Paraprofessionals are an essential part of the classroom. They provide small group and one-on-one assistance to a wide range of students with special needs. Paraprofessionals need to be patient, creative and flexible. As you interview candidates for a paraprofessional position, you need to assess whether they can handle the needs of special needs students. To do this, ask open-ended questions to get a sense of their background and how they would respond to different situations.

Assess Their Background and Experience

Your ideal candidate will have experience in working with children with special needs. This may be volunteer experience, professional experience or experience as a parent. To get a sense of their general background, you can start with a question like, “Tell me about yourself.” This gives you a chance to get to know about the candidate’s personal background.

To get a sense of their relevant experience, ask, “What experience do you have working with children with special needs?” As they answer, you may wish to probe further by asking questions like, “What did you enjoy about the experience?” and “What was challenging for you about the experience?”

Assess How They Handle Challenges

Paraprofessionals need to be able to handle difficult situations. To assess how they will respond, present them with a typical situation they might see during their workday. For example, “Johnny is disrupting your reading group by talking with other students. How would you respond?” Look for responses that include calm redirection, moving the students and other techniques that don’t escalate the situation.

You can also ask about their past experience and how they handled challenges. For example, “Tell me about a challenging situation with a student and how you handled it.” Listen for how they assessed the situation and how they interacted with the student involved. Their solution should involve meeting the student’s needs and getting them re-engaged with their classwork.

Assess How They Interact with Colleagues

A paraprofessional works as part of a team. They should be able to work well with others and take direction and feedback from the lead teacher in their classroom. To get a sense of how they interact, ask questions like, “Describe a time when a teacher or supervisor gave you feedback. How did you respond?” or “Describe a time when you’ve been a member of a team. How did you contribute? How did you get along with your team members?”

In the candidate’s responses, look for a willingness to listen to and learn from others. They should be responsive to and willing to incorporate feedback from others. They should get along with others and fulfill their responsibilities to their team.