The interview process can be grueling and revealing for all involved parties. Each party has potential for great gains and future frustrations depending on the outcome of the search process. Because of the range of potential for glory and grief, understanding the search process is imperative. Learn as much as possible about the person being interviewed and/or the institution or organization you seek to join. As a member of several hiring committees over the last several months, I saw that much time was spent discussing the position, the department conducting the search, the institutional mission and needs, and the population serviced. Then, there were discussions about the gaps that existed within then department and/or the institution and whether there was potential to address the gap issue(s). When filling the vacant position. If you already knew this, that is excellent. This post was written for those without the blessing of an interview search team coach.
Many years ago, job applications were completed in person. The applicant delivered applications in person or by postal service to the potential hiring authority. If there was no official documented process, an in-person appearance, including a substantial handshake with eye contact, was required. By the time my gap year of stay-at-home parenting closed, the game had changed a lot. I was frustrated by the online job postings, the online search and application process, and the reality of the virtual introductions between the interviewer and the interviewee. I was frustrated by the fact that the virtual process stayed the in-person introductions often until very late in the search process.
I spent about a year searching and completing online job applications. I worked to connect with anonymous people at the other end of the online conversations. Through the electronic job searches, I also learned that my application could be rejected if I didn’t pass the prescreening assessments or if I didn’t score high enough on a personality assessment. In my opinion, personality survey did not relate to my ability to be a successful team member at a retail store. As mechanical as the process seemed, it reminded me that people created and directed these searches. Therefore, interjecting human elements into the process whenever it made sense was ideal way to humanize this process.
One way to humanize the process was to pay close attention to the names of anyone involved in the process. I used the notepad to jot down the names of those who participated in the interview process. Then, I referred back to the notepad in order to refresh my memory about the names or departments represented. The list of names and/or departments was also an excellent place to note specific comments or suggestions from someone affiliated with the search. When the search ended, I used the lists from the notepad to draft thank you notes for those who participated in my process. It was cool when people said thank you to me for the thank you note I gave them. It became clear to me that people did not regularly express gratitude for the sacrifices of time and other resources expended by others. In addition, when considering the content of the thank you notes, be specific about the reasons you are grateful. I paid close attention to the questions asked by each person and any comments made during instances of follow up by search team members. I included their comments and anything I learned from my interactions with that team member in my thank you notes.
During the process, I kept the thank you notes in mind. The idea about writing thank you notes at the conclusion of my process motivated me to stay engaged during the process. I kept track of the comments and questions from each person with whom I had contact. I also wrote about how their comments or questions made me consider my path, personally and professionally. My goal was to deliver the notes to the interested parties as soon after the interviews as I could. In my opinion, it was important for them to know that I listened to their concerns and expectations. I wanted them to know that I valued and considered their opinions. Moreover, the thank you notes provided me a forum to speak about the things I learned through the conversations I had with the search team members when they responded to my questions during our sessions. Finally, I believed that distributing thank you notes with my name on them to the search committee members would not only express my gratitude for their time and wisdom, but emphasize my intentional pursuit of the vacant position.
Last week I wrote about how much there is to learn from a search process. This week, I am more convinced of the learning process that lies within the process. When the process frustrates you the most, focus on opening your mind to learn and the content of the thank you notes you will write at the end. You don’t need fancy cards or paper. You just need to be open to growth and appreciation for diversity of thoughts.