Building the right team for your Special Education classroom is critical to your students’ success.
As a teacher, you can’t do it all by yourself. It is important that you have the right set of
paraprofessionals to help with everything from student supervision to administrative support for your
Sometimes, you will have the opportunity to sit in on the interviews when the school is hiring for para
positions. The best thing that you can do is be selective during the interview process to ensure that you
are hiring the right people for your team.
Teachers: What to Prepare Before the Interview
You need to consider a few things during the meeting if you are a teacher interviewing candidates for a paraprofessional position. In addition to learning more about the qualifications and personality of each candidate, you should also provide information about the job.
It is best to prepare your thoughts and information in advance. Presenting details about the job is
essential to help the candidates learn more about expectations. Your preparations can help to filter the
candidates so that you can narrow down the list of options to those who will be a good match for the
Here are a few things that you might bring to the interview to discuss with each potential para.
Show the subjects and flow of the day so that the candidate can see the expectations regarding the activities that they will be supporting. Discuss start times, breaks, lunch hour, and anything else that might impact their schedule. Make sure that the person will be able to show up on time each morning and stay until the end of the day.
General Class Overview
Information about the topics, common activities, and other expectations in the classroom can be helpful during the conversation. You can provide topics that will be taught and ask the paraprofessional candidate if they have experience working on those subjects. Ask for specific examples so that you can learn more about their skills and hands-on experience in each subject.
You need to be careful about confidentiality, so don’t share details or private information about the students during the interview. But, it can be helpful for you to provide snapshots of the unique concerns of your students. For example, if you have several students on the Autism spectrum, then it can be beneficial to share this information during the interview. Ask about the candidate’s experience working with students who have been diagnosed with Autism.
If anything else is appropriate for your classroom, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring that information to the interview. This process helps you learn more about the candidates. At the same time, they can learn about the school and classroom to determine if they will like the job.
Questions to Ask Your Candidates
Certain questions can be helpful in assessing the problem-solving skills of each job candidate. You deserve to hire paraprofessionals who can think quickly, stay ahead of the students, and offer the full support you need daily. Here are examples of questions that you might ask:
- Have you ever worked as a para before?
- Tell me about your past experience working with children with special needs.
- How do you envision your role as a para in the classroom?
- What are your expectations of the special ed teacher whose class you’re working in?
- How long were you at your last para job? What made you leave?
Keep in mind that the hiring laws mandate fair interviewing practices for all job candidates. So, it is
important that you choose your interview questions in advance, and use the same questions for all of
Tips for Paraprofessional Candidates
Are you a job-seeker, going to an interview with the hope that you will get a job as a paraprofessional?
Follow these basic interview tips to increase the likelihood that you will be hired.
There’s a saying that you should “Dress to Impress” when going to an interview. Showing up in casual clothing will be an unspoken sign that you aren’t serious about the job. Even if you will be wearing different clothing on the job, you should still wear business dress for the interview. For example, just because you are interviewing to help in a P.E. classroom doesn’t mean that you can come in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Most schools have a dress code, so you need to be sure that your clothing is modest enough to match the dress code. Skirts should be knee-length, cover your shoulders, and don’t show your midriff.
Focus on Desired Skills
A teacher wants to know that the paraprofessional will be a team player, with the skills to lead the students in instructional activities as needed. Prepare your thoughts in advance so that you can think of answers that highlight the skills that you will bring to the classroom: teamwork, problem-solving, patience, and quick thinking.
Practice Talking About Yourself
It can be uncomfortable to talk about yourself in an unfamiliar room with other educational professionals. Before the interview, practice talking about yourself so that you are comfortable discussing the points that show your expertise for the job opening.
What to Bring
Have a few copies of your resume on hand in case you need to hand them out to people who are doing the interview. You might also bring items that help to showcase your success in other classrooms, such as recommendation letters from teachers or the school administration. Don’t forget to have a pen and notepad to take notes if needed.
What Not to Bring
Most people are accustomed to having their cell phones on hand at all times. But, it could hinder your chances of getting the job if your phone starts ringing during the interview. It isn’t enough to keep the phone on vibrate in your pocket. Instead, turn the phone off, or leave it in the car.
The goal of the interview is for the teacher, school staff, and the job candidate to find common ground
regarding the personality and teaching style of the team. This interview is a great way to set the stage
for strong communication after the person is hired. Interviewing a paraprofessional can help you get the information you need to ensure a great working relationship!