The Top 15 CSU Sacramento Interview Questions and How to Ace Them

We were excited to hear from Caio Miguel, Ph. D. , BCBA-D, a professor at California State University: Sacramento, who kindly agreed to answer a few questions about how the school makes sure students have a great time and graduates are ready for work in applied behavior analysis Featured Programs:

Professor/Faculty Name: Caio Miguel, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Tell us about the types of students you see come through your program. Are you seeing more non-traditional students and career changers coming from other fields? .

Caio: Our program offers a traditional brick-and-mortar academically-oriented degree. Most of our students learned behavior analysis as first-year college students, either at our school (we have an ABA undergraduate concentration) or at another school. Some applicants have worked in the field, but they don’t apply to our program unless they want to learn how to be scientist-practitioners. Students know that our program is very difficult, so most of the people who apply are those who did very well in college. We have seen an increased number of applicants who obtained degrees in Child Development and Speech-Language pathology. We are always excited about the possibility of working with them.

What kinds of professional jobs do you see graduates getting? Do most of them work for school districts or start their own private practices?

Caio: The majority or our graduates stay in CA, mostly because jobs are abundant here. We offer clinical experiences in early intensive behavior intervention, feeding disorders, traumatic brain injury, and organization behavior management. Most of our students get jobs in the private sector, usually in early intervention programs. A lot of our graduates also work in school districts in northern California. Employers in the area tell us that they value our students more than those who got their degrees online. This is mostly because of their problem-solving and conceptual skills, which they mostly gain in their last year, when they do an experimental thesis. As part of the California State University system, our goal is to train smart, responsible behavior analysts who will help California’s schools, economy, and future.

What are some of your favorite things about your university’s ABA program? These are the kinds of things you’d want other students to know as they think about their options.

Caio: As I already said, we are a traditional academic brick-and-mortar program, which isn’t seen very often these days, especially since online education is so popular (which can be a great way to meet demand). Also, we are one of the few programs who still operate an animal laboratory for operant conditioning. So, we are a great option for students who do well working in small groups and also want to get one-on-one help from their advisor. Our program is modeled after long-standing behavioral programs where our faculty received their training. Dr. The CEO of the BACB, James Carr, calls us a “boutique program” because we are small and do a lot of research. We have four tenured or tenure-track behavior analysis faculty members. All of them went to doctoral programs in behavior analysis and do either experimental or applied research. Each of us admits two students per year (8 students admitted each fall). In their first year, students work on research projects. In their second and third years, they have to do an experimental thesis. If you look at traditional measures of academic success, we excel at all of them. Our students graduate on time, and we have very high rates of retention. All of our graduates get jobs in their field and get into Ph.D. programs. D. programs, and our passing rates on the BACB exam are really high. Most of the time, when our students graduate, they have a few papers published in the best academic journals in our field. These include the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Behavioral Interventions, and The Analysis of Verbal Behavior. My students alone have received over 30 awards for their research. I am biased, but I think this is impressive. Based on the information I gave you above, I’m sure that our ABA program is one of the top five in the country. Anyone who reads this is welcome to come to our campus or see our graduate poster at the ABAI convention to find out more.

Which problems do you think are the most important ones in ABA right now? How does the program at your school prepare graduates to deal with these problems?

Caio: First, it is the shortage of professionals. But most importantly, a shortage of qualified professionals. I recently got a call from the program director of a reputable ABA agency in Northern California. She wanted to hire our students because she has been disappointed with some of the candidates (with BCBAs) she has been interviewing. Most people who are interviewed can’t give a correct answer when asked to explain the difference between functional assessment and experimental functional analysis and when to use each method. Some have a hard time defining MOs, or even the concept of reinforcement without solely appealing to examples. I have heard this from many employers. Although anecdotal, this worries me. People might be having trouble because they are learning how to use ABA techniques while also studying for the BACB exam. If we don’t learn how to think critically and understand the science behind ABA techniques, they may never change because no one will know how to make them better or how to test them scientifically and critically. For example, if clinicians want to show that their intervention and nothing else is what made their clients do better, they need to know how experimental designs work. Lack of conceptual understanding can also make consumers naïve. When I say “consumers,” I mean professionals who use the science, not clients. These professionals might be interested in any new test, technique, or procedure, just because it’s new or because it’s getting a lot of attention. Moreover, the shortage of professionals leads to the creation of many training programs, mostly by private institutions. There are a lot of for-profit training programs trying to graduate as many students as possible in a short amount of time because of the high demand for behavior analysts. To make the most money, these programs hire part-time teachers who aren’t very qualified. Students need to be smart about which graduate program they choose if they want to get a great education, even though this isn’t always the case with private programs.

The university offers students enrolled in your MS in ABA program specialized study options. Do many students earn academic credit through individualized study or fieldwork designations?.

Caio: Yes, students sign up for research units and, as part of the program, have a weekly two-hour meeting with their advisor and lab mates to talk about research. Students do research from the start of their education, so when it’s time to propose their thesis research, they usually already have a question and know how to do the study well. They also work 15-20 hours a week as ABA therapists so they can learn important clinical skills (see my answer below).

Caio: We work with some great ABA service providers in the area, and they give our students paid internships. Supervised by very qualified BCBAs that we personally checked out, some of whom were our graduate students, our students work 15 to 20 hours a week to meet their experience requirements. People have also been sent to work as interns at The New England Center for Children, where I used to work. Additionally, we collaborate with two institutions in Brazil where I consult. Our research is either conducted on campus or at one of the internship sites. I have also set up research partnerships with universities in South America and Europe. This means that our students have a lot of chances to travel and work with professors at these universities.

This school also offers an undergraduate Behavior Analysis Certificate program. Are credits earned in this program applicable toward a degree?.

Caio: Yes, towards a bachelor’s in Psychology. The coursework is enough for students to take the BCaBA exam, as long as they also get enough experience and supervision. This is a tough program that gets students ready to become BCaBAs and do graduate work at some of the best schools in the country. Many of our undergraduates apply to our graduate program, while others have been admitted straight into Ph. D. at schools like the University of North Texas, Western Michigan University, West Virginia University, Utah State University, and the University of the Pacific, among others.

Feel free to add anything else you think is important for potential students to know about your program before they decide which one to attend.

We are a small rigorous program aimed at training applied behavior analysts who are scientist practitioners. Students come out of our program prepared to enter the job market and/or succeed in Ph. D. programs. Behavior analysis is what we do best when it comes to autism and language development (for me), feeding disorders (Dr. Penrod), traumatic brain injury (Dr. Heinicke), and performance management (Dr. Brand). We have a very active student group called the Student Association for Applied Behavior Analysis. They bring in speakers from all over the U.S. S. and abroad. Our students get to know and interact with leaders in the field while attending or program.

To sum up, people looking for a program should look at how well its graduates have done after graduating. These are measurable outcomes. To learn more about our M.Phil. program, applicants can look at the research interests, recently published articles, and conference presentations of each faculty member. They can also talk to current and former graduate students. S. program and how prepared they were to enter the job market or a Ph. D. program. As researchers, our goal is to make progress in the field of behavior analysis. While they are getting their degree, a small group of students are helping us on this journey. All of them are proud to be a part of this program and would stay with us if we had a Ph.D. program. D. option. Maybe, that is what we should do next.

For more information on each ABA faculty and their respective research laboratory visit the following sites:

You can read what other professors and staff say about their ABA programs in our full interview series here.

Landing an interview with California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) is exciting! It means your application stood out and the hiring team sees you as a potential fit for the role and their organization. Now comes the critical next step – preparing for the interview questions.

The people who interview you at CSUS can look at your skills, experience, and personality to see if you’re the best fit for the job. This is so they can get a full picture of you as an applicant. They may ask a mix of behavioral, situational, and technical questions.

To help you put your best foot forward, I’ve compiled the 15 most common CSUS interview questions along with tips on how to craft winning responses

1. Why are you interested in working at CSUS?

This question allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the university. Highlight specific things that excite you about their mission, values, initiatives, culture, programs, etc Back up your points with evidence from their website, news coverage, employee testimonials, or your own campus experiences

For example: “I’m excited by CSUS’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Programs like [name initiatives] show how the university is proactively making its campus welcoming and supportive for students of all backgrounds. I’m passionate about contributing to these efforts and helping expand educational access and opportunity.”

2. What makes you a good fit for this position?

This is your chance to connect your skills, experience and interests directly to the role requirements. Pick 2-3 key qualifications listed in the job description and succinctly explain how your background aligns with each one. Back up your claims with specific examples.

For instance: “The job posting says that you want someone who has experience as a student advisor and knows your academic rules.” During my three years as an undergraduate advisor at [name of university], I helped 200 students choose courses and plan their majors based on their goals and the requirements of the curriculum. I learned all the rules and regulations of school, which helped me help students deal with problems. “.

3. Why do you want to work in higher education?

Share your passion for the higher ed space. Explain what excites you about working with university students faculty programs, etc. If you have prior higher ed experience, highlight how it sparked your interest. Otherwise, link your skills and values to the types of opportunities the university environment provides.

For instance: “I’m interested in college because I love being in a place that challenges my mind and encourages me to keep learning and growing.” I like working with a group of people who are committed to making and sharing knowledge that improves society. As an advisor, I’d love to inspire students to reach their full potential and help them find chances that will make their lives and education better. “.

4. How would you handle an upset or dissatisfied student?

Your response should demonstrate empathy, conflict resolution ability and commitment to the student experience. Explain how you’d listen actively to understand their full perspective and then collaborate to find a satisfactory resolution or alternative that addresses their needs. You can use an example from your own career or academics.

For example: “I would start by letting them vent their frustrations and asking clarifying questions to understand where they’re coming from. I’d express empathy for their dissatisfaction while explaining applicable policies matter-of-factly. Finally, I’d brainstorm solutions, like referring them to resources that could address their issues or looping in a supervisor if needed to find an alternative resolution they find acceptable.”

