While it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of your job search and plans to relocate, this is the time to buckle down and really prepare for the search ahead. It is also a time to get back to the basics. While it is important and more fun to find the perfect resume paper and shop for your search wardrobe, it is easy to forget some of the little things. These little things, however, can really improve or hurt your chances for an interview and possible job offer. So take a minute to get back to the basics…
Think about what you are looking for in your next position. Begin your preparations with yourself. Think about what you are looking for.
Ask yourself the following questions:
•What size and type of institution do I want to work for?
•Where do I want to live? How far am I willing to move?
•What salary level do I need?
•What are my lifestyle issues? Am I willing to live on-campus?
•What are my short and long-term goals? What do I need in my job to help me meet these goals?
Knowing these answers in advance can help you to select and apply for jobs that you are truly interested in.
Have other people review your resume before you send it out. After you read your own resume 20 times, it’s easy to miss a grammar or punctuation error. Its very important, therefore, to have others proofread each version of your resume. While a misspelling may not get your resume eliminated, it may cause you to not make the interview cut.
Also, ask those individuals to question you about your resume. Interviewers will ask about your experiences and you should be able to fully explain anything listed on your resume. It is also good practice before you interview!
Review each cover letter before sending it out. While employers realize that you may use the same cover letter for multiple applications, they still don’t like to receive a cover letter addressed to another search. Like a misspelling in your resume, this mistake probably won’t result in disqualification from a search, but it could figure into your chances for an interview.
Talk to your references. It’s terrific that someone agrees to serve as a reference for you, but what kind of reference will they provide to possible employers? You need to know this early on. Ask to meet with your references. Interview them.
Ask the following questions:
•What types of jobs would you recommend me for?
•What do you think are my strengths and weaknesses?
•Do you have any reservations about serving as my reference?
You need to know this information now rather than find out after you miss out on a job opportunity.
Candidates are often asked what their supervisor would say about them. You want to give an accurate response to that question. The individual checking your references should hear a similar response from your supervisor. Prepare with your references in advance!
Be prepared for your interviews, especially when you are invited to the institution. Nothing shows commitment and enthusiasm like a list of knowledgeable questions. Go into your interview with some knowledge of the institution, the position you are interviewing for, and a list of questions based on the knowledge you have. Research their web page to see what is unique about their program and ask about that. Ask professionals you trust about the program so that you know their reputation and can tell them what you could add to their program.
You should also practice interviewing, especially if this is your first time out. Ask your supervisor or someone in your organization who regularly interviews candidates to conduct a one-hour practice interview with you. Choose a job description at your institution, or one that’s posted and interview with the individual for that specific position. Then listen to their critique. You want to be calm going into your interviews and know which areas are harder for you to respond to. Then, when they ask about your weaknesses, you have some thoughts on areas to discuss.
Ask your supervisor or another individual to help you prepare a list of typical interview questions. These will include your strengths, weaknesses, what you are looking for in a next position, and others. Think about these areas and be prepared with solid responses. In an on-campus interview, you may be asked the same questions in each interview. It is helpful to have really thought about your answers so that you can respond to different interview groups specifically. For example, a potential supervisor and potential supervisees would be looking for different types of answers to questions. Be able to answer to different interest groups.
Dress appropriately for interviews. You really don’t have to spend a fortune on a brand new designer suit for your interviews, but you should dress appropriately. Clothes should be neat and clean, shoes and other accessories should be polished and look nice. While you may get to dress casually for a job in residence life, you still need to look professional for your interview.
Send thank-you notes. This may seem like extra work and unnecessary, but a follow-up note also demonstrates commitment and enthusiasm. What about the program impressed you? Who were the individuals who made sure to get you the information you were seeking? Thank them for their help and be honest about your continued interest or lack thereof.
Ask why you were not the selected candidate for hire. Most search committees are willing to give feedback on areas you could have presented better or that other candidates had more experience in. While it can be difficult to ask, you will often receive good feedback on how to improve your candidacy. That feedback could even give you the edge in your next interview.
Take care of yourself throughout your search. A search process can be long and draining. Your entire process will probably take several months between preparation, applications, phone interviews, campus interviews and awaiting decisions. This, of course, takes place at the same time you are completing graduate work or are still working in another position. Remember to get enough sleep, eat well, and find time for yourself during your search process. It’s easy to exhaust yourself during a search and you don’t want to miss or do poorly in an interview because you’re not healthy.
Reward yourself. Even if you do not get the position you wanted, recognize the effort you put forward and what you did well. Then treat yourself!
Submitted by Darese Doskal-Scaffido, Associate Director for Residential Life and Judicial Affairs, Ithaca College