“Pick Me, Please! I want this job, I need this job, and this is the job I was made for…….” At the time of that utterance, I am sitting across the table from a prospective candidate. Young, fiery, vibrant, passionate, but also tired, worn-out, stressed and trying desperately to leave a good impression. Twenty-three, maybe twenty-four, and recently graduated from a master’s program somewhere in the good ole U.S. of A, the answers free-fall at a rapid clip. Wearing their Sunday’s best, (it’s the most professional looking outfit they own), smiling as if it were going out of style and ensuring eye contact is made, but just enough eye contact, not the creepy kind. Having just visited three different states and interviewed with what seemed like fifty hundred different people, their mind is a blur of names, faces and places. Handwritten thank you cards were the standard appropriate response for the privilege of interviewing and personalized handwritten thank you cards that specifically referenced aspects of the interviews and interactions had with people were the next level, and so I imagine them seated in their car in the parking lot attempting to match conversations to people who they can’t fully remember, trying to write something witty to stand-out, but not too witty. Maybe it’s an email now, and so instead they’re fumbling through packets of information inside folders with itineraries to find a business card with that email they need to ensure its going to the right person, and hoping that auto-correct doesn’t screw them this time. And don’t forget to include the administrative assistant, somehow everybody always forgets the administrative assistant and never thank them.
Years later, I’m still on the business side of the interview interaction, member of the dreaded committee interview round, asking THAT question. The one question I spent minutes crafting, the one that would make me seem so smart and impressive to this new candidate, the one that would send a message…”this guy is serious about this career AND he knows his stuff”, the one that I would learn later on made me seem pompous, arrogant, and full of myself. And now I’m in my office waiting for that personalized, handwritten thank you note or email. It never comes.
Still later on, you see me, the overworked, stressed out, smack dab in the middle of three crises but only I can resolve this issue administrator that now has to chunk out at least forty-five minutes of quality time to sit with a candidate who I may or may not have some interaction or supervisory responsibility for. I’m looking at this future professional hoping they know their stuff. That their answers are nothing short of brilliant, that they will do the work for me and be so astoundingly perfect that the only answer is to hire them instantly and on the spot. Actually, the hope is that the committee will do most of the work and whittle down the pool to the only candidate that makes sense and we hire them. Now, I’m thinking “is this the kind of person that’s interviewed me before?” “Did someone who was this kind of stressed out have to make time for me and I was more of a nuisance than the solution to their problem?”
And here, now sixteen years later, a wizened, seasoned, been-in-trenches and I know stuff and things kind of professional, sitting on the other side of this computer screen typing this story, I wonder what advice would I have given to my younger self? What kind of strategies might I have offered prospective candidates, if given the chance? I am recalling one of those life-talks, the ones that you have with students when they come seeking your all-knowing wisdom, the kind of conversation that happens in the midst of madness that slows everything down and reminds you of why you chose this profession in the first place, that went something like this: “Dean Melendez, if you could talk to your younger self as an aspiring SAPro- what would you say?” I responded, after some reflection, “The funny thing is, you are my younger self and you are my chance to tell myself the things I would’ve liked to say then. So you won’t make the same mistakes I did.”
So here we are with Dean Nestor’s notes on the hiring process, the tips and tricks version:
- Know who you are in that interview moment and recognize that this job can help you become the professional you want to become. But that this is only the first step in a long, long journey that never fully ends. (Know your story)
- Recognize that your gifts and talents are intended to help people you have not yet met. Student Affairs has many heroes, they all succeeded because they helped others before they helped themselves. (Share your story)
- The people who are interviewing you are just as nervous as you. They have to add the right member to the team or risk ineffectiveness as a unit. The onus is on the institution to pick the right fit. The trick is to be the fit. (Find a cast of characters to add to your story)
- Your first job is just that. It’s the first step in a larger journey that will teach you much, but as is the case with mostly everything, especially good TV shows, it will end and you will need to move on. (Write more than one story)
These aren’t necessarily the most elegant and practical nuggets of wisdom, but they are true and real and culled from years upon years of interviewing and being interviewed. Remembering these pieces has helped me navigate this crazy world of being a Student Affairs Professional and I share them freely with the next generation of aspiring professional. It’s how I write more than one story. I can only hope I’ve helped you to figure out how to start yours.
This post is part of our #SArecruits series, which will share experiences from a variety of #SApros who have hired new employees. We hope that these stories will give great insight for both professionals looking to improve their hiring tactics, and also those on the job search looking for an inside perspective. For more information, please see Bill Mattera’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Mallory Bower on Career Services and Job Search Tips