Unfortunately, I have to interview people periodically. I use the word unfortunately because that usually means that one of our great employees at Community Partners of Dallas has left us. And that is unfortunate. I really love all of the people with whom I work and when someone leaves, it is sad for me. But, I am always happy to have some fresh blood – and a new person who hasn’t heard all my stories nor been the recipient of my sage advice!
So back to interviewing...
I thought I’d give you some tips for applying for a job and interviewing. It’s all stuff that you’ve probably heard before, but these are my tips, so if you’re interviewing with me, this is the way to stand out from the pack:
Before the Interview
- Do what the job notice says to do. If it says to send an email with a cover letter with your salary requirements and resume, do that. As a small employer with no HR department, I am the one looking at hundreds of emails for every job we post. Don’t give me a reason to just delete you right off the bat.
- For me, it is the cover letter that interests me in even looking at the resume. The one paragraph cover letter referring me to your resume is probably not going to get you an interview.
- Show me that you have done a little research in your letter – mention something about the agency, me, or why you would like to work for me. Also, be sure that you try to find the name of the person to whom you are applying if possible. Since my work email is firstname.lastname@example.org, any applicant can easily go to our website and find out who I am, my last name, and my job title. I know that this is not always easy at a larger company, but just show the potential employer that you tried.
- If you are called for the interview, don’t make the person who called to set the appointment give you directions to the agency. Let them give you the address, but that is all you need. This is the digital age – you can look up the directions to get yourself there on time. If you are able, do a practice drive-by in advance. Of course, if you have trouble finding us or are lost, please call.
At the Interview
- Don’t come too early. I know, I know – they told all of us in school to arrive 30 minutes early, but I disagree. I really like it when the person comes on time or maybe just 3 minutes early. Certainly don’t be late – that is a killer.
- CPD is a super-casual place to work. Does that mean you should interview that way? Absolutely not. Come in business casual. No flip flops. No low-cut or too tight clothing. I always wear a jacket and pants to conduct our interviews.
- Be yourself – or maybe a notch or two better. The most recent person that I hired, Emily Loper (our new Program Director), came back with the best line ever when I went to get her from our reception area. It was my birthday that week and my co-workers had surprised me by decorating my office and providing me with a crown and sash to wear. We had just eaten birthday cake, so I was still wearing my crown. I greeted Emily by saying “I guess you never expected you’d be interviewed by someone in a crown” to which she quickly responded “Gee, I’d hoped that I would be!” Now, did this alone land Emily the job? No. But it sure helped her to stand out and get noticed.
- Don't bad mouth your current or former employers or bosses. It would be really hard for me to hire someone who did that. Back when I was younger and interviewing, people always liked to ask why I left each job on my resume (I don't really do this for people I'm interviewing, but I might, so don't hold me to it!). Anyway, I did have one job that I quit after 1 year, and I always got asked about it. Of course, what I wanted to say was that the boss was crazy and the company was horrible, but the most I ever said was that "Well, I stayed in that job longer than anyone ever had before." That always seemed to satisfy people!
- Back to research – know what we do at CPD. Be ready to ask a few (but not too many) questions. Don’t ask me about salary and benefits at the first interview – unless I bring it up. We will discuss that when I offer you the job. Emily did another great thing at her interview. She told me that she read my blog. The other people I interviewed may have read it too, but if they did they didn’t tell me. You not only have to do your research, you have to make sure that I know that you did your research!
I know that many people won’t agree with all this advice – and that is ok. These are tips for a successful interview with me. And I hope that I won’t be interviewing anyone soon. I’m sick of good-byes.
P.S. My friend Tami Cannizzaro writes a great blog called Tales of the Terminated and I know that she has addressed a lot of this -- check it out at http://talesoftheterminated.blogspot.com/