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Guidance CounselorInterview Questions

Guidance counselors help support elementary, middle, or high school students through school counseling programs. Guidance counselors provide assistance in regard to student academic and career goals or assist them in their social and mental capacities. They must provide encouragement and support to students who are struggling academically or mentally. All the while, they must pay attention to cultural or societal differences when dealing with students. 

Guidance counselors conduct group and individual counseling sessions to assist students with any problems they might be dealing with and help identify any behavioral problems with at-risk students. They must exercise professionalism at all times and be discrete about student problems to maintain trust.

Responsibilities

Guidance counselor responsibilities may include:

  • Listening to any problems a student might be having
  • Mediating peer conflict
  • Organizing peer counseling programs
  • Working to discourage the use of drugs and alcohol
  • Referring students for additional counseling as needed

Skills

Students face many problems as they grow physically, academically, and emotionally. In order to provide support and encourage them to make good decisions, a skilled guidance counselor will:

  • Utilize active listening to assess student needs
  • Maintain a professional, friendly demeanor
  • Practice discretion as needed to maintain trust with students
  • Exercise proper judgment when referring students for additional counseling services
  • Facilitate a support network for students

Qualifications

To secure a position as a guidance counselor, candidates will need to possess a master’s degree in education counseling, and they will need to pass an exam to obtain a license. Additional requirements may vary from state to state.

If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a guidance counselor, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.

Salary

Salaries for guidance counselors range between $43K and $65K with the median being $53K. 

Factors impacting the salary you receive as a guidance counselor include:

  • Degrees (bachelor's, master's, PhD)
  • Years of experience
  • Location
  • Reporting structure (seniority of the department head or school administrator you report to, number of direct reports such as teacher aids and other counselors)
  • Level of performance - exceeding expectations

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Guidance Counselor Interview Questions

Question: If hired, how do you plan to evaluate your performance in our school’s counseling program?

Explanation: This is a general or opening question the interviewer will ask early in the interview process. The purpose of this is to get you talking and to learn a little bit more about you as a guidance counselor. It also provides you the opportunity to begin to direct the interview toward areas in which you are comfortable.

Example: “As a guidance counselor, I have some very specific metrics I use to evaluate my performance and ensure the school’s program is achieving the results on which the administration, parents, students, and I agree. Metrics I use include the student dropout rate, number of conflicts resolved, improvements in student academic performance, and rating the program receives from both students and parents in feedback surveys.”  


Question: How can a school guidance counselor collaborate with teachers, parents, administrators, and other counselors to help the students?

Explanation: This is an example of an operational question. Interviewers ask operational questions to help them understand your qualifications for this position and to get a picture of how you go about doing this job. Operational questions are process-related, so you should answer with a description of the process you take to accomplish the task about which the interviewer is asking you.

Example: “Collaboration is one of the key skills a guidance counselor must possess. As a famous first lady once said, it takes a village to raise a child. This is true and especially relevant for guidance counselors. I make great efforts to get to know everybody on the school staff early in the school year so I can reach out to them to discuss student issues. I also take time not only to get to know the students but also their parents as well as other family members who may influence them. I reach out to anybody who can either provide information or help with counseling the students I work with.”


Question: How do you go about gaining the trust of the students with whom you work? 

Explanation: This is another operational question addressing an important aspect of a guidance counselor's job. Gaining trust with the people you work with is important to every profession but none more important than a guidance counselor. You should be able to discuss several ways you go about doing this and provide an example if necessary.

Example: “Gaining the trust of the students I work with is the most critical part of my job. If the students do not trust me, they will not provide me the information I need to help them nor will they take my advice. The best way I’ve found to gain a student’s trust is to be honest, fair, and transparent with them and treat them with a great deal of respect. Since every student is different, I customize my approach to match each student’s personality and communication style.” 


Question: How do you feel about the paperwork associated with being a school guidance counselor? 

Explanation: This is a hybrid operational and behavioral question. It’s asking your opinion about one of the least popular aspects of a guidance counselor's job. The operational aspect is how you deal with the required paperwork. The behavioral question involves your attitude toward paperwork and what you may do to either address it or avoid it. Since paperwork is part of the job, you should acknowledge this and describe ways you minimize its impact on the time you have to spend interacting with students.

Example: “Paperwork is an important part of a guidance counselor’s job. While it’s not my favorite part, I recognize it needs to be done completely and accurately. My approach is to complete the required paperwork either early or late in the day and sometimes at night. This maximizes the amount of time I have to interact with the students, administrators, parents, and other guidance counselors.” 


Question: Unfortunately, guidance counselors are often subjected to a great deal of criticism. How do you handle this?

Explanation: This is a behavioral question. The interviewer is seeking to understand how you behave when you encounter this situation which is common to the role for which you are interviewing. The best way to answer a behavioral question is to use the STAR framework. Describe the Situation, state the Task you need to accomplish, describe the Action you would take, and then summarize the Results. This can be based on a previous situation you encountered or projecting what you would do in the future.

