Job opportunities abound. How do you make a good choice? Here are some valuable tips, strategies and links from our Director of Staffing, Louise Valente, who has 25 years of experience selecting, mentoring and learning from CFs.
Corresponding via email
Making a Site Decision
Before you sign a contract
Before accepting a school-based position
Ask about your supervision and support
Direct Hire by a School District
Working with contracting companies
After the decision is made
Applying with PCSS
RESUMES: SIMPLE BUT COMMON ERRORS TO AVOID Your goal is to demonstrate your work quality by creating an error free, effective picture of your baseline skills.
Consider your font choice. Pick a font, such as Times New Roman or Courier, which is on even the most outdated of computers. Make sure to use a font size large enough for easy reading, even after your resume is scanned or copied multiple times. Consider an even bigger and bolder font for identifying information. It is best to print resumes on white paper, as other colors can make final copies illegible.
Proofread your resume multiple times. Put it away for a few days, pull it out, and read it again. Ask your supervisor to read it. Check for spelling, grammar, and word choice mistakes. Pay special attention to the consistency of sentence structure. Include your program completion date, as well as degrees and credentials earned.
Help your interviewer get to know you by using plenty of action words, like evaluated or counseled, with specific data from your internship experience.
Ask the interviewer how they would like you to deliver your resume. Would they like to receive it via email, fax or mail? Bring an extra copy and your recommendations information to the interview.
Highlight skills applicable for the specific setting. If you are still deciding between settings, write one resume for private practice, one resume for hospitals, and one resume for schools. Highlight specific training that you have completed, formally or informally.
If you are applying for a school position, include the type of students you served in your school practicum. Also note if you have experience attending or formulating IEPs and whether you learned a computerized caseload management system like SEIS.
Consider personal information included carefully. A little about your interests makes you human, but consider carefully anything religious, political or controversial. Think from an interviewer's perspective about what outside interests would be of benefit to the setting.
Do not worry about the length of your resume, but rather the quality of the information you provide. One to two pages is a standard length.
Prepare by reading about the job site prior to the interview. By reviewing websites or reading recent news items, you can get a sense of the culture of a school or practice. Try to come up with one thoughtful question about the facility in response to your reading.
Dress professionally in a conservative skirt or slacks. Don’t wear jeans.
If you interview at a meal, order something you can eat easily. Typically, if you are invited for a lunch interview the interviewer will pay, however, you should offer to pay for your meal.
Remember that interviewers have years of working in environments where communication is legally driven (due to IEPs) and will likely expect a rather formal communication style. Rather than using an informal communication style used in a classroom or social setting, this is an opportunity to show your professionalism as well as your enthusiasm and sincerity. Be prepared to interview with multiple staff members at the same time, or sequentially.
When interviewing use the phrase, "Let me give that some thought," for tough questions. Don't be afraid to be silent to collect your thoughts, it shows how you will react when faced with tense job situations.
If asked about your weaknesses or growth areas, be sure that your growth area is not a deal breaker like, “I don’t have patience for children with bad behavior” if interviewing for a school setting. If you discover that you have a specific weakness for a job setting, such as limited experience with AAC devices, outline your learning plan to overcome the weakness.
Highlight skills the particular position requires or that your interviewer values. For example, at Pacific Coast Speech Services, we look for clinicians who are kind, calm, able to blend into a school environment without ruffling feathers, are good listeners, organized, self starting, well prepared, and not afraid to say, "Let me check with my supervisor." In some settings, we might also be seeking someone who is high energy, a strong leader, capable of celebrating very small changes, or able to handle high physical demands.
It is important in this economy that you show that you are a good fit for a position during an interview before asking questions about salary and benefits. You can always ask more questions after a job offer is extended.
Ask questions that get the interviewer talking spontaneously. For example, "How long have you worked here?” or, “What do you like about it?” or, "Tell me about your CFs from last year, are they still with you? What did they struggle with the most?" Listen for what they do and don't say.
You know less than you think you do. Yes, you have excellent training and you may actually know more about cutting edge research and technology than your seasoned supervisor or interviewer. However, be careful not to let your confidence turn to over-confidence. An overconfident CF is difficult to train, and is often seen as a last choice.
You know more than you think you do, and you are capable of learning even more. Use your clinical observation skills. Apply your fact checking skills when interviewing and choosing a position. Listen for inconsistencies, avoidance, and indirect responses. Trust your intuition.
If you are interested in the position, send a thank you note afterward. The most powerful thank you notes are sent by mail, and contain a reaffirmation of your interest and a statement regarding an especially intriguing aspect of the position. The thank you note is also a perfect place to reiterate what strengths you bring to the position and to clarify any points not addressed in the interview. Thank you notes can be typed or handwritten. A thank you note delivered by email is acceptable, but less powerful than one that is mailed.
Consider a phone conversation a formal interview. It is best to schedule them, but you may get a call from an interviewer at a time you don’t expect. Feel free to say, "I would love to speak with you. May I call you in 5 minutes?" Use that time to pull off the road, have someone watch your children, or to do whatever you have to do to get interruption-free time.
If it is not a good time for you to focus and be interviewed, say that up front and set up a time to talk further. It is permissible to say, "I would love to speak with you, but I am in my car” or, “I am heading into class. Can we talk briefly and then set another time?"
When you make a call to a job site, have your resume in front of you in case the interviewer answers. If you make a call expecting to get voice mail and instead the interviewer answers, say, "I just wanted to return your call and set up a time to talk."
