Hiring ABA Professionals: Interviewee Perspective



After my post about How to Interview ABA Therapists, I started receiving questions from ABA professionals about what they should be asking during a job interview for an ABA position.

The interview process is a time to discuss details of the position, pay and benefits, expectations, qualifications and background, etc. ABA professionals are responsible for evaluating the expectations of the position and determining if they can meet them. This post  may be more or less applicable to your situation, depending on your ABA work setting (school- based, home -based, etc.).

Firstly, if you didn't already know please be aware that direct staff (staff who require a supervisor to perform their role) cannot work as independent contractors according to the governmental definition of a "contractor". If you are an ABA therapist working directly for a family, I am speaking to you.

Also for best practices, and especially if you are a RBT, you really SHOULD be working under a BCBA or BCaBA (who is under a BCBA). For clinical supervision and case oversight the best case scenario is the tiered service delivery model where there is a supervisor overseeing the work of the direct staff.
Yes, there are employers who try to shirk or entirely skip over this model but I don't recommend it. You will find yourself in a position you aren't quite qualified for, with little to no support or training.


Without consulting an attorney to write this post for me, I will summarize greatly and explain the difference between an ABA Contractor & an ABA Employee:

Basically, as a contractor you work for you. You can work independently or choose to contract with companies, which just as it sounds will require you sign an employment contract.
*Tip: Read over that contract suuuuper carefully. I have turned down many a position based on horribly written contracts that the company refused to modify. As a contractor you do have autonomy to set your schedule/hours, are responsible for your own materials, supplies, taxes, etc. Your income is not taxed and you are not entitled to any benefits.

For an employee position, it's basically the opposite of everything I just said about contractors. Some companies will just require you sign an offer letter, but other companies still require employment contracts even of employees. Your income is taxed, you are eligible for company benefits (depending on what is offered), etc.

I hear from many people in the field who want to know how to "break out on their own" and start working independently, as a contractor. There is no quickie answer to this, it varies depending on the laws/licensure where you reside, your ideal work setting, your familiarity with business ownership, etc. Contracting is not for the faint of heart, and I don't recommend you jump right into it the second you gain BCBA certification. Give yourself some time to learn and develop your skillset before considering working independently.


There are pros and cons to being an employee or being a contractor; it just depends on what works for you. Some therapists prefer working for themselves, and others like the advantages of being within a company.....even the "Big Box" ABA companies, which I personally tend to avoid.

The interview/hiring process can look very different depending on if you are an employee or an contractor. Also, the larger the company typically the more steps that are added to the interview process.


Below are some general hiring/interview tips for both employees and contractors. Keep in mind that some information won't be applicable to you, depending on your work setting:


Contracting

  • Ask to review the employment contract. Keep in mind that everything is negotiable, and if you are told it is NOT negotiable: that's a problem.
  • Explain upfront if you have other clients, especially if in the same area. Many companies may ask you to sign a non-compete clause which will severely impact your ability to hold other contracts.
  • Ask about client materials and supplies. Even for contractors some companies will still provide you with materials, while others will not.
  • Don't drive all over the place for free. While contractors are usually not eligible for company benefits (like mileage), you can demand a higher pay rate for excessive travel/drive time.
  • Be sure you understand what the non-solicitation clause includes. If you leave a company due to dissatisfaction, you may be unable to work with any staff or clients of that company for years to come.
  • Since you are not eligible for overtime, be very clear on how many hours per week you will be working (including admin hours, which typically are unpaid).
  • Is remote/telehealth work a possibility?
  • How often do you get paid? Monthly, weekly, bi-weekly? Don't be surprised if your contract states monthly payments, this isn't unusual for contractors.
  • Who maintains your professional liability insurance, you or the company?
  • How long will credentialing take? Be prepared that depending on the funder this can take MONTHS....are you expected to just sit around until then?
  • Who is your go-to person? You likely will not have a direct supervisor, so who do you contact with questions or concerns? If it's the owner, how available is this person?
  • Since contractors are often hourly and not salaried, be sure to discuss what happens if your hours unexpectedly dip or change, such as if you lose half your caseload. Trust me, it happens.




Employees

  • You likely will need to adhere to company policies and procedures, which can be numerous and comprehensive. Ask questions about any policies you don't understand and be assertive about any procedures you disagree with.
  • Are you PT or FT? If FT, what happens to your benefits if your hours fluctuate or dip unexpectedly? 
  • Is the position hourly or salaried? If salaried, ask about billable hour requirements.
  • Is admin time paid? How many hours per week are alotted for it? Is there a clinic/work site where you can complete admin tasks? 
  • Are you able to decline/turn down cases? If so, what is that process? How quickly will those hours be replaced? 
  • Who is your direct supervisor and how often can you meet face to face with this person?
  • Are company trainings paid time? If no, then is your attendance optional?
  • If you require supervision to earn a credential or certification, will you be charged for this (some companies will lower your pay rate while you are being supervised)? Do you have to stay with the company a minimum length of time post-certification? 
  • How do promotions and bonuses work, and how often can they occur?


More great interview questions to ask:


  1. When the interviewer says "So what questions do you have for me?" ALWAYS have questions ready. It makes you appear uncaring or disinterested when you don't.
  2. Don't leave the interview not knowing what the pay rate is. If you are a contractor, they typically will ask what you charge. If you are an employee, you typically will be told a pay rate. If you feel the rate is low based on your education and experience, say so! You may not be able to negotiate, but a quality interviewer will explain the reason for the low pay rate (not just say "Well, that's what we pay").
  3. Ask about company culture and how staff are made to feel valued/appreciated. Ask for specific examples, don't accept a vague response.
  4. Avoid obvious questions that are answered on the company website or were in the job posting. It looks really unprofessional if you ask about something that was clearly explained in the job description/job ad.
  5. Always ask how soon you would start working. You would be surprised how many employers start interviewing for positions that aren't even open yet/companies that aren't open yet. If the job won't be available for 6 months, that's something you want to know upfront.
  6. Don't leave the interview with no idea of what the next step will be. Always inquire about this, because you would be surprised how many employers skip this step. You should know when to expect to hear from someone, and how quickly they are looking to make a decision.
  7. Always ask when you can speak to a clinical staff person. Nowadays the 1st phase of the interview may be with a recruiter or administrative staff, and they really will not be able to answer your most critical questions. 
  8. Ask about typical caseload/ how many clients you will manage at once.
  9. Ask to see company handbook, policies, guidelines, parent policies, etc. If they don't have any, REALLY bad sign.
  10. If the position was recently opened, ask why the last person didn't work out. Pay close attention to the response :-)
  11. Ask about staff suggestions or input, and how receptive the company is to feedback. No one likes a job that completely lacks autonomy, and could be done by a robot. We all like to feel like we are contributing to the company in some way.


**Super Helpful Resources:

- For the contractors, this audio post about what to expect when you dive into those consultation waters is basically a collection of tips I wish someone had shared with me before I started contracting. I truly hope it's helpful!

- ABA Employment training video. An honest conversation about securing quality employment in this field.

2 comments

  1. Hello There,
    thanks for this great info.I am a new RBT and Iwant to be how to become an idependent contractor. Do I need a license adide my RBT.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      RBT's cannot work independently. More information about this credential is available on the BACB website: https://bacb.com/rbt/

      Delete

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