We have officially entered one of my favorite times of the school year….hiring season. I have spent a great deal of time over the years reflecting on the interview process and trying to determine what makes a great hire. Why is it some individuals stand out more than others? What is it that makes us want to say to some candidates, “you’re hired” before they ever leave the interview room?
I’ve spoken openly about my thoughts on the hiring process and how we as leaders often set the tone (good or bad) on the selection, onboarding, growing and developing of new teachers into our organizations by how we manage the hiring process. I have shared with other school leaders my thoughts on how I believe we need to be more strategic when it comes to selecting the best employees. After all, if we hope to hire for excellence, then we must model excellence from the first moment we engage in conversation with a potential new hire.
The same can be said of applicants who are searching for new employment. Whether you are a teacher, businesswoman, retail clerk or looking to become an intern for a Fortune 500 company, your opportunity for being selected is dependent more on you and your approach than it is on the process being used by potential employers. Based on my experience, eventually you will be surrounded by others who have the same degree of education you have, the same level of knowledge, the same experience(s) and in some cases, they will even mirror your skill set. By becoming more strategic in your preparation, you will begin to separate yourself from those who seek what you seek; that feeling of when you finally hear the words…you’re hired!
13 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Hearing These Words…You’re Hired!
- Be sure to have others review/edit your cover letter, resume, application, etc. for grammatical errors. By failing to do this you run the risk of sending the message that attention to detail is not one of your strengths. Moreover, don’t ever leave sections in your application blank. Doing so says you are not willing to commit the time to complete tasks. These errors have ended many searches before they ever got started.
- If you are contacted for an interview, take time to ask a few questions about the process. How long will the interview last? How many people are there on the interview team? How many candidates are being interviewed? And my favorite, is it possible to teach a lesson (for business interviews this can be modified from teach a lesson to give a presentation)? Be prepared that you may not get a response to all of these questions, but by engaging the person in conversation with the right tone and attitude you just took the first step towards the most important part of the hiring process….relationships.
- When you arrive at the interview, remember the word above – relationships. Engage everyone in genuine conversation. Look/walk around. Ask questions (what do they love most about their school/place of employment). I would avoid “just sitting” around and waiting. Make your mark early and often. Don’t be forgettable.
- When you walk into an interview shake hands with everyone and call each person by name. Seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many don’t do this, especially when the interview teams are large or the room is not conducive to movement. Be sure to also do the same as you leave the interview. Engage with others every opportunity you get.
- Mentally prepare yourself to believe you are the right person for the job, especially if you don’t have as much experience or aren’t as qualified as the other candidates. If you don’t believe you can own this interview, guess what? Then you won’t. Look, you got a seat at the table so your chances are just as good as the next person, unless of course you don’t believe this to be true. Get your head in the right place and flip your internal swag switch on and then go do your thing. Believe in yourself and stay positive. There is no place for self-doubt at the interview table. After all, great change begins with self change!
- If you notice the interview questions have been placed on the table as you prepare to sit down, don’t let the temptation of wanting to examine them quickly catch you. Avoid this potentially costly mistake. If you choose to do so, you’ve lost sight of one of the most important interview factors – connecting with the interview team, even if only for a few seconds. Additionally, you run the risk of seeing a question you are not sure about and then losing your concentration. No longer are you focused on connecting with the team, rather you are now distracted and nervous about how you will answer a question. This is a recipe for disaster.
- Be careful with first question responses. I have seen many an interview thrown away on the first question because candidates want to tell their life story and they unintentionally ramble on too long. It is normal to be a bit nervous, so take time to practice what often is a predictable first question that goes something like this, “Tell us about yourself, your education, experience, etc. and what led you to apply for this position.” Remember, you don’t want to filter into the first four or five interview questions with your first response. This can throw the interviewers off and break the flow of the interview process, causing it to become disjointed. Your goal should be to build on your responses and get stronger as the interview goes on, not vomit your entire life history in the first question.
- Watch out for unintentional traps. For example, you need to be sure when you are responding to questions that you are intentionally making eye contact with all members of the interview team. It is easy to concentrate on one individual, especially if the process involves only one committee member asking the questions. Whether this format or a round robin format is used, be sure to involve everyone in the discussion. This is your opportunity to make everyone feel like they are the most important person in the room. Don’t miss it.
- One strategy I have used when I have been interviewed is somewhere in the first third of the interview (based off the length of the interview) during one of my responses I ask a follow up question of the interview committee that asks the the team where they see an example of whatever the question that was asked. My reason for doing so is that it quickly turns the interview into a discussion rather than an interview and it also takes the pressure off of me and allows me to regroup my thoughts as I prepare for the rest of the interview. Everyone loves to brag about their school and by following this strategy, you will see it begins to create the perception that you are already part of this team (in other words, like you were already hired).
- You should never walk into an interview not having done research on the school, district, company, etc. in order to help you anticipate some of the questions and help you prepare for your responses. However, take it one more step and be sure to mention this during one or two of your responses. For example, it might look something like this, “I noticed when I was looking at your website/prospectus that…….” This demonstrates that you took the time to prepare and more importantly, models that you are willing to invest your time in them and or their school/company.
- As part of the preparation for your interview, you should always prepare questions ahead of time that you plan to ask at the end of the interview. I would encourage you to create a list and let it be visible once they ask for questions. Once again, this shows you are a planner and are willing to invest time in the process. You never want to end an interview by saying you don’t have any questions. I recommend at least two, but never more than three. You don’t want to overstay your welcome, but it’s okay to keep talking after the interview is over as long as they keep asking questions. Never ask questions pertaining to a class teaching schedule, work schedule, salary, benefits, etc. at this time. These questions can wait until later after you have been offered a position.
- If you want to increase your chances at landing the job, don’t be a deflater. As my father always reminded me (and modeled for me), leave the interview room with more energy than when you walked in. That’s on you to make this happen so make it happen.
- When I am asked by an intern, an employee in training, or a student teacher what they can do to increase their chances at gaining employment I am quick to respond with this statement – if and when your supervisor gets that reference call, will they be able to say with integrity and without hesitation that you were the best intern, student teacher, etc. they have ever had? If not, then you missed that opportunity. More often than not, organizations that aspire for excellence, seek excellence, so take advantage of every opportunity that you are given.
I have no research to support whether or not these strategies will help you land your next job. What I do know is that I have used them and I can honestly tell you that I believe they can sway the pendulum in your favor. I also know that I have shared them with others who went on to land their dream jobs and others who didn’t but then later shared with me they wished they had considered some of these ideas. There is no perfect process for landing a job, but if you are like many others who are struggling to secure employment, why not try a different approach with ideas that makes sense to most once they take time to reflect on them.
Opportunities often appear as “lucky” and in some cases this may be true. But I prefer to be more strategic so those opportunities appear more often, or in this case, just once in order for me to hear those magical words….you’re hired!
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer