Interview Questions for Pediatric SLPs on the Job Market


Photo by bpsusf

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  –Theodore Roosevelt

I’m moving out of state soon, and therefore recently engaged in the dreaded job search in a new city.  Because I’m an over-planner, I had a fourteen  interviews (yikes!) before I finally found my dream job.  I was recently telling my graduate student intern about the interview experience, and it occurred to me that maybe other grad students and job-seeking SLPs might be interested in the types of questions typically asked during job interviews.  I actually wrote down the questions I could remember just after each interview, so I could share them with my intern.  (Yup, I’m nerdy in so many ways, even job interviewing!)

So, here are the questions I could remember from all my interviews, combined.   Of course, I’m a pediatric SLP, so most of these questions apply to interviews with pediatric providers, but they might help you prepare in general for other interviews, as well.

Organizational Skills

1.  How do you keep up with due dates and important to-do items?

2.  How do you organize therapy data and session notes?

3.  How do you stay organized?

4.  How do you keep data during a therapy session with a busy client?


1.  What’s your philosophy for serving preschool students for speech/language?

2.  What model do you currently use to serve students?  (pull out, push in, inclusion, collaborative, coteaching, coaching, consultation?)

3.  What model do you use to serve students with autism?

4.  What program/model do you use to serve students with articulation/phonology disorders?

5.  How would you approach serving children with multiple special needs in a self-contained classroom setting?

6.  Do you think you can make change in the learning trajectory for a child even without parent involvement?

7.  What are the most important things you think teachers and parents need to know about language to make a difference for children?

8.  What do you think causes the achievement gap for minority students we serve?


1.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

2.  Tell me about your current work setting.

3.  What social skills resources do you use for children with autism spectrum disorders?

4.   Tell me about the most difficult client you’ve ever had and how you worked through it.

5.  Tell me about the hardest therapy session you’ve ever had and how you made it work.

6.   What experience do you have with children with  __(whatever disorder the site specializes in serving)__?

7.   What AAC/Assistive Technology experience do you have?

8.  How do you involve parents and teachers in treatment?

9.  How would you deal with a parent who questions your therapy practices?

Personal Qualities

1.  What are your strengths?

2.  What are your weaknesses, and how do you overcome them?

3.  What prompted you to want a career in speech language pathology?

4.  Who are your mentors, and how have they guided you in your career path?

Goals/Job Outcome

1.  What are you looking for in a job?

2.  Describe your perfect/dream job.

3.  What’s most important to you in your job hunt?

4.  What are your favorite settings/special populations to work with?

5.  What age group do you most enjoy working with?

6.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Knowledge Base

1.  What continuing education courses have you taken in the past 2 years?

2.  Are you certified in any therapy program such as Hanen, Floortime, ABA, Lindamood Bell, etc?

3.  Do you regularly attend ASHA, and which courses do you typically go to?

4.  Tell me what you think the current events/issues are in speech-language pathology.

5.  How do you usually come up with goals/objectives for clients?

6.  Describe the steps you’d take to conduct an evaluation (both quantitative and qualitative).

7.  What do you see as your role in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process in a school system?

8.  How would you keep your caseload manageable?

9.  What do you see as your role in regard to reading/writing skills for elementary school students?

10.  What strategies/materials/activities do you use regularly for children with _______?  (autism, social skills deficits, Down Syndrome, apraxia, feeding disorders, etc.)

11.  Describe a typical activity you would use to address receptive and expressive language goals for a group of children.

12.  How do you typically coach a teacher or caregiver to help facilitate positive change in their teaching behavior?

Your Turn!

Also, I think it’s smart to have a list of a few questions you are going to ask your interviewers, so you don’t feel put on the spot when they ask you whether you have any questions.  Some basic ideas are:

1.  What’s the typical caseload?

2.  What are the typical hours?

3.  What paperwork/documentation am I expected to complete on a regular basis?

4.  What types of support for continuing education do you offer?

5.  What technology resources are available to me here?  (ex:  laptop, AAC devices, iTouch, iPad, etc.)

I think that preparing my responses to possible questions ahead of time, and actually saying them out loud to myself or someone else, really helps me reduce my stress level during actual interviews.   I hope this is helpful to other new or job-hunting SLPs, as well!

 Are there any questions I’ve left out?  Please leave a comment if you think of any others!

T.J. Ragan, MA, CCC – SLP
, is a speech language pathologist, wife, and mother who lives with her husband, their four year old daughter, and their two dachshunds in Durham, NC.  She works for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools and The Cheshire Center and writes a blog about happiness.

10 Ways to Motivate the Unmotivated Student

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” — unknown

As a speech language pathologist for grades 3-5 in an elementary school setting, one of the challenges I regularly face is trying to make good progress with students who are unmotivated. You know, students who don’t want to be in speech, don’t want my help, and generally don’t want to try anything I want them to try. Students who cross their arms and try to avoid making eye contact with me out of fear that I’ll try to get them to–(gasp!)–actually DO some sort of speech work.

I admit it, sometimes I’m tempted to just give up, dismiss them, and say, “Well, when they WANT to make progress, they can come back to speech.” But, really, it’s my job to motivate even my most unmotivated students.

So, what’s an SLP to do?

