prepare for a Panel Interview
Many residential facilities conduct panel interviews with their residential counselors, in which several representatives interview you at the same time. These typically include employees from human resources, management and current residential counselors. Human resource representatives typically ask general questions regarding your background, such as a summary of your experience.
Managers on the panel ask questions to learn how your experience fits in with the requirements of the position. Current residential counselors want to see how you fit in with the patients. While these interviews can be intimidating, they allow the company to see how you handle pressure. They also give you the opportunity to see how employees interact with each other in the organization.
Practice by asking several friends or family members to sit around a table and ask questions. Direct each answer to the person asking the question, making eye contact.
Residential counselors work directly with patients. Some interviewers will ask scenario-based questions requiring you to share a specific experience that relates to the question.
For example, the interviewer might present you with a situation and ask you how you would handle it. Other interviewers will ask open-ended questions.
Good answers for open-ended questions include sharing an experience where you demonstrated the quality being asked for in the question.
Potential Interview Questions
While you can’t predict what questions will be asked, you can prepare for categories of questions. Questions commonly asked at residential counselor interviews include questions about patient interactions, working with coworkers, and your personal mentors.
Patient interaction questions help the interviewer understand how you approach various situations that typically arise in the facility.
Coworker questions help the interviewer gauge how well you would fit in with the team. Questions about personal mentors provide the interviewer with insight into what you’ve learned and what you can teach.