Example: “In my past jobs, I’ve encountered two types of criticism. The first was constructive which I accepted and used to improve my counseling skills. The second was destructive or mean which was a signal that I was not communicating effectively. I don’t let it bother me but rather use it as an indication that I need to adjust my communication style with this particular individual to attain the results I am trying to achieve.” 


Question: Have you ever encountered an angry or difficult parent? If so, how did you deal with them? 

Explanation: This is another behavioral question that addresses a specific situation you will encounter in your job as a guidance counselor. Again, use the STAR framework to respond to this question. Remember to emphasize the results. While the result should represent a positive outcome, if the outcome was negative, describe the lessons learned and how you would behave differently going forward.

Example: “I have occasionally encountered parents who were either angry or difficult to deal with. This is typically a result of the parent and I having a different opinion of the student's performance or behavior. I recognize that parents are protective of their children, so I never blame them for not agreeing with me on all issues. When I encounter a difficult parent, my first objective is to calm them down. I do this through active listening and acknowledging their point of view. I then reiterate my points and seek to get their agreement. I look for areas on which we can compromise. Working through this process with the goal of doing what’s best for the student typically results in a positive outcome with the parent genuinely committing to the course of action I have recommended.”


Question: What actions would you take if one of your students told you she was pregnant? 

Explanation: Here is yet another behavioral question. Because guidance counselors deal with interpersonal relationships and young people’s lives, you should expect that most of your interview will consist of behavioral questions. Continue to respond to these using the STAR format with examples or projections based on your actual experience and training.

Example: “As a guidance counselor, I have an ethical responsibility for maintaining confidentiality with the students I work with. If a student were to confide in me about any situation similar to being pregnant, I would first and foremost maintain their confidentiality. I would then work with them to understand their family situation and how the issue would impact it. I’d counsel them to share the information with the appropriate adult in their life and seek other types of support such as medical care, social assistance, and possibly psychological counseling. I'd continue to follow up with them to ensure they were getting the appropriate care and help them in any other way I could. I’ve taken this course of action in the past, and it has always resulted in a positive outcome for the student.”


Question: What would you do if a student shared with you their suicide plans?

Explanation: This is a follow-up to the previous question that addresses a similar issue but one that is much more severe and has more dire consequences. Your answer may be similar to the one you just provided, but the actions you suggest taking should be more specific and urgent.

Example: “I have only encountered the situation of a student sharing they are contemplating suicide on a few occasions. Naturally, I take this very seriously. I take time to listen to the student and understand why they are thinking about this. I then recommend several courses of action, including meeting with their parents, getting independent psychological counseling, or other specific actions to help them work through this issue. Once the student has agreed to some of the next steps I recommended, I stay close to them to make sure they follow through. If they don’t agree to additional counseling or communication with their parents, I take the unusual course of breaking their confidentiality and contact either the parent or another resource to get them engaged directly with the student.” 


Question: If one of your students wanted to drop out of school, what would you do? 

Explanation: This is yet another behavioral question requesting a description of the action you would take when encountering a typical situation a guidance counselor faces in their job. While this is not as dire as the previous two situations, it will still have a significant impact on the student’s life. Respond to the question in a fashion similar to what you did for the other behavioral questions you have been asked.

Example: “I frequently encounter the situation of a student contemplating dropping out of school. This often occurs after they receive a bad grade or face a situation they have difficulty handling. I have found the best way to deal with this is to first acknowledge their feelings. I then work with them to define the problem and discuss possible responses to overcome the situation. This may take several counseling sessions. Typically, the student recognizes the issue can be overcome and they can continue their education. If, for some reason, they are convinced they need to drop out and the parents support their decision, I work with them to get occupational counseling and help them transition into a job they are qualified for.”


Question: If a conflict occurs between a student and a teacher, whose side do you take? 

Explanation: While this is another behavioral question, it is a bit of a trick one. On the surface, it appears like the interviewer wants you to select either the student or the teacher and describe why. However, as an experienced guidance counselor, you understand that it is your role to select neither side but rather seek a resolution to the conflict which both parties will accept and will result in a positive outcome for the student.

Example: “Conflicts between students and teachers are a daily occurrence. I usually hear about it from the student and get their perspective which is that it is the teacher’s fault. When I discuss this with the teacher, they typically acknowledge the conflict but describe some behavior the student is engaging in which has caused the conflict. The most effective way to manage student-teacher conflicts is to first work with the student to get them to understand the teacher’s perspective and what they are trying to accomplish. If this doesn’t work, I then get the student and teacher in the same room, and we talk through the issue until we have an agreement to move forward with a specific course of action.” 


Additional Guidance Counselor Interview Questions

  • Why did you choose to become a guidance counselor?

  • How can a counselor be a leader in the school?

  • Can you give an example of how you have gone above and beyond to help a student?

  • Have you ever had to mediate problems between a student and a teacher?

  • How would you mediate conflict between students?

  • Do you have experience working with disadvantaged children?

  • Can you discuss your experience helping students who have been victims of bullying?

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