It’s February: AKA job season craziness begins! Recruiting and Job Searching is one of my passion areas. I’ve personally searched for a job at three placement exchanges and served on a search committee at one placement exchange. I’m not saying I’m good at it, but it’s something that interests me, especially going after the type of position you want!
Last year for my search, I went to both the Oshkosh Placement Exchange and The Placement Exchange. I was geographically flexible, searching for an entry level Hall Director position. I really only needed a pet policy for this crazy dog child of mine! Between the two exchanges I had about 32 interviews. That’s not including the phone interviews that I had prior and didn’t even get a placement exchange interview for. This was EXTREMELY exhausting and crazy but in the end I got the position I wanted! Since we’re in the midst of placement exchange season happening, I’d thought I’d share a few tips that helped me this time last year:
Personalize your materials/interviews.
I always made sure to discover specifically why I was interested in the position I was applying for. Obviously, it goes without saying that the institution knows you’re likely interested because of some of the benefit. But why do you really want to work there? I worked to find specific examples of things that impressed me about each institution that I could have only found out from research. I not only articulated this in my cover letter but during everyone’s favorite first interview question: Why us?
I kept notes on each institution in a binder with my cover letter and any responding information. I had an information sheet that included the demographics of the institution, their mission statement, the department or Student Affairs division’s information and why I was interested. Also, I had any correspondence that I was sent from the institution in the binder as well including any promotional materials. Before each of my interviews, I would look through the information to remind myself what the position was, why I was interested, what questions I knew I had, and anything else that could be beneficial throughout my interview.
Keep an interview question cheat sheet.
Someone gave me the great idea to think about type of interview questions (ex: supervisor, advising, diversity, etc.) and look at what specific examples you can bring to the table and write them all down. I created a list of all of the supervision experiences I had. Underneath, it had a few examples of how I have done that, essentially reorganizing my resume in a different way. Before my interviews I would take a quick look at this list in case I happened to forget anything and work to try to highlight something specific that might correlate to that particular position.
Take time for yourself!
Throughout my interview schedule, I made sure to have time to have lunch or an break and even time to get away from the interview venue. I knew what I needed to take care of myself and perform my best. I also made sure to not take on too many interviews. Going to both OPE and TPE, I realized, was a tad bit extreme. By the time I got to TPE I was mentally exhausted and had to cancel some interviews. I knew I was not going to perform my best.
Be real and authentic.
During my GA search, I felt that I wasn’t very authentic and that I didn’t really show my personality. During my full time search I was sure to appropriately show my authentic self. Corny jokes and all! It worked out in my favor because I remained true to myself and my current employer and coworkers knew what they were going to get from me personality wise before I even started. It helped to create connections with folks that I was going to be working with and help find things in common.
Don’t play schools!
If they don’t have a chance, don’t lead them on. Throughout the placement exchange, you’re working to find a good fit and find out if this institution has what you’re looking for. Know when to ask which questions at the right time (ex: Benefits question probably isn’t appropriate for interview number 1). Keep in mind that once you get on campus, the institution knows you can do the job. Work to be open and honest with the intuition as best as you can.
If I have been interested in a institution during my on campus meeting with the Director/person doing the hiring, I typically tell them exactly where I am in my process. I’ve shared if I currently had any offers and if I was highly interested in the position. It was a good way for me to find out where they were in their process and if they knew when positions would become available.
Everyone’s search is different.
Although it is very hard not to play the comparison game, you don’t know much about your neighbor’s search and what they are looking for unless they specifically explain it to you. One of my biggest pet peeves at a placement exchange as a candidate is when another candidate would ask me specifics about what schools I was interviewing with and if I got a second round interview with that school. I know that doesn’t bother everyone. To me, my search is private and between me and the employer unless I felt something specific I wanted to share.
Don’t put your foot in your mouth!
Fish bowl!! You never know who knows who. I once had someone accidently bad mouth me to an employer from another institution who was actually my best friend. If you want to share specifics or talk about a bad experience, know who and where to do this. Common areas, hallways, and elevators are not the place but in your hotel room or car, might be better.
Interviewing at a placement exchange is something that I have a lot of experience with. I would love to share my experiences or to provide support or encouragement to anyone searching throughout the process! Feel free to get in contact with me via email or on twitter!
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Aracelis, Emalie, Felicia, and Patrick, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.