Job Development: Gathering Information

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Section 2: Gathering Information about a Student

You cannot effectively market students to potential employers if you don’t know them. So before you begin to “pound the pavement” to find jobs for students, spend some time getting to know them.

  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their challenges?

Use the people and places around you to gather this information.

When gathering information, remember two things:

  1. Everyone acts differently in different situations and environments. For example, we don’t act the same way with our bosses at a Monday morning meeting as we do when we go out with friends on a Saturday night!
  2. Everyone’s responses to questions you ask about a student are THEIR OWN OPINIONS and PERSPECTIVES, so you need to balance those answers with your own observations. What a teacher sees a student do is different than what a college mentor might see them do, so responses and descriptions will vary. The most effective way to get the best and most realistic picture of a student is to gather information from a variety of sources and look for themes.

How can you collect information about a student who needs a job? In the resource section, you can find the Discovery Options Handout that can be printed or saved for recording observations about a student.

One-on-one interview: This process works best with students who are verbal, enjoy talking about themselves, and can clearly express their thoughts.  It can also be used with a student who is nonverbal provided picture cues or effective communication devices are available. Having the participation of a key stakeholder who understands the subtleties of the student’s reactions may be helpful. Please refer to the Youth Interview Instrument as an example in the Resources Section.

Observe in a college classroom: Look for things like: how a student interacts with other students and the instructor, how she or he follows directions, focuses on tasks, deals with frustration and confusion, and contributes to the class as a whole. Think about how this translates into the work environment. Whether or not a student possesses these skills gives you insight into the student’s learning styles, social behavior, and information gathering which will tell you what types of work environments might be most suitable, how that student could learn a new task on the job, and how he or she might interact with a supervisor.

File review: This method of gaining information allows you to see the student’s history, understand medical needs, review behavior plans, see general testing scores, etc. This information alone is good background, but not all that useful in selling a student to an employer!

Observe on a job or doing job tasks: If a student has some sort of job experience—whether in-school or community volunteer work—it is important to observe how he or she functions in that environment.  Make observations about:

  • how tasks were learned and completed,
  • what happened during down-time,
  • student’s speed and accuracy in assigned tasks
  • what happened when a student finished a task; did he/she stop or ask for the next task?
  • How did the student deal with the lighting, noise, level of personal interaction, space, etc.

It is also very important to observe how he or she fits into the environment to see if that is a good work culture for the student’s personality. You can refer to the checklist: Making Observations of Students in the resource section for assistance with this.

Interview instructors or other professionals: These people spend a lot of time with a student and can provide helpful information about consistency of behaviors, triggers of positive and negative behaviors, personality traits and quirks, and a general history. If you are just meeting a student or have not known him or her for very long, the student’s behaviors may be different for you; it is important to know what occurs over time. Please review the Positive Personal Profile Discovery Interview Form in the Resources section. These questions lead directly into the Positive Personal Profile, which we cover in Section 3, and are also relevant for family and friends to use.

Interview family and friends:  Family and friends can also provide important insights about a student. Keep in mind during interviews of key stakeholders that you are recording these individuals PERSPECTIVES of the student. Always balance this information with your own observations and experiences.

Observe at home: People act differently in different environments. Get an idea of behavior trends at home, and it will give you insight into family dynamics that will be helpful later as you are working through job interviews and work schedules.

Paper and pencil tests or computer based interest and skill inventories: This type of assessment can provide useful information, especially about career interests. Keep in mind that not everyone is successful using a paper and pencil medium or on a computer, and make sure you are aware of all the supports that need to be provided for a student—such as having questions and answers read or even rephrased for someone, using pictures instead of words, and separating the test out into sections over time.The resource section lists a number of Transition Assessment Resources that you can check out to see if any meet your needs or can supplement what you are already using.

Observe in the college community: Being part of college life offers a number of opportunities for students to interact with different types of people and to try new social groups and activities that may put them out of their comfort zone.  Look for how a student adjusts to a new situation. This information will be useful in determining how they adjust to a new job or work environment, as well as how quickly a student can figure out how to get around the campus -  which gives you information about the student’s directional abilities and memory and whether he or she can do a job that requires negotiating a large building or area, for example.

Observe in the general community: Again, people act differently in different environments—we all do! Because the student will be finding a job in the community, it is important to observe behaviors and skills that occur outside of the campus and home. It is amazing what you will see students do out in the world that they wouldn’t even attempt in the protected school and home environments.

Observe in a work setting: Employment skills of students with ID are often best assessed in a real work environment, often referred to as a situational assessment. You can observe the student learning skills in a real employment setting and if the student gets a job in that type of employment, it will be easier for them to apply their learned skills in a similar setting.{/slider}

Work simulations: Although it is often difficult for students with ID to transfer skills they learn in one environment to another, it can still be helpful to get a basic skill baseline—even if in a simulated setting. If you are at least aware of what a student is capable of in one environment, you have a better chance of creating a different way for that student to do a similar task in a real job. Refer to Guidelines for Performing a Situational Assessment in the resource section. 

This online tool is designed to assist people determine their interests and find out how they relate to the world of work. It helps make the link between interests or strengths and possible jobs.Read more

This checklist assists job developers and others describe and tally a student’s behaviors to assist in learning more about the student’s strengths and needs. A list of 12 common behaviors is included.Read more

This document provides guidelines for performing a situational assessment, a valuable tool for assisting a person with a disability to make choices about the types of jobs and work environments that they would enjoy that uses real work and community...Read more

This checklist and worksheet assists job developers to think through the variety of ways to collect information about a job seeker. It describes seven strategies for information gathering, and then asks the job developer to reflect on which strategies they...Read more

This form can be used by a job specialist or job developer to gather detailed information from a jobseeker about interests and preferences, previous experience, skills and knowledge, accommodations and support needs, transportation resources, and more. Read more