You have been shortlisted for a position as a special education paraprofessional at an elementary or secondary school. Forecasts predict excellent job prospects for special education paraprofessionals and teaching assistants during the decade ending in 2018 (see Reference 1). Increased school enrollment among special education students and students for whom English is a second language will spur this demand. Now, what can you do to best prepare for that interview?
Do Your Homework
Read about the school and the surrounding community. Check out the website and any recent newspaper articles. Be prepared to tell the interviewers why you are interested in their school and community. Reread your resume and application before the interview. Create accomplishment stories that clearly demonstrate a connection between the position and your education and previous work experience. Describe any leadership roles in volunteer and community activities, especially those that deal with children and adolescents. Write out these stories and practice delivering them in a mock interview with a friend or mentor.
Prepare Questions and Answers.
Prepare and practice responses to typical interview questions: "Why do you want to be a special education paraprofessional?" "What is your philosophy of education?" "Describe any experience with children who have special needs." Throughout the interview, the panel interviewing you will also pose a number of hypothetical questions. The interviewers are watching and judging your reactions to sensitive issues within the educational system. Examples include the following: "Do you think that paraprofessionals should provide nursing care to children who have special health-care needs?" "Who should not be integrated into a regular classroom?" "What will you do if you disagree with the lead teacher's lesson plan or strategy for dealing with a particular student?"
Behave Appropriately Before the Interview
The interview begins as soon as you enter the school building or board office. Smile and greet any staff, students or parents you see in the halls. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and sit down in the waiting area. Do not use this time to apply makeup, comb your hair, finish your breakfast or have lengthy conversations on your cell phone. Instead, bring a recent news magazine or book to read. Some administrators will ask their receptionists for input into the interview process.
Watch Your Body Language
As a special education paraprofessional, you will be working closely with students and the lead teacher in each classroom. At times, the job will be physically and emotionally draining. During the interview, it is very important to be enthusiastic and upbeat about yourself and the position. Be aware of your energy level, posture, facial expressions and gestures. Refrain from frowning, raising your eyebrows or reacting in any way that may be perceived as judgmental.
Find out if the school has a mandatory dress code for their staff. If you are uncertain, dress professionally. In the future, you may dress casually and wear jeans or khakis, but do not under-dress for the interview. Wear a dark-colored suit – black, brown or blue – with a tailored white shirt or blouse. Avoid cologne or perfume, flashy ties and accessories, and uncomfortable shoes.