Interviews…

I guess I should feel (ok not guess or should, I do, I really do) blessed that I have taken part in more interviews from the hiring side than the interviewee, but it doesn’t make it any less exhausting.

We interviewed 17-18 candidates over the past few days, and if there is one bright side to the economic crisis it’s that other districts our having to layoff really good folks(no, that’s not the good part) and their loss is our gain. As always there were some clear standouts, this year more than others, many middle of the pack(I found myself channeling my inner Simon Cowell and thinking ‘I’m just not sure they’ll be memorable’ and sure enough at 5pm today as we were ranking we often found ourselves saying which one was she?) and a few that, well…they need more work. With those folks in mind I went to find a past post about interviews, found it funny that it was almost exactly the same time last year, in fact if I posted this tomorrow am it would be the same day.

Here’s what I was thinking then and my additions for this year…
It’s that time of year where we interview for new teachers. After 10 years of being an interviewer, I have some definite opinions of Do’s and Don’ts for interviewees and after yesterday feel a strong urge to share them publicly.

1. Do read the posting carefully.

2. Write your cover letter and tweak your resume to match the posting. This year I had one cover that really stood out. The candidate used a two column format on the left side listed our organizations mission/goals and on the right listed her qualifications on meeting those goals. Not only did it show research (#3), but also she is at least an intermediate understanding of MS Word.

Another note about resumes, don’t go to the extreme to make them stand out…please,please use a traditional font. I’ll be honest if a resume is done in papyrus or god forbid comic sans it’s going to the bottom of the pile no matter how qualified you are, I can’t get past the font.

3. Do research on the company before your interview, if possible go beyond the company website and try to glean as much information as possible. Work your research into your verbal answers.

4. Don’t be wishy washy in your answers. It’s totally ok to ask for clarification on what an interviewer is asking so that you can be specific. I want to know how you will have impact and if you can quantify it, even better.

5. Do listen to the question and if I ask you to give me an example of a situation and resolution be very specific. Don’t pretend to be perfect and say you’ve never had this situation because that tells me you don’t have enough experience. Try to find an example that’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Ex: Tell me about a time you had to deal with a confrontational student/parent/employee/customer and strategies you used to resolve the situation. I would answer that question with one of the following — autistic boy who used to scream at the top of his lungs all day and the steps I took to build a relationship with him, a mother who cussed me out for suspending her son and 1 month later called and asked for help, or my all time fav supervisor/employee termination story where the employee called his mom during the termination.

6. Do dress in business attire for the interview, even if your research says it’s a casual workplace. My personal preference is that you also remove piercings in places except for your ears and cover as much as your body art as possible. You want me to focus on your answers and behavior, not staring at the giant ball in your chin. If your piercings are an important part of you and your look do ask in the interview if the company dresscode allows you to wear them. Try really hard not to play with your hair the whole time. PS. what’s with men who feel the need to empty their pockets on the table? If you can’t sit with your wallet, cell phone, keys in your pocket for 30 minutes perhaps you should leave them in the car. I’m just sayin…

7. Do prepare some questions and make sure to ask them. Often times the questions you ask me are weighted as strongly as the answers you give me. I am looking for someone who cares about my mission and is not timid.

8. Do be up front about your compensation needs either before the interview or during. Nothing ticks me off more than calling a candidate and then being told ‘I can’t work for that much money’ when they knew how much the position paid before they even applied.

9. Do be ready for the standard questions. Have great answers for the following
* Why do you want to work here?
* Why are you the best candidate?
* What are your strengths? if you struggle with this question I highly recommend Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.
* What are your weaknesses?…and don’t say I’m a work-a-holic. It may be true, but I might just think that your not efficent with your time and have to work late often because you spent to much time chit chating or surfing the web during the day.

10. Do mimic/mirror my body language. There have been several studies on successful interviews and they have found that when the candidate mirrors the interviewer they are more likely to be offered the position. Why? Non-verbal language tells me that we’re a match and can get along together.

11. Don’t talk negatively about a previous employer or place blame for your leaving on another person or member of the team you worked on. As an experienced supervisor, I usually jump to the conclusion that you’re a difficult person to work with and I don’t want that kind of negativity entering my work environment.

13. Google yourself before the interview, you should know what your online footprint is…we asked this as the last question and I was surprised to find out how many people had never googled themselves or at least would admit it.

Of course I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here and just say if you’re out there interviewing Good Luck, do everything you can do to be memorable!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Interviews…

  1. Mary Kay

    I am going to make note of every single one of those tips, because I'll be needing them soon!

  2. Rachel Carlson

    These are EXCELLENT! You had me at papyrus – snort. I like the body language one the most, I would not have thought of that. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Tara Whalen

    Great post. I love seeing things from your side =)

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