The Ultimate Final Exam: My First Interview

By Sarah Enck on April 20, 2016

I survived an interview for my first counseling job.

After learning that my husband and I were being relocated to Indiana, I knew that I had to look for a new job. But where to start? I knew that part of the job-hunting process was having connections, but I felt lost when thinking about looking in a new town. I also knew what my resume would say I had to offer, but I wanted to get into a job where I was using my new degree. That's the point of receiving your master's degree, right?

I began my search by using my immediately available resources: professors, alumni and the internet. Meeting with my counseling professors not only offered helpful advice to this novice counselor, but also gave me confidence that my program did equip me to counsel people well. I also connected with a few alumni from the area to which we were moving to see if they could recommend any sites that may be hiring. The last piece of my search was simply examining the web for any and all counseling-related positions within a 50-mile radius of my new location. I made a spreadsheet of my prospects and started to apply. And, within a couple of weeks of applying, I had my first job interview!

Here are a few things I learned from my first interview for a "real" counseling job.

Yes, they do ask you what evidence-based theory you use.

As I was anticipating some of the questions they would ask me, I was nervous about being asked which theory I commonly used in counseling. I was not confident in subscribing to one this early in my counseling career. What I could tell my interviewer is that I had been taught various theories during my counseling program and utilized many throughout my counseling internship. I explained that I was most comfortable with cognitive behavioral therapy, client-focused therapy, solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy. At this stage in my career, it is okay for me to not completely know what works best for me yet. They appreciated my willingness to learn new theories and techniques.

Know your resume and be prepared with examples.

I had only one clinical counseling site during my program, so I had to learn how to use that one site in my favor during the interview. With my particular interview, I knew that I could use examples from both my full-time job and from my counseling experience. With any job interview, the future employer wants to know what you have done before but also the aspects of professionalism you can bring to the job. When asked about crisis situations, prioritizing tasks and working with a team, I could pull specific examples from both baskets to show my well-rounded experience.

Character is key.

Even if I had the most impressive resume, I had to show my potential employer what I am going to offer to a client and a team. In many ways, I felt like I was in a mock counseling session with the assistant director and director as my clients. They were able to experience how I build rapport, how I ask questions, how I engage in their story and how I display professionalism. I had read in every piece of interview advice that I "just need to be myself," but it wasn't until I actually did that in my interview that I felt like I connected the best with my interviewees. I soon realized that for my first counseling job they didn't care as much about how new everything was to me because they could envision what type of counselor I was going to be with my future clients.

"Why do you want to be a counselor?"

This was the very first question the assistant director asked me after I sat down. I had anticipated this question, but I hadn't prepared my answer until that point: "For me, it is about the story." I've always appreciated listening to someone's story and learning about his or her journey. In the midst of reading about techniques, writing papers and figuring out how to balance counseling and work, I had not thought about why I was still pursuing this field. The interview and this specific question brought me back to why I am excited to be a counselor and work with people as they share their story with me.

"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we'll ever do." —Brené Brown, "Rising Strong," pg. 40

In the interview for my first counseling job, I had to own my story. I had to reflect on who I was and how I could be a beneficial counselor for their team. I have spent the past four years learning helpful techniques for hypothetical future clients, working through feelings of inadequacy as a counseling intern, challenging my personal beliefs on Scripture and theology and preparing for major changes after graduation. In those two hours of answering questions and engaging in dialogue, I learned so much about myself and proved that, as a result of academic and practical training, I am equipped to counsel.

Categories: Counseling, Vocation