Undoubtedly many people describe the job search as a daunting, arduous—and at times—scary process. However, this should be the exception and not the rule! Over the past nine years, I have sat on either side of the table as both candidate and employer and can attest that “searching” at The Placement Exchange (TPE) is extremely beneficial. Statistically, the vast majority of candidates at the TPE Onsite event are soon-to-be graduates from varying programs across the country, and thus, participating in this experience is not only financially savvy, but strategic for the candidate interested in a diverse array of institutions. By maximizing prior preparation, institutional research, deliberate interview scheduling, and self-care you can minimize the stress associated with job hunting. The following are a few observations that have helped me in my experience.
Through the placement exchange process I have been fortunate to obtain positions at three different institutions, so I know first-hand this process works. During my time in the candidate rooms I have made observations and learned lessons that have translated to success for peers and me.
Observation 1: The majority of the candidates who expressed feeling stress from the process did so mainly by scheduling multiple, back-to-back interviews. This time management approach, while effective at booking each minute, comes at a cost to the candidate in terms of performance, flexibility, and effective interviewing. It is disheartening to see a candidate pack their schedule so rigidly they are unable to find a mutual time to schedule a second-round interview with a school of their choice. This often leads to a follow-up phone interview…and I have yet to hear a candidate believe they perform better over the phone than in person.
Observation 2: Candidates underestimate the power of self-reflection. For example, questions to consider might include: When do I function best? Do I need to exercise before beginning my day? Am I at my peak in the afternoon? Am I tired immediately after lunch? Based on your answers, schedule your interviews accordingly. If you know you will be tired after eating a heavy meal, then arranging a second-round interview with your top-choice school might not be wise. In addition, I would avoid scheduling during the institution’s last shift. There is a reason most interview teams leave after 5:00 PM—they are exhausted and, most likely, you will be, too. I’d rather not interview being aware that the employer may not be fully engaged after interviewing over a dozen of candidates before my arrival.
Observation 3: The reality of TPE Onsite: everyone is in interview mode. Meaning, almost all of the questions begin to sound the same…and so do your answers. However, the answer to the following question that will always be different is: “Why do you want to work at our institution?” This answer should never be a canned response. Therefore, I recommend spacing interviews to allow time for reviewing notes and finishing institutional research. Showing that you did your homework will certainly help you stand out from other candidates. In addition, this means your questions should be personalized to the institution. Furthermore, spacing your interviews provides time for personalizing thank you cards or emails and referring back to specifics from your interview.
Observation 4: Acknowledging the importance of self-care. It sounds like common sense, but make time to eat, use the restroom, remain hydrated, network with peers, and do relaxation /confidence boosting techniques.
Observation 5: Schools shouldn’t be used as “practice interviews”. As I reflect on my first placement exchange as a candidate, I recall hearing stories of candidates starting their interview day with an institution they had no interest in joining. The rationale was to polish their skills before meeting with their top-tier prospects. I quickly learned this was frowned upon, because, not only is this wasting the institution’s time, but it’s taking spots from candidates who are genuinely interested in working there. Hence, to refine my own skills, I made sure to meet an interview coach before speaking with my dream school. My coach helped strengthen my responses and gave me the confidence I needed to perform my best and receive an on-campus invitation.
The key to job searching requires one to be self-reflective, strategic, and intentional without overextending yourself. The goal of getting a job at the institution of your choice can be actualized by employing these simple steps when accepting interview requests. I wish you the best of luck with your job search at TPE Onsite!
Yettieve A. Marquez-Santana, Ed.D. (Assistant Director of Residential Life at New York University) was born and raised in the Bronx and is a first-generation college student. She earned her Bachelors at SUNY New Paltz, Masters at Rider University, and her Doctorate at Fordham University. Professionally, she has worked at St. John's University and New York University. She is invested in continuing to advance and share her knowledge in issues related to professional recruitment, inequities that continue to exist within Student Affairs, and leadership with higher education. Find her on Twitter @YettyMarquez.