Interview

17 Direct Support Professional Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a direct support professional, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Direct support professionals, or DSPs, provide one-on-one support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their homes and communities. They work with clients to help them achieve their goals and live as independently as possible.

DSPs are in high demand, and the interview process can be rigorous. But with the right preparation, you can ace any interview and start your new career as a DSP. In this guide, you’ll find common interview questions and answers for direct support professionals. You’ll also learn what qualities employers are looking for in a DSP, so you can highlight your strengths and show the interviewer why you’re the perfect candidate for the job.

Are you comfortable working with people who have special needs?

Employers ask this question to make sure you are comfortable working with people who have special needs. They want to know that you can handle the unique challenges of working with these individuals and that you will be able to provide them with quality care. When answering this question, it is important to show that you understand what it means to work with someone with a disability. You should also explain how your past experience has prepared you for this type of work.

Example: “I am very comfortable working with people who have special needs. I worked as an aide in a school setting where I helped children with autism learn new skills. This was my first job out of college, so I had no idea what to expect. However, I quickly learned how to interact with these kids and help them overcome their challenges. Now, I feel confident that I can continue providing excellent care to people with disabilities.”

What are some of the most important skills for a direct support professional?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills necessary to succeed in this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few of your strongest skills and how they relate to direct support work.

Example: “The most important skill for me is communication. I find that being able to communicate clearly with clients and other professionals is essential when working as a direct support professional. Another skill that’s important to me is organization. I am very organized by nature, so I enjoy keeping track of all my client information and tasks. Finally, I think empathy is an important skill because it allows me to understand what my clients are feeling and why.”

How would you handle a situation where a client is angry or upset?

This question can help interviewers understand how you react to challenging situations. It’s important to show that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from mistakes.

Example: “I once had a client who was upset because I forgot to bring them their favorite book. I apologized, explained why it happened and offered to read the book to them later in the day. The client accepted my apology and seemed happy when I returned with the book. In this situation, I try to remember that everyone makes mistakes. I also make sure to apologize and explain what went wrong so they know I’m taking responsibility.”

What is your experience working with people who have physical disabilities?

Employers may ask this question to learn more about your experience working with people who have physical disabilities. They want to know if you’ve worked with someone in a similar situation before and how you handled it. Use your answer to explain what type of disability the person had and how you helped them.

Example: “I once worked with a client who had cerebral palsy. She was unable to speak, so I learned sign language to communicate with her. I also used my knowledge of special diets to help her eat healthy meals. She loved when I would sing songs to her while preparing her food.”

Provide an example of how you have helped a client achieve a goal.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your experience working with clients and how you can help them achieve their goals. When answering, it can be helpful to provide an example of a specific goal that you helped a client achieve and the steps you took to help them reach it.

Example: “I once worked with a client who wanted to learn how to use public transportation independently. I started by helping him understand what bus schedules were and how they work. Then, we practiced using the bus schedule together so he could see when different buses came and went. After that, I had him practice riding the bus alone while I waited for him at his destination. Eventually, he was able to ride the bus on his own.”

If a client was to suddenly become paralyzed, what would be your immediate actions?

This question is a behavioral one that tests your knowledge of the client’s condition and how you would respond to an emergency situation. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe what you would do in such a situation and why you would take those actions.

Example: “If a client suddenly became paralyzed, I would immediately call for help from my supervisor or other support staff members. Then, I would assess the client’s breathing and heart rate to make sure they were stable. If they weren’t, I would perform CPR until another staff member arrived. After ensuring the client was safe, I would notify their family so they could be prepared.”

What would you do if you noticed another direct support professional was not following safety procedures?

Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the importance of following safety procedures and how to address a colleague who may not be doing so. In your answer, explain that you would first try to speak with them in private about the situation. If they do not change their behavior after speaking with them, you would report it to management.

Example: “I have worked with many direct support professionals over my career, and I know sometimes people forget or are unaware of certain policies. However, if someone is blatantly ignoring important safety procedures, I would approach them privately and remind them of the policy. If they still did not comply, I would report it to management so they could handle the situation.”

How well do you handle stress?

Direct support professionals often work with individuals who have challenging behaviors. Employers ask this question to make sure you can handle stressful situations and remain calm. In your answer, share a time when you had to manage stress in the workplace. Explain what you did to reduce your stress and how it helped you perform your job well.

