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DSP Interview Questions

Traditionally trained as caregivers, the role of direct support professionals (DSP) has evolved significantly in recent decades. Today, many DSPs work closely with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to help bolster their sense of independence and improve their quality of life. Due to the nature of their work, DSPs often form very close, trusting relationships with their clients and their clients’ families, playing the role of companion, confidante, and support professional all at once. Finding—and retaining—candidates who will thrive in this type of environment can be challenging. For administrators seeking to hire qualified, dedicated employees, asking informed DSP interview questions is essential. With the right interview processes in place, these leaders can improve the quality of care they provide and set their agencies up for long-term success.

Interview questions for direct support staff

The interview process for DSPs provides administrators with a chance to assess each candidate’s ability to facilitate genuine, lasting relationships with their clients. Interviewers should ask DSP interview questions that help them determine whether a candidate has the personal and professional qualities needed to succeed as a DSP, including enthusiasm and dedication as well as proven direct support experience.

Below are some sample DSP interview questions for direct support professionals to help agency leaders through the hiring process. After each question, we identify the skill that the question tests, followed by an explanation of what a comprehensive response should include.

Question 1: Discuss a time as a DSP when you have experienced frustration dealing with a client.

Skill Tested: Patience

Patience is a necessary skill for anyone who wishes to provide compassionate, high-quality support for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Any candidate who intends to work as a DSP must be able to use a non-hypothetical, situation-based example to explain an instance in which their patience was tested on the job. A good answer to this question will demonstrate experience working in a challenging scenario, and an ability to remain calm and collected. 

Question 2: How have you helped clients with their daily care routines?

Skill Tested: Support-specific knowledge

Because a candidate’s resume will inform interviewers of their career history as a DSP, only a small portion of the interview should be dedicated to testing job-related knowledge. However, it is important to understand whether a candidate has worked with a diverse array of clients with a spectrum of support requirements. A good answer to this question will demonstrate an understanding of how to assist clients who need more intensive support with their daily activities. 

Question 3: Discuss a time when you experienced an emergency as a DSP. How did you handle the situation?

Skill Tested: Judgment

Good judgment is a necessary skill for anyone wishing to work as a DSP. Understanding a candidate’s ability to manage stress is an integral part of the recruiting process and will help ensure only professional, level-headed candidates are hired. A candidate with a strong response to this question will explain a specific instance in which an emergency occurred on the job and how they were able to swiftly and professionally manage the situation. 

Question 4: Why do you want to work as a DSP?

Skill Tested: Commitment

While a career as a DSP is highly rewarding, it is also challenging, underscoring the need for employees who are committed to their work. An enthusiastic DSP with a long-term interest in their career will be better positioned to forge lasting, meaningful relationships with their clients, provide a high quality of support services, and remain engaged with their colleagues. Interviewers should look for candidates who can answer this question in a way that demonstrates a sincere passion for the profession.

Screen for success in the DSP interview

Selecting a successful DSP candidate demands a thorough interview process during which administrators identify whether each candidate has the skills and personality required of an effective DSP.

Whether you are an administrator looking to hire a new DSP or a DSP seeking to provide more effective home support, Relias is here to help. With a variety of training modules and research-based resources, Relias offers comprehensive educational materials designed to help ensure your clients receive the expert care they need and deserve.


How to Boost Retention in IDD Services

High turnover is a challenge facing many organizations that provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). One tool for decreasing turnover is personnel assessments, which can help you hire better employees and retain your best employees—particularly in direct care and front-line supervisor positions.

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