Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thing 21

Thing 21 is all about identifying your strengths and promoting yourself in job applications and interviews. As some of you know, I just spent two years looking for a job after being laid off and now that the job hunt is behind me I have no desire to revisit it. So I won't relive my interview experience here by listing all my strengths, skills, and interests as we are asked to do. Instead, I will cut to the chase and dispense with a bit of advice. It's just a rundown of how I prepare for a job interview, but I've pretty much gotten it down to a science.

Here's what I do:
- As soon as the interview is scheduled, decide what to wear and make sure it's clean. If needed, take it to the cleaners.

- Spend some time looking at the library's web site and reading any press about the library.

- Deconstruct the job ad, making lists of all the requirements, needed skills and experience, and spend some time thinking about how my skills and experience fit in, and make notes about this.

- Spend some time reading sample interview questions and thinking a lot about how to answer them. Most of my preparation just involves thinking.

- Set up my interview binder. This is incredibly important and is what gets me through the interview successfully!
On the left is a folder area where I put a copy of the job description, a couple copies of my resume, a list of my references, any extras that seem relevant to that position (I usually bring some readers' advisory brochures I made) and directions to the interview.

On the right hand part of my binder is a pad of paper and on the top sheet I write my prep notes. This usually includes 5 main parts:
  1. Basic interview info: Name and address of library, interview time, names of interviewers, any specific instructions about parking, etc.
  2. VERY basic notes about the job - basically a list of keywords from the ad that seem important.
  3. Stuff about me: a list of words describing my style, experience, strengths, and any other descriptors that may come in handy when answering questions about myself. 
  4. Examples to use when I'm asked questions beginning "Describe a time when...." and those sorts of things. Plus anything particular I did that I want to be sure to mention, such as a particular program or service I started. 
  5. Questions to ask the interviewers. This is truly a 2-way street - you need to know what you may be getting into, and if you'll be able to work with these people. I usually have questions about the position and the library, the director/department head's leadership or management style, and how well staff work together.
On interview day:

- I always figure out how much time it will take me to get there and I add AT LEAST a half hour to that estimate. Usually this means getting there really early, but that's good. You have plenty of time to park and find the correct entrance, and then you can just relax and look over notes, and there will still be time to hit the bathroom before the interview. And one time I did hit unexpected construction on the way to an interview, and although I was delayed a LOT, I was still a few minutes early.

- Based on all the above preparation, I usually have an agenda. When I interview, I have certain things I want to get across because they are my strong points or things I've done that I'm especially proud of, and I make a point to work them into an answer to some question, somewhere.

Is this helpful? Do you have any advice to add? 

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