Example: “I understand that working with people with disabilities can be stressful at times. However, I try my best to stay positive no matter what happens. When someone is having a difficult day or acting out, I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are doing their best. This helps me keep my emotions under control so I can provide them with the care they need.”

Do you have any experience working with people who have mental illnesses?

Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience working with people who may be experiencing challenging behaviors. They want to know that you can handle these situations and help the person remain calm. In your answer, share a specific example of how you helped someone in this situation.

Example: “I worked at an assisted living facility for two years where I supported residents with mental illnesses. One resident would often become upset when we had to change his schedule or take away certain privileges. He was very set in his ways and didn’t like change. I learned that he liked routine because it made him feel safe. So, I started making small changes to his schedule every day so he could still get used to things but not feel overwhelmed by big changes.”

When working with a client, do you prefer to work in silence or do you like to have light conversation?

This question can help the interviewer determine how you interact with clients and whether your personality is a good fit for their organization. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention that you are aware of the importance of maintaining client privacy and confidentiality.

Example: “I understand that when working with clients, I should avoid discussing personal information or topics unrelated to work. However, I also believe that having light conversation with my clients can help them feel more comfortable in our interactions. For example, if they ask me about myself, I would answer briefly but then redirect the conversation back to them. This helps show them that I am interested in learning more about them while still respecting their privacy.”

We want to ensure our clients are happy and satisfied with our services. How would you go about getting feedback from a client?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your customer service skills. They want to know how you would interact with clients and what feedback you would seek from them. In your answer, try to describe a specific situation in which you asked for client feedback.

Example: “I always make sure to ask my clients if they are happy with the services we provide. I find that asking them directly is the best way to get honest feedback. If they have any complaints or concerns, I take notes so I can address those issues as soon as possible. I also use these interactions to learn more about their preferences and interests. This helps me better understand how I can meet their needs.”

Describe your process when preparing a meal for a client.

Preparing meals for clients is an important part of the direct support professional’s job. Interviewers want to know that you understand how to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for your clients. They also want to see that you can work independently in this role.

Example: “I start by asking my client what they would like to eat, as well as any dietary restrictions or preferences they have. I then research recipes online and find one that fits their needs while still being tasty. Next, I gather all of the ingredients needed for the recipe and cook it according to the instructions. Finally, I serve the meal to my client.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. When answering, it’s important to highlight a skill or trait that makes you unique from other candidates. You may also want to mention something that relates to the job description.

Example: “I have experience working with children who have special needs, which is why I am passionate about working in this field. In my previous role, I was able to help a child with autism improve his communication skills by using visual supports. This made me feel like I was making a difference in someone’s life, and I hope to do the same here.”

Which disabilities have you worked with in the past?

This question can help the interviewer understand your experience level and how you might fit into their organization. If you have previous experience working with a specific disability, share that information. If not, it’s okay to mention disabilities you’re comfortable working with or discuss what drew you to this career in the first place.

Example: “I’ve worked with children who have autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. I enjoy working with kids because they are so eager to learn and show improvement. It makes me feel like I’m making a difference in their lives.”

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when working with a client?

This question can help the interviewer get a better idea of your interpersonal skills and how you interact with clients. Your answer should show that you are empathetic, compassionate and patient when working with clients.

Example: “The most important thing to remember is that each client has their own unique personality and way of thinking. I always try to put myself in my clients’ shoes and think about what I would want if I were them. This helps me be more understanding and respectful of their needs.”

How often do you perform safety checks on a client?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you ensure your clients’ safety. You should answer honestly and describe a specific time when you performed a safety check on a client.

Example: “I perform safety checks at least once per shift, but I also do random checks throughout the day to make sure my clients are safe. For example, if I notice that a client is having difficulty walking or has an injury, I will ask them about it and perform a quick safety check to see if they need any additional assistance. In one instance, I noticed that a client was having trouble standing up from their chair. After performing a safety check, I realized that he needed more support in his arms. So, I helped him into his wheelchair so he could rest for a few minutes.”

There is a bug infestation in your client’s home. What would you do?

This question is a great way to test your problem-solving skills. It also shows the interviewer how you would react in an emergency situation. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to solve this issue and keep everyone safe.

Example: “I would first make sure that my client was not allergic to bugs or insects. Then I would call pest control immediately. While waiting for them to arrive, I would help my client get dressed and ready for the day. Once the exterminator arrived, they would inspect the home and determine where the pests were coming from. They would then treat the infestation and ensure it was gone before leaving.”

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