Sunday, February 12, 2012

Job Hunt: How to Handle an Interview (and the aftermath)

As I sit here, eating orange segments and letting the red polish dry on my toe nails, I realize that I need to update on my interview experience.

Keep in mind that I am no interview expert or anything, but having gone through a few has given me a different perspective.

1. Preparing:

-The first thing I do is look over the job description again and try to assess what the job is about and what skills I will point to.  If the job description involves working with social media, I better be prepared to talk about all aspects of social media!

-The second thing I do (and I think the most important) is too look at the website to figure out a mission statement (what is important to this library?  What programs are they highlighting?) and to poke around in some of the resources to see what I am familiar with.  I found that I've gotten the best responses (smiles and nods) when I have referenced specific things on a library's webpage.

-The third thing I do (perhaps too intensely) is a question drill using some of the questions from the following websites.  It takes some time but helps a textbook over thinker and worrier like myself calm down a bit!  The most valuable thing has been applying the more general questions to the skills I know the search committee is looking for:

     *A great list of library related interview questions and resources over at Mr. Library Dude
     *While not as complete as the first source, there are some more unique scenario questions at SLIS
     *Some really nice tips on how to handle those tough questions, especially salary negotiations at Pennlive

 2. At the interview:

-First off, I try to avoid these interview pitfalls

-This goes without saying but I always arrive early and in a professional looking interview suit.

-One of the main things I focus on is being enthusiastic.  I use good eye contact and showcase my active listening (mainly nodding and acknowledging the question with statements like, "what a great question!" or "that's an interesting question!").  I also try to slip in a statement about how excited I am to be there.  I don't go over board but I always want to show the committee that I am really enthusiastic about this specific job.

-Another tactic I have found to be helpful is in starting a dialogue with the search committee. In other words I don't just want to answer their questions briefly and leave it at that; I try to start a conversation to show I am interested.  So if I am asked about ideas to improve social media outreach, I might explain my experience, give some ideas, and then ask them "well how does that fit in with what you are looking for?"  I feel like this makes me relax and provides a point of connection.

-I try to give really specific examples (i.e. not just "I am good at collaborating with other. I do it a lot at my current job" but instead saying "I collaborate frequently with other grad assistants. The most recent example is on publicity for our gaming night...").

-Ask specific questions.  I like asking more about what they want the person to accomplish first on the job and what the long range goals of the position are.

-Send a thank you note.  Mine is always brief and highlights the things I enjoyed about the library and things I felt were stressed at the interview/tour (book clubs? art shows? a new media lab?).

 3. After the interview:

Unfortunately, this is what I am going through right now.  I had a great first interview for a public library job that would be a great fit for me.  Then, I got called back for a second interview, which also went well (2nd interviews seem to be more about assessing how one would fit in with the staff- I wasn't even asked an formal questions!!).

So once the interview is over and there is literally nothing else you can do except wait, how do you handle that?  I've been trying to keep positive but I am really excited about this job and I know I will be sad if I am not chosen.  To help alleviate that crippling despair if I do not get the job I have worked ahead on some projects so I can take the night off if needed, stocked up on wine, I have a nice stack of funny TV shows, and I have a great support network ready (my best friend told me to call her the minute I find out so I can talk out the pain or the good news).  I've also been throwing myself into looking for other jobs, just so I have other jobs to be excited about if I don't get the job.

I'm learning that the waiting is the hardest part.  Writing cover letters? Easy!  Answering interview questions?  Not so bad!  Waiting to hear about a job you really want?  Heartbreaking and nerve-racking!

I haven't been myself lately because I have been so focused on this one job- I didn't even do much in the way of homework or reading last week because I was just practicing my answers to interview questions over and over. 

Hopefully this job hunting process turns out to be very short!!

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