This piece is an edited version of another from my personal blog, GotDegrees– check out the page to find the full version!
Now that many internship programs and institutions are starting to interview candidates for positions that will begin this summer, I figured it was the best time to post the second half of my piece on finding a job or internship (you can find Part I on the application process here). As someone who is conducting interviews for candidates for ACUHO-I in the coming weeks, I’ll be looking for prepared, informed candidates who can bring added value to our programs.
Here’s how to look the part (whether or not you’ll be talking to me soon):
Tip 1: Do your homework- this time, it will REALLY pay off.
You’ve put in the work, followed my previous four steps, and now you have a phone interview! Congrats- now the work REALLY begins. You need to study like your big midterm is coming up and you need to pass to stay in school. Look up the institution, learn about the department you’d be in, the larger division it’s in, and how both play a role in the school’s inner workings. What are the department’s mission and goals? What are they working on right now? Do they have a strategic plan? Any new initiatives? Be able to speak about the place like you already work there and you’ll look like a rockstar!
Tip 2: Contrary to popular belief, there ARE stupid questions- don’t ask them.
Your phone interview is your time to sell yourself- not to ask about how the school’s football team is doing, whether or not the food in the dining halls is good, or if you’ll have enough vacation time to go on that African safari. Above all, DO NOT ask about pay unless the interviewer brings it up, and DO NOT use this as a time to negotiate – you can do that when you are hired.
7 Questions You DO Want to Ask
- What would an ideal candidate need to bring to the team?
- What would my first weeks or months look like?
- What would I need to do in this role to be successful?
- How does the department collaborate with others on campus?
- What projects would you like to see me work on if hired?
- What are your hopes for this role and for the person you hire?
- What challenges did others who have held the role come across?
In asking informed, thoughtful questions, you can prove to interviewers that you really want the job and are a worthy candidate.
Tip 3: Be a good houseguest.
Assuming you represent yourself well on the phone, you’ll likely be offered a chance to come to campus (more likely for jobs than internships, where you may have a second phone interview). Nice work! Don’t get too cocky yet, though- if the first interview is your midterm, your second interview is your final exam- and as in many cases on finals, you won’t tend to lose points on the big pieces like answering questions but on sloppy minor mistakes.
When an institution invites you to come to them, it’s like extending you an invitation into someone’s home- so conduct yourself accordingly. Keep the hotel room or other spaces that you stay in clean, get to know everyone you interact with on your interview, don’t order the most expensive meal possible if taken to lunch or dinner, and be polite and cordial with everyone — especially students!
Tip 4: Being ungrateful is not a good look.
Make sure you write thank-you notes to everyone you meet- ask for business cards or names when you meet with people so you can find their e-mail addresses later. In many cases, institutions will give you an itinerary with names listed so that can be helpful as well. I personally prefer e-mails since they will get to the target quicker, but you can use paper notes- just make sure that you do so within 48 hours of the interview. Sending a thank-you note won’t automatically get you the job, but not sending one does send the message that you didn’t value the experience– and as someone who’s conducted interviews, showing me you don’t value my time will lead to your candidacy not being valued. Thank you notes aren’t just for those at your chosen institution- you should also be sending thank you notes to those who helped you in your search and who served as references.
Tip 5: If it looks like a mirage and feels too good to be true, it probably is.
Getting that offer of employment after the long search for a job or internship can be a huge relief, and the temptation to take the first offer given to you is great. However, not all offers are good offers- it’s important to keep an eye out for red flags. If multiple staff members are new or the department experiences a great deal of regular turnover, or if you can’t get specific answers about your role or what success looks like, you may want to consider the job again. If the department doesn’t seem collaborative, people who leave don’t move on to good opportunities, the school is dealing with multiple scandals or controversies or if you don’t get a clear answer on supervision and expectations, run- and run fast! If you don’t sense these issues and feel like you’ve made it to your intended destination, CONGRATULATIONS!! You’ve beaten the game with a high score and can move on to the job or internship of your dreams!
Tip 6: The first rule about the job/internship search is that we don’t talk about the job/internship search.
Your search is an important part of your life- but it’s not the ONLY part of your life. Letting it take over everything you do will lead to your friends and family becoming frustrated with you very quickly. Keep the search talk to a minimum after telling people you’re searching and make sure to enjoy the other parts of your life- maintain your hobbies, exercise, hang out with friends, in short do the things you would normally do if you weren’t searching. Finally, make sure that you enjoy your remaining time as a graduate student- trust me, you’ll look back someday and remember those days fondly even if you don’t feel that way now.
Waiting for the Right One
The other reason we don’t talk about the search constantly is because for some, the lack of immediate prospects can be frustrating- and hearing about others’ offers can be jarring. Ideally, you will find the job or internship meant for you quickly- but it doesn’t always happen that way. If it takes a while to find something, it’s important to remember that this delay is not necessarily a reflection on you or your skills– it just means that you haven’t found the right opportunity yet. Reevaluate your materials, reach out to your network and expand it further, and keep applying.
That concludes my ten tips for finding a job or internship- feel free to check out the longer version of the post at my blog, GotDegrees.org! SAPros and SAGrads who have been through the search process- missing anything you think is crucial? Add it below!