Gaps in the Literature: Interview Training for Transition-Age Youth

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway

Strong interview performances are an essential part of obtaining employment and internship opportunities in today’s society. However, research indicates that those with disabilities face increased barriers in performing well on interviews, suggesting that transition-age youth who receive special education pre-employment services (Pre-ETS) may benefit from explicit interview training in high school as a means to increase vocational outcomes. — Taryn McBrayne

Transition-Age Youth and Interview Training

Transition-age youth (TAY) are defined in this article as those who are between the ages of 16 and 22 and who qualify for special education services. Often transition-age youth receive school-based support to assist with the transition from high school to adult life. However, data suggests that employment rates remain low amongst TAY in the United States.1 In their article, Smith et al. (2021) “aim to fill key gaps in the literature on job interviewing in TAY receiving special education pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) . . . at schools in urban, suburban, and rural locales.” 

In their study, the researchers collected data from 47 schools across Michigan, Illinois, and Florida and evaluated “vocational interview history and outcomes among TAY prior to their school-level implementation of either Virtual Reality Job Interview Training (VR-JIT) or Virtual Interview Training for Transition Age Youth (VIT-TAY).” As part of the study requirements, teachers and/or administrators at the selected schools were asked to complete two surveys on behalf of each TAY: 1) a survey focused on student demographics, including the appropriate disability category as determined by the 13 disability categories according to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 2) “TAYs’ employment histories with regard to their current and lifetime employment at competitive and integrated jobs.” Both descriptive and inferential analyses were used to assess the collected data. 

Survey Results

The results of the study can be summarized as follows: 

  1. The researchers observed that the age of TAY was an independent variable that affected outcomes. 
  2. 88.8% of TAY who were currently employed interviewed for their job,” which supports the need for interview training as part of Pre-ETS.
  3. It was found that “TAY with a specific learning disability had greater odds of ever having been employed as compared to TAY with other disabilities,” including autism and intellectual disability. Such findings suggest that “autistic TAY and TAY with intellectual disability may need more intensive and individualized interventions and supports within Pre-ETS.”
  4. TAY with emotional disturbance . . . had greater odds of ever having been employed.”
  5. In regards to internship opportunities, the data found that “21.7% of TAY were currently in an unpaid internship and 8.3% were currently in paid internships,” with TAY with a specific learning disability having lower odds of unpaid internships compared to others. 
  6. “Approximately 30% of unpaid and paid internships were obtained after completing an interview, which did not differ across the diagnostic subgroups.” 

Study Limitations

Although the focus of the study was on interviewing and vocational outcomes, Smith et al. (2021) and Sullivan & Artiles2 (2011) note the importance of further investigating the prevalence of racial disparities among the disability categories indicated in this study in the future. 

Smith et al. (2021) also outline limitations in their study. The authors emphasize that the results of their study may not be largely generalizable due to the fact that their study did not sample a nationally representative group, both in terms of geographic location and a school’s access to resources. In addition, Smith et al. (2021) acknowledge the possible presence of selection bias in their study given that schools who agreed to participate in the study may have been better prepared to conduct interviews with their students and prepare TAY for these interviews. 

Ultimately, the authors conclude that the results from their study reinforce the “importance of implementing evidence-based job interviewing skills training within pre-employment transition services.”

Summarized Article: Smith, M. J., Sherwood, K., Blajeski, S., Ross, B., Smith, J. D., Jordan, N., Dawalt, L., Bishop, L., & Atkins, M. S. (2021). Job Interview and Vocational Outcomes Among Transition-Age Youth Receiving Special Education Pre-Employment Transition Services. Intellectual and developmental disabilities, 59(5), 405–421. https://doi.org/10.1352/1934-9556-59.5.405

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne — Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Persons with a disability: Labor force characteristics 2019. (USDL-20-0339). Author. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/disabl.pdf 
  2. Sullivan, A. L., & Artiles, A. J. (2011). Theorizing racial inequity in special education: applying structural inequity theory to disproportionality. Urban Education, 46(6), 1526–1552.

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