The worst thing we can do to people with physical or mental disability is to isolate them from the outside world. Man is a creative creature. Deep inside, each of us feel a need to create something, to be useful for society, or at least for a local community.

This is especially true for people who suffered a serious injury (in war, in an accident), people who were used to belong somewhere, but the new situation cut the ties they had with the rest of us.

As a vocational rehabilitation counselor you will help these people get back on track. You will create job plans, and, step by step, try to help them achieve their employment goals and earn an income that allows for a decent living standard.

This is definitely an important role in our society. Hats down that you decided for this particular career path! Let me show you some questions you will face while interviewing for the job.

 

Why do you want to work as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor?

I suggest you to refer to two things in your answer. First one is your education, experience and skills (listening, empathy, attention to detail, deep understanding for the problems, needs, and desires of disabled people). With such a skill set, you are an ideal applicant for the job.

Second thing is the meaningful purpose you see in your work. You realize how important it is for people to remain active, to feel that they provide some value to the others, to not remain alone with their disability. And you also realize that disabilities are ever more prevalent in human society. There’s a lot of work for you, and you feel the calling to help these people.

Another interesting alternative is referring to a personal story. I know a voc. rehabilitation counselor who joined the ranks of the profession because his son suffered a war injury, and somehow struggled to get back to “normal life”. They primarily wanted to help their son, but once they understood the importance of the job, they wanted to help also other people with similar destiny.

 

Can you please tell us something about your education and experience?

Most likely you have a degree in rehabilitation counseling, or in some other, related field. You do not have to go into details, explaining different subjects from the curriculum. Just tell them where you studied, for how long, and whether you had any hands on experience as a part of your study program.

Unless you had a similar job before (any sort of couching or counseling), you should not talk much about it again. Just walk them through your resume, and let them ask additional questions.

What’s important, however, it to talk with enthusiasm about the work of a rehab counselor. They should get an impression that you really want the job, and feel ready, and that you do not apply only because you already spent so much time studying the field, paying a small fortune for your studies…

You meet a new client for a first time. How will you start your counseling?

You can say that you will start with basic questions. Who they are, what they expect from life, what jobs they had (if any), what they enjoy doing.

Introducing yourself and explaining why you are there–to help them–is also a good start. Ensure the interviewers that you will focus primarily on listening, letting the client express their desires, thoughts, doubts. Of course some people are shy or have certain mental blocks, and in such a case you may talk more, trying to overcome the blocks.

Once you know something about each other, you will together explore the options they have, and try to come up with a plan on how they can achieve their employment goals. From that point you will guide them on their way to achieve the goals, through regular counseling.

 

What will you do when a client struggles with motivation to find work, to move on?

You may face this situation quite often working as a vocational rehabilitation consultant. People who suffered some serious injury, or have been disabled for a longer time, may feel bitterly disappointed and demotivated. I’s not an easy challenge to overcome, but you can suggest some options. For example:

  • You will try to help them find some goals they’d enjoy pursuing in life. Asking right questions, and telling them the right things, you’ll help them find the purpose again.
  • You will explain the positive things an employment may bring to their life–new social connections, a meaningful daily routine, regular income, perhaps even a new life partner, etc.

I suggest you to avoid referring to motivational techniques that consist in scaring people. Telling someone that they will end up on a street unless they find a job isn’t really something a good counselor will do… People are aware of their situation. They already struggle with money. No need to remind them these things. Your goals is to come up with positive motivation.

 

Here is a model client: XY years old, having XYZ disability, ABC education. What options will you suggest them?

Interviewers try to understand whether you can match a profile of someone with a fitting employment opportunities. Obviously the right answer depends on the profile of the client. In my opinion, however, you should always suggest more options.

Your goal is to help people overcome their limits, to fight their inner demons, and to maybe try to attempt things they originally considered impossible. You should not limit someone with a certain diagnosis to one possible job only.

Tell the interviewers that while there are certain occupations suitable for certain people, you won’t categorize anyone before talking to them. First and foremost, you will try to understand what the client expects from life–regardless of their disability. Only then will you start exploring the options together.

* Special Tip: Download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

How will you decide whether a placement is successful?

Suggest talking to both your client and their employer. Is the client satisfied in the job? Do they treat them well? How do they feel about their days in work? Do they earn enough to maintain a decent living standard? Just like everything else in counseling work, your job is mostly to ask questions, and to listen.

Talking to an employer, you can inquire about their satisfaction with the employee. You can try to identify some areas for improvement (perhaps in terms of their attitude), something you can work on together, while leading your counseling sessions.

The placement is successful when people are happy–both the employer and the client. But you see it more as a process, something that can’t typically be achieved within a first week or a first month. You will patiently work with both the employer and the client, trying to eventually come to a point when both of them are happy about their employment relationship.

 

Some other questions you may face in your vocational rehabilitation counselor job interview

  • What do you know about our organization, and about our target group?
  • If we hire you for this job, what goals will you set for yourself for the first year in an office?
  • With many of your clients you simply won’t succeed. You won’t find any employment for them. How do you plan to deal with disappointment?
  • What do you consider the most difficult aspect of this job?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • After everything that has been discussed in this interview, do you want to add something, or do you have any questions?

 

Conclusion and next steps

Interview for a job of a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor belongs to interviews with average difficulty. This is a highly specialized job field, and you typically won’t compete with many other people for the position. You can actually be the only candidate–which makes your situation much easier.

On the other hand, interviewers may ask you some tricky behavioral questions, just like I described in the article. It is not easy to answer such questions without having previous working experience as a counselor… Try to prepare for them in advance, and do not forget to do a good research about your future place of work–their target group, goals, working environment.

This isn’t a particularly difficult interview and if you don’t underestimate your preparation, you should make it and succeed. I wish you good luck!

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Matthew Chulaw
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