5. Describe your philosophy for advising and supporting students.

This allows you to outline your approach to student advising. Share your perspective on the advisor’s role and key principles that guide your interactions and work with students. Emphasize student-centric values like compassion, empowerment, accountability, etc.

For example: “My advising philosophy centers around empowering students to make informed decisions about their education and future paths based on their interests and strengths. While I provide guidance, the student’s goals and wellbeing should ultimately drive the process. My role includes equipping them with the resources, knowledge and tools to take ownership of their experience and overcome obstacles. Fundamentally, I view each student as a whole person to counsel, not just a file.”

6. How would you handle having to communicate complex academic policies or requirements to students?

Show your ability to take complex concepts and explain them in clear, student-friendly ways. Provide examples of times you’ve had to translate complicated policies/information into easily digestible advice to help students understand their options and obligations.

For example: “I would break down the complex policy into distinct steps or components and go through each one methodically. I’d use relatable analogies and examples that make the information feel actionable and digestible. For instance, when advising on add/drop deadlines, I compared key dates to mile markers on a marathon course – it made the deadlines feel more concrete. I would also invite students to explain back to me to ensure understanding before applying the policy.”

7. How would you help a student who is struggling academically and near failing their courses or program?

Demonstrate your supportive approach to struggling students. Share strategies for constructively diagnosing issues, encouraging them, and connecting them with resources to get back on track. You could reference experiences supporting students through academic challenges.

For example: “First, I’d have an honest conversation with them to understand their challenges and perspective. I’d encourage them to take ownership of their performance while offering my full support. Next, I’d connect them to resources like tutoring, study strategies workshops or time management coaches based on their needs. Finally, I would maintain regular check-ins to motivate their progress and celebrate wins to rebuild their confidence.”

8. Why should we hire you over other applicants?

Don’t denigrate others, but highlight two or three stand-out strengths you offer. For example, elaborate on a special qualification, skill, experience or trait that makes you uniquely well-suited to add value in the role. Back up claims with concise examples.

For example: “Beyond meeting all the role requirements, I have three key differentiators: 1) Fluency in Spanish allowing me to support Spanish-speaking students and families, which I understand is a priority for CSUS based on your student demographics 2) Direct experience developing the type of equitable, inclusive programming you want to expand per your strategic plan 3) Passion for community building that drives me to go above and beyond to enrich the student experience and unify people.”

9. Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. How did you handle it?

We all make mistakes, so don’t shy away from sharing one. Pick an example that isn’t catastrophic. Explain the situation objectively, own your mistake, clarify how you corrected it and what you learned from the experience. Focus is less on the error and more on your accountability, critical thinking and continuous improvement.

For example: “When I was new in my last advising role, I provided a student with some course advice that ended up being incorrect based on their degree requirements. Once I realized my mistake, I swiftly consulted with the student to correct the issue before it impacted their time to graduation. I apologized for the oversight and ultimately used it as a lesson to strengthen my knowledge of the various program curriculums to prevent similar issues in the future.”

10. How would you handle a student crisis situation or emergency?

Illustrate both compassion and level-headedness. Share how you’d first acknowledge the student’s distress and ensure their immediate safety/wellbeing. Next, explain how you’d consult appropriate protocols and resources to direct an appropriate, timely response or get the student the help they need. You can reference real experiences handling crises.

For example: “First and foremost, I would reassure the student that I’m there to support them through this crisis. Depending on the situation, I would contact campus security or emergency services per CSUS protocols to address any health or safety needs. I would also connect the student to counseling, medical care or other relevant resources, staying with them or following up to ensure their wellbeing. While handling crises can be challenging, I stay focused on making the student feel secure and cared for.”

11. Describe a time you helped resolve a complex student issue.

Choose an example that shows off problem-solving, critical thinking, communication skills, and the ability to drive a positive outcome. Explain the nuanced, multi-faceted issue and the systematic approach you took to reach a win-win resolution or alternative for the student.

For example: “One student was facing possible academic disqualification and financial aid suspension due to multiple factors affecting their performance. By thoroughly discussing their circumstances, I uncovered issues with mental health, finances and class scheduling. I worked across departments to find solutions, ultimately getting them counseling, an emergency grant to continue attending, and an adjusted schedule. My holistic approach solved root causes, allowing the student to get back on track academically and remain enrolled.”

12. Tell me about a time you failed. What did you learn from it?

Another question aimed at uncovering how you handle and grow from setbacks. Briefly summarize the failure/setback, own responsibility for the result, reflect on what you

2022 Interview Day


Does CSU require an interview?

After receiving approval, those selected for an interview will be contacted by the search committee. For more information, please see the CSU Search Manual. Most job searches at CSU go through a two-part interview process; the semifinalist interview and the finalist interview.

Can you tell me about yourself sample answer?

I never miss deadlines, I’m a good communicator and I can juggle multiple tasks at once. In my performance reviews, my supervisor always notes that he appreciates my professionalism and enthusiasm for the job. “With this experience under my belt, I’m looking for an opportunity to take the next step in my career.

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