female mental health professional giving a presentation

How to Interview Effectively Based on a Mental Health Counselor Resume

The demand for mental health counselors is quite high between the need for counselors in our schools and therapists who specialize in areas such as trauma recovery and addiction. If your organization or practice is hiring a mental health professional, there are specific steps you can take to hire the right person for the job. Start by learning how to interview effectively based on each mental health counselor resume you receive.


Create a List of Competencies Required for a Mental Health Professional

When you’re preparing for an interview with a qualified mental health professional, make a list of the competencies required and preferred for the position. This will help you to home in on qualified mental health resumes and develop interview questions. Your list of competencies might be tweaked slightly, depending on the type of mental health professional for which you’re hiring, but in general, some competencies and traits to look for in a mental health professional include:

  • Effective written and verbal communication skills
  • The ability to work with a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds
  • Mediation and negotiation skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • A positive attitude

You also want to look for an individual who has a strong ethical core and holds good boundaries that won’t allow the professional and personal lines to blur. Given that mental health professionals sometimes have to work with challenging clients in difficult situations, you also want someone who has the ability to make quick decisions and work well under pressure.


female interviewer listening to a male job candidate answer her question


Develop a List of Mental Health Employment Interview Questions

It’s best to develop a list of interview questions that will work for a variety of mental health resumes and interviews. Asking candidates similar questions allows you to compare them more easily (and fairly) after your interviews are complete.

Some questions to ask that speak directly to the competencies and abilities you want to see in a mental health professional include:

“Give me an example of a time when you had a client in crisis. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?”

“How did you handle it when a patient tried to create a personal relationship with you?”

“Give an example of a time when you had to make a judgment call under pressure. What steps did you take to make the decision? What was the outcome? What would you do differently if given a chance?”

“Provide an example of a time when you were disappointed in the outcome with a patient. Why, and what would you have done differently?”

“When was a time that you had to use mediation skills, and what was the outcome? What worked well, and what would you do differently?”

“This position might require you to be on call and work some nights and weekends. Are you available to do so?”

“What do you find to be the most enjoyable part of being a mental health professional? The most challenging?”


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Highlight What Stands Out to You on a Mental Health Counselor Resume

As you scan the mental health counselor resume of a qualified candidate, take the time to highlight what stands out to you and note any accomplishments you want to dig deeper into during the interview.

For example, did they receive any rewards and recognition as a mental health professional? Or, did they launch any new counseling programs, showing initiative and the ability to serve a community? Or, do they have any specializations that might serve your client base, such as art therapy, behavioral research, autism certifications, integrated movement therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training, and so on?

You also want to note any red flags that stand out, like gaps in employment and short tenures with a lot of job moves, that you can inquire about during the interview.


female mental health counselor holding a group session with two male clients


Ensure You’re on the Same Page With Compensation and Salary Expectations

The high demand for mental health professionals creates a competitive market for organizations looking to hire qualified professionals, especially if you’re hiring for a nonprofit organization where salaries tend to be lower than the market average. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics’, Mental Health Counselors make on average $46K per year, Psychologists make an average of $79K per year, and Social Workers make an average of $49.5K per year.

Given that there is nothing more disheartening than to invest your time and fall in love with a candidate only to find out you’re way off base for meeting their salary expectations, it’s best to inquire about salary expectations early in the interview process.


An Effective Interview Strategy Supports the Hiring Process

The interview process can be a challenging one, especially when hiring candidates who are in high demand, such as qualified mental health professionals. Putting an effective interview strategy in place will support you in finding the right mental health professional for your open position.

By iHire | August 14, 2019