Interviewing = First Date

By: Ashley Hall, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Community Standards at Saint Mary’s College
It's that time of year in student affairs: job searches, awkward phone interviews and campus visits. Can anyone truly be prepared for the long hours searching on the computer for the perfect position, revising cover letters and resumes and sleepless nights before phone interviews and campus visits? As a professional who has experienced all of the above, I can say that the job search process can be a roller coaster ride.

So how does a graduate student looking to break into the professional world stand out from the sea of applicants? As a member of various search committees, I have found that many candidates forget to pay attention to the details and thus end up being weeded out. I hope that these six steps to standing out in the midst of a growing pool help new professionals be prepared for the job search process.

1. Soul search: I find that too many people forget to reflect on what they truly want in a position. With the age of the Internet, it is too easy to submit hundreds of applications without really looking at where you are applying. Take the time to make a list of things you are looking for in an institution (size, public/private, co-ed/single sex, location). Once you do that you can determine which positions are a true fit for your personality and plan for the future.

2. Details: Make sure you are reading the small print in the job descriptions. I know of people who have graduated grad school and applied for Dean of Students positions. Clearly they did not read the qualifications section on years of service required! Make sure you pay attention to what they are looking for and follow their application directions. One way to automatically be removed from the candidate pool is to overlook what they are asking for. In my eyes if you fail to follow directions now, what else are you going to fail to do?

3. Be intentional: Whether it is with your cover letter or actual interview, make sure that you are having the interviewer visualizing you as a part of the team. This means that you need to do your research, cater your applications/cover letters to the institution you are applying for. Yes this takes time, but I can tell you that it will be noticed and make you stand out.

4. Preparation: Now that you have applied and have been offered a phone/campus interviews, make sure you have prepared. This means doing more research. Look at the mission statement of both the institution and the department. Bet on them asking you about it. Why is this important you may ask? Well, would you like to be in a relationship with someone who does not believe in the same things you do, or have different ideas on the future? The job search is like dating. You need to make sure you are on the same page before you go any further.

5. Practice makes perfect: Ask a friend, cohort member or supervisor to sit with you and do a mock phone interview or in person interview. The more you practice answering questions out loud and become comfortable with the awkwardness of "pretending" you will be more confident in the actual interview.

6. Giving thanks: I maybe old school but I feel that if an interviewer has given you their precious time, that you should thank them. Out of all the candidates, they chose you and the last thing you want them to think is that you do not appreciate that. Thank them on the phone at the end of the interview and write that intentional thank you note. In the thank you note, refer to your interview. Was there a moment that you shared a laugh or similar view points? Include that, it shows that you were paying attention.

Remember that the job process can be nerve wracking like a first date, but you don't have to start it alone. There are many professionals out there who want to be resources, so pick their brains! Utilize social media to connect to other new professionals! And finally, remember that in the end what’s most important is that you find the best "fit" for yourself. So have fun!

Ashley Hall

Student Affairs - the First Years

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1 comment :

  1. Awesome post Ashley! There are really great points in here for new professionals!


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