Friday, February 5, 2010

Tis the Season: Spring Interview Season

The Church Ladies have professional experience in a number of fields including, but not limited to: parish and diocesan administration, the non-profit sector, education, the arts, and architecture/engineering. We believe that women bring a unique perspective and much needed voice to the workplace.

My job has always had a strong geographical commitment, so as a result, at less than 5 years after graduation, I have been on over 100 interviews. As spring interview season and job fairs approach, I'd like to share some tips that I've gleaned through the years (including the memorable spring break of my senior year at Our Lady's University, which seemed to be spent entirely on the Metro-North railroad).

-See if your field has a professional organization website with job postings.

-If you are looking for a job in a faith-based context, check out, the diocesan website, or the local Catholic Charities website. It might not hurt to call over to HR with the latter two; some places don't keep their websites up to date. If you are interested in education, call the Catholic Schools Office of the diocese.

-For other nonprofit jobs, check out

-For jobs in higher ed, I strongly recommend HERC. Smaller institutions might belong to independent consortiums, so google "independent colleges" and your area.

-Word of mouth is great. Ask, ask ask.

-Take advantage of your alumni connections. Our Lady's University is very good about facilitating networking. If you are still in school, ask if your department maintains a list of alumni and their professional connections.

-Narrowly focused job fairs, such as those set up to specifically recruit students from your school/ school's department- can be rewarding. In my experience, smaller is better, excepting fields that hire a lot of employees, like public education.

-Schedule your interviews at least 3 hours apart. I have had good interviews that lasted from 15 minutes to 2 hours and counting. You never know.

-Check out my earlier post on buying a good dark suit.

-If you are interviewing at several offices over a few days, consider buying a second suit. Depending on your complexion, I'd recommend grey, navy, or chocolate brown. Pick shirts or camis that can go with both suits.

-If your interviews include trudging through spring slush, consider investing in a pair of dressier walking boots you can keep on during your interview, or trade out for your dress pumps if you would rather.

-A stylish briefcase/large purse makes a good first impression. It should be big enough to fit a ring binder inside. Interior pockets are a plus for your wallet, keys, etc.

-Lightly apply make-up and cologne.

-Unless you are interviewing at a parish or chancery, swap out your religious jewelry for the Church Lady Classic, a string of pearls. Modern HR policy forbids discrimination on religious grounds, but you can never tell what will set someone off. You can be an example of the faith- after you get the job.

-Have a small emergency kit: clear nail polish (for runs in stockings), stain stick, safety pins, umbrella, headache remedy, and gum/mints.

-Interview season may be the first time you have been in a metro area alone. Be safe.

-Make an index card for every interview with: date/time, the name of organization, address, interviewer, phone number, and brief summary of the organization. When your GPS picks the wrong one of six highways named after Boston's Irish bishops, you'll be glad to have a direct contact. If taking public transportation, note the nearby stations and schedules. Keep this card in your coat pocket for easy reference.

-Someone should know where you are. Share a list of interview locations and times with a parent or roommate.

-Don't talk about your travel plans in public.

-Bring your charged cell-phone, but turn the ringer off.

-Sole proprietorships can offer a more flexible work week and a wider professional experience. But go with your gut here. If you feel uncomfortable with the proprietor, or the office is very remotely located, don't take the job.

-Confirm your interview a few days ahead of time.

-Print off extra copies of your resume, at least one for each interview. I know you emailed it to them already... but they misplaced it. Or gave it to a colleague for review. Their kid drew on it. The dog puked on it. Don't take it personally. Have another to hand out.

-Consider having business cards made.

-Arrange your documents in a ring binder or folio. Check that your portfolio is up to date.

-Print off the company's home-page and list of recent ventures. Talking about these expresses your genuine interest in the organization.

-Think of creative ways to describe some of your faith-based activities for the public sphere. You led a book-study? Translation: Experience facilitating small groups.

-I strongly recommend reading Drucker's "What NonProfits are Teaching Business."

-Arrive early.

-Speak clearly and cheerfully.

-If asked about a skill you lack, express your willingness to learn.

-Send a thank you note promptly. Use professional stationery.

-Follow-up as necessary. It can take longer than you think for some hiring decisions to be made.

Good Luck! The Church Ladies are praying for you.

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