Here are some strategies I’ve found useful:

1. Use visual behavior tracking charts. – That’s right, reward charts aren’t just for preschoolers anymore. I have a large grid that I use as a basic chart (see photo at the top of this post) to help motivate students to participate, and I modify it for every student on my caseload. Some students earn one square per session, others earn 3 or 5 squares per session, depending on how much reinforcement they need on a given day for a given task. Once they reach a star, they earn a prize/special activity. Of course, a chart alone won’t do the trick unless the student wants the reward he’s working toward, which leads me to my next point.

2. Allow students to earn a “work free” speech session.
– What does the unmotivated student want most? To be left alone! I have two students who will work diligently for weeks or even months just for a chance to take most of a speech session “off” from speech work and just “play” on a computer or iPad during speech. (What they don’t realize is that many of their goals are addressed by the computer games!)

3. Challenge students to beat their own “record” for a certain task. – Let’s face it; drill work is awful. It’s hard to motivate even enthusiastic students to complete drills cheerfully. However, if we make the drill task timed and the student tries to beat his last score, drill work can actually become fun! For example, I’ll set my timer for a minute and see how many perfect “r” words from a set of 70 flashcards the student can produce, and then I’ll let them try again (several times) to see if they can beat their best “record.” (I got this speed challenge idea from the “Superspeed” Whole Brain Teaching game, and just modify it based on my students’ goals.) Students actually beg to stay after their regular speech time to try to keep beating their records.

4. Allow the student to be the expert by teaching a skill to younger students. – If a fourth grade student is a poor reader but can read simple picture books, he could perhaps read a book to a kindergarten class every once in a while, preparing for the reading by doing word study and learning tasks with vocabulary from the book he will be sharing. This is a much more naturally motivating experience than reading for boring old Mrs. Ragan who already knows what the book says.

5. Make tasks more hands-on. – One of my third grade students recently said to me, “I like working with you, because we do stuff, and make stuff, and build stuff.” This was a student who for the first two weeks of speech refused to do any work at all with me when I was using traditional table-work activities (even when I bribed her with silly bands, her favorite!). Good thing I wised up!

6. Make tasks more physical. – Some of my most difficult to motivate students have been won over by a few sessions of playing physical games such as “Simon Says,” “Mother May I,” “Hot/Cold,” “Lego Creator,” “Charades,” or “Pictionary.” These games can be modified to address social skills (joint attention, turn taking, flexibility, taking others’ perspective), articulation (generalizing targets to sentences and conversation), receptive/expressive language (giving and receiving directions, vocabulary building, answering questions), reading (following written directions, recognizing sight words, reading CVC words, etc.), writing (summarizing, using transitional phrases, using descriptive vocabulary, etc.), and more. I think that much of the success of this strategy comes from pairing myself with fun activities, because, after a while of doing physical speech activities, many students don’t need as much reinforcement for cooperating and engaging with me–they actually begin to be reinforced just by engaging with me! And then, boy, we can make some progress.

7. Catch the student cooperating. – Then praise, praise, praise! (Be sure your praise is specific about what you liked –ex: “Great job using “although” in a sentence!”) I find that praising students in front of their peers, or especially praising them quietly by “whispering” to a teacher just loudly enough that they overhear me, can really shift a student’s demeanor out of an unmotivated funk. (I mean, if I overheard a colleague whisper to my boss how great I was, it would knock me out of a funk, too!)

8. Treat a few students to a special lunch “party” with you as a reward/motivator. – Our time is limited as school SLPs. But we typically do have a lunch break, and every now and then, it can be fun to spend it celebrating with students. For my fifth graders, special lunches have been a highly motivating reward. I’ve had students who have worked for two months (earning tokens toward their lunch party by following teacher instructions, being on task, participating in class and speech, and writing during independent writing times) to earn a special lunch with me (with pizza delivered, or McDonalds brought in, or something fun like that). You might even be able to request PTA funds to help cover costs.

9. Be lighthearted and make mistakes yourself during therapy sessions.
– If students know that you are fun to be around, lighthearted, even silly sometimes, they are often less worried about their performance on learning tasks in your presence. And when you, the brilliant adult, make mistakes sometimes, the stress involved in trying a new task is lessened in your presence.

10. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. – Some students are going to have an extinction burst before they begin cooperating. You may put a motivation plan in place, and find that they are even more defiant and uncooperative than ever, that they won’t work even for ahuge reward. But persist. Give it two weeks. Then, if it’s still not working, you can chat with the student’s learning team and try to modify your plan.

So, the next time you’re in a battle of wills with an unmotivated student, and your only hope of rescue seems to be in the possibility that they might be moving out of state, take a minute to think outside the box, and see if you and the rest of the child’s learning team can come up with some ingenious ways to motivate the student. Then, come back and leave a comment to let me know how it went!

What have you discovered that motivates your most unmotivated students? I’d love to hear!

Read more: Here’s an article about the dip in adolescent motivation levels, with theories regarding its underlying cause, which I found pretty interesting.

[This post originally appeared on The Gladdest Thing Under the Sun.]

T.J. Ragan, MA, CCC – SLP, is a speech language pathologist, wife, and mother who lives with her husband, her four year old daughter, and their two dachshunds in Durham, NC. She works for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools and The Cheshire Center and writes a blog about happiness.