CORRESPONDENCE VIA EMAIL
Use email with caution. While it is tempting to use this resource to try and quickly review companies, employers may view candidates who email and don’t provide contact information as not being genuinely interested in the company. If a company responds to your initial email with a request for a resume and you ask about benefits or salary instead, it will result in a negative impression.
Use email to ask basic questions such as, “Do you contract in the schools?” vs. “Why should I choose to work for you vs. a district or another contracting company?”
Email works well to stay in touch after initial contact is made and for follow-up after interviews.
Avoid using a smart phone to respond to email. The majority of emails sent by smart phone are too short, and often contain errors. They are also too informal, especially if using texting abbreviations.
Placements are extremely time-sensitive, so check your email and messages frequently to ensure you do not miss an opportunity. Oftentimes, it is a matter of days between our receiving an offer and filling a position.
MAKE A SITE DECISION Before you sign a contract with a district, private practice or contracting agency:
Be sure you have been informed of enough details regarding your position to ensure you will be happy with the placement.
Ask if you can speak to the most recent CF regarding their experiences. You may not be able to do so unless you have already interviewed and are seriously interested, as it is time consuming for the clinical fellow. Be sure to ask if the CF plans to continue with the company or site, and listen for their level of enthusiasm.
If possible, ask to speak with your potential supervisor to be sure you have a good fit. Ask, “What responsibilities are you giving up to work with me? Will your caseload be adjusted? Can you observe me with a student when needed or do you live too far away?”
Ask about supervision details. “How many hours of supervision will I receive? Will it vary during the year? Will the hours be given on or off site?” See More Answers.
BEFORE ACCEPTING A SCHOOL-BASED POSITION Ask about caseload details:
What is your average caseload this year for K-5 assignments?
Are preschool assignments averaged in? (They should not be as they are substantially lower in numbers.)
What is my caseload make up? Do I need to research any specific types of students prior to accepting the position? What about specific syndromes, therapy tools or communication devices?
What happens if I accept a signing or relocation bonus prior to an assignment being selected for me? What is your release policy?
ASK ABOUT SUPERVISION AND SUPPORT
Who will my supervisor be?
When will my supervision start? May we meet prior to the start of the school year?
How many hours of supervision will I receive?
Will supervision vary during the school year?
Will the supervision hours be on or off site?
Will the hours be during school hours?
What kind of IEP support will I receive?
Are there meetings or other contact opportunities between SLPs within the district or company?
Are there in-services during the school year? Are there opportunities for continued education?
SPECIAL ADVICE ABOUT DIRECT HIRE BY A SCHOOL DISTRICT If you decide to directly work for a school district, there are some important considerations:
Make sure that both the human resources and special education departments are aware that you need supervision during your clinical fellowship. It is best to get a supervision agreement in writing.
Make sure that you collect all the information you can on your responsibilities as case carrier. The organization of IEP paperwork is often the toughest part for clinical fellows.
Make sure that you are completely clear on the caseload of the intended school before committing. You may want to do some independent study or online courses to strengthen your skills in a specific area before you begin the assignment.
School districts hire based on current student need. You sign a contract to work for the district, not for a specific school setting. Typically, if you are hired for a specific site, you will be placed there for the first year. However, if the district’s needs change in the interim, due to new locations of SDC classes or number of SLPS on staff, they may have new site needs and you may be moved to a different setting. SLPs are expected to be flexible in their placements year to year and occasionally mid-year.
ADDITIONAL ADVICE ABOUT WORKING WITH CONTRACTING COMPANIES
Be honest with all parties that are helping you find a job. Let contracting agencies know if you are in the final stages with more than one company, if you plan to apply to districts directly, or if you plan to go with the company that offers you the best fit first. A contracting company’s marketing methods may change, or the potential school or district may change their strategy.
Honesty preserves both an agency’s reputation and your own. If an agency believes you are interested and ready to accept a position, and then spends an administrator's time making plans and phone calls, it is frustrating for all involved if you back out without warning.
Be aware that agencies have widely varying policies on when contracts are offered and assigned. Some prefer to sign contracts with clinicians, pay a signing bonus and then search for positions. Be sure that you are clear on your obligations to an agency if you sign a contract before a position is offered. What happens if positions aren’t with your desired population or within your geographic comfort zone? Are you allowed to continue applying elsewhere after signing a contract? What happens if agency does not have an available position in your area by the start of the school year?
THE DECISION IS MADE
Once you have decided on a setting, ask if you can meet your supervisor prior to the first day of school. Once your supervisor and setting are firm, file your Required Professional Experience (RPE) paperwork as soon as possible. The approval process takes 6-8 weeks. If your supervisor or setting changes, you need to file an addendum to continue your RPE.
Begin to gather additional resources on organization and planning. Once you start in your position, your time will be limited. Tips on Organization.
If you are planning to work in a school setting, sign up for our e-newsletter. This quarterly newsletter provides useful information for busy clinicians in the form of featured articles, tips, and links. No theory, just fast application. It's free, and has great kid jokes to use in your therapy! Our resources section also contains information on a variety of topics that may be helpful to you in whatever setting you choose.
We also offer referral bonuses! If you know of a clinician who is seeking a high quality contracting agency, send them to us. If they mention your name, you get a referral bonus!
APPLYING WITH PACIFIC COAST SPEECH SERVICES We would love to talk with you about the PCSS difference. Your application and inquiry are completely confidential. We never share your resume or contact your recommendations or current employer until we have your permission.
Most positions are offered by districts and schools in the late spring or early summer. However, excellent positions come up year round as needs change at the sites. If you are considering your options at any time, contact us.
If you are not ready to make a change, that's all right! We understand that everyone's life circumstances change over time, and encourage you to check back with us when you are ready!