Resident assistants are student employees who live in residence halls at colleges and universities across the U.S. Individuals in this position serve as leaders for their hall, floor or wing. They help build community among their residents while supporting individual students as they transition from high school to college and living independently away from their parents. Serving in this role requires excellent communication skills, leadership abilities and a desire to help their fellow peers.
To secure a position as an RA at your college or university, speak to your hall director or current RA and learn what the process is for your institution. Complete the RA application and be prepared to interview with current RAs as well as members of the housing staff. You can prepare for the interview by reviewing sample questions asked during the process and learning why they are asked.
Sample Questions: How will you go about getting to know all of your residents? How comfortable are you approaching a group of strangers and introducing yourself? How do you interact with someone who is very different from you? What makes you approachable for students who are having problems or need someone to talk to? Out of all the people in your residence hall, what percent do you know?
Reason: RAs are expected to get to know all of the individuals on the floor or wing to which they are assigned. In addition, it's important that a person in this position is highly visible and gets to know a majority of residents on other floors and wings as well. Asking about your involvement in the hall this year and the percentage of residents you currently know allows the hall staff to gauge your abilities to interact with residents.
Sample Questions: What was your favorite residence hall program you attended this year? Give us an example of a program you could do with a budget of only $10. Educational programs don't always have the same appeal as social programs, so tell us how you would get students to attend. What type of program would you do to promote diversity among your residents? How would you advertise upcoming programs?
Reason: Residence halls are living communities that engage students in learning. Programming helps promote learning while also allowing students to get to know each other and build a supportive and engaging community which makes the residence hall a dynamic place to live. Hall staff want to see that you are creative and can come up with ideas of activities to do with limited resources or budgets since this is often a reality for many residence hall funds.
Stress and Crisis Situations
Sample Questions: As an RA, what will be the biggest challenge you face? What weaknesses do you have that may interfere with being an RA? How will you handle confronting your peers if they are breaking the rules? Would you ever lie to protect a friend from getting in trouble? Discuss how you would handle a crisis situation such as a medical emergency or fire. How do you handle negative comments or criticism given to you by other students simply because you're doing your job?
Reason: RAs often work under stress and pressure due to the different personalities of students in the small living quarters of a residence hall. Hall staff need to know you are able to remain calm and collected when a stressful situation arises. They also need to know that you are able to uphold the rules and standards for the hall even if it's your friends who are breaking them.
Sample Questions: How would other residents describe you? What is your biggest pet peeve regarding others, and how would you handle when a student on your floor exhibits this trait? What are your strengths? Give me an example of a time when you had to use your leadership skills.
Reason: Hall staff need to know that you are confident about yourself and your abilities and won't cave to please other students or staff members. It's also important that you are able to get along with students from different backgrounds.
Sample Questions: What would you do if you found a few students who are underage drinking in their room? What would you do if a student threatens to commit suicide? What do you do if a person complains about their roommate? What is your response if you ask a student to turn down their music and they don't comply? What do you do if you walk into the bathroom and find someone unconscious?
Reason: Be prepared for hall staff to give you some scenarios of situations you may face as an RA. While the staff will provide you with training of what to do in these scenarios once you are hired, often they ask these questions to see whether or not you have the leadership abilities and personal characteristics to make good decisions about problems, difficult situations and other issues that may arise. Often there is no right or wrong answer to these scenarios, so simply explain how you would handle it.
Sample Questions: If you could be any animal in the world, which animal would you be and why? If you were stuck on a deserted island and allowed only three items, what three items would you have with you? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reason: Resident assistants are individuals who have hobbies, interests, families, friends and other activities outside their job. Hall staff understand this which is why they often ask random questions that don't pertain to the actual position. Some of these questions are designed to help hall staff get to know more about each applicant personally while others test your creative abilities or problem solving skills.
After completing the interview, you may have to wait a few weeks before you learn whether or not you were hired as an RA for the upcoming school year. Hall staff take into consideration a variety of factors when hiring and placing RAs. Just because you didn't get a position or the exact hall you wanted doesn't mean you didn't have a good interview or the residence hall staff wasn't impressed with your experience and leadership abilities. Instead certain halls, floors or wings need RAs with specific personalities, interests, experience or characteristics to provide the best experience for the residences. For example, a floor dedicated to first-generation college students is best served by an RA with a lot of patience and past experience or understanding of the unique challenges this group faces. Contact your hall director if you want more information about how you did during the interview process and why you weren't select for the RA position you wanted.