Let me start with good news: Employment of speech language pathologists and therapists is projected to grow by more than 25% in the next ten years. Nursing care facilities and hospitals lack specialists in the field, and therefor you typically won’t compete with many people in your interview. In fact, you will often be the only job candidate. This has several implications for you:
- You do not need exceptional interview answers–average is good enough in most cases, as long as you have an accredited degree in the field and a temporary (intern) license.
- They won’t ask you many scientific or technical questions. In fact, they may give you only personal and situational questions, trying to learn more about your personality, motivation, and most importantly your attitude to work and patients.
- You will have a good position once salary negotiation starts. Since they will often need you badly, you can ask for more money (of course only if it matters to you–you do not have to).
Having said all of that, your success isn’t guaranteed. You still need to give them at least decent interview answers, and make a good impression on them. Let’s have a look at some questions you will face.
Why do you apply for the job of a speech pathologist?
Saying that you apply because you spent many years (and a lot of money) with your studies, and can’t really get any other position with your degree, isn’t a good answer. It would indicate something you must do, but not necessarily want to do, or dream of doing. Therefor you should focus more on the job itself, or the mission you have in this profession.
You can say that vocal and cognitive communication impairments are on the rise in young people, causing them troubles in both personal and professional life. Having sympathy and understanding for their problems, you try to help them get rid of the impairments. You simply want to help them live a better life.
If you have a case of speech pathology in your family, you can point to it as well. You’ve witnesses how the problem impacted the life of someone you love. And so you know first-hand how important it is to address the issue, and to do it early enough. This motivates you strongly to pursue the career in the field…
Why our clinic/hospital/medical center?
Here you have several good options. One is praising them for their reputation, modern equipment, employee benefits, or for anything else that caught your eye while you did research about your prospective employer (hopefully you did some research).
You can also refer to the job location. Perhaps you live nearby, or have a great traffic connection to the place, or there’s any other reason that makes it more convenient for you.
If this is the only job opening in speech-language pathology in your city/state at the moment (which can be the case in smaller districts), you can be honest and say that you applied because they are the only one offering the job at the moment.
Why do you think you can be a good speech pathologist?
Try to refer to your strengths and abilities that will help you in this job. Patience, excellent communication skills (and most importantly listening skills), passion for your work, honest motivation to help the patients, top-notch knowledge of theory, etc.
You can also say that you understand the job description, know what is expected from you in your practice, and believe to be able to deliver and excellent customer service and treatment to your patients. One way or another, you should show confidence in your abilities. If you fail to do so, interviewers will also struggle to believe in them…
Imagine that you had ten sessions with a single patient, trying different things and therapies, but there is no progress in the treatment of their stuttering. What would you do?
This is a tricky question. At one side, patience is a virtue of every good therapist. It can take a long time to help someone improve their stuttering (or get rid of it completely)…
On the other hand, you are a therapist, and not a magician. We know many reasons for someone’s problem with stuttering, and you can’t discover or treat every one of them. For example, if they stutter because of an inherited abnormality in the part of the brain that governs language, you often won’t be able to help them.
I suggest you to say that you won’t give up, that you will continue trying other things, at least for ten other sessions. If that doesn’t work out, however, you will recommend the patient to seek a help of another specialist (who may have better knowledge, or understand their problem in a different way, and eventually help). Setbacks belong to this job and we can’t help everyone. Ensure the interviewers that you count with experiencing some.
* Special Tip: You can also download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Imagine that a patient accused you of a bad service. What would you do?
This is a question of your attitude. Tell the interviewers that you understand how hard it is to cope with communication impairments, and that patients (or their parents) can get frustrated, especially if they do not see any progress.
What is more, you can make a mistake, and you can occasionally provide a bad customer service. You are a human being after all, not a robot. You can have a bad day in the office, just like anyone else. Therefor you would calmly listen to their complaints, try to understand what you did wrong (if anything), apologize, and learn your lesson–to not repeat the same mistake with another patient.
You can end your answer by saying that excellent customer service is one of your main priorities, and will try your best to deliver such each day.
You will work a lot with children in this job. What do you consider specific about working with children?
You can start with saying that you love children and working with them. The prevalence of young patients was one of the reasons why you chose this medical field, instead of another one.
Then you can say that children have their own emotional world, are often afraid of any treatment, may cry, shout, struggle to listen to orders (from both their parents and medical professionals).
But you are well aware of these things, know how to get close to their heart, and are ready to talk to them in a simple language which they will understand.
You can also focus on more positive aspects of working with children–the energy they bring to your office, their job and curiosity…
Other questions you may face in your speech pathology job interview
- What are your favorite therapy methods with children/adults?
- Is there any group of patients you’d find it difficult to work with?
- What are your expectations on doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals working in this hospital?
- Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
- If we hire you for this job, what will be the first thing you do?
- What do you consider your biggest weakness as a speech pathologist?
- Do you have any questions?
Conclusion and next steps
Interview for any job in speech-language pathology belongs to easier interviews. You won’t compete with many other candidates for the job, and typically you won’t face many (or any) technical questions.
Prepare for the questions from our article, do a good research about your prospective employer, and ensure that you’ll do everything else right (body language, interview attire, etc). Read the following articles to continue your preparation:
- Body language in an interview – Do you know how to say the right things without words?
- Interview attire special tips – What clothes to wear for your interview?
- Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your interview.