Resume Help/Interview invitation

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Question
Hi Ralph,

I'm applying for my first job so I've sent out resumes and applications.  But I've heard there are things I need to do when I get invited to an interview.  What things should I ask about when I am called?  Thanks

Answer
Hi Tara,

Great question!  Not many people give thought to this part of the process, so congratulations ... you're probably well ahead of your competitors for the job you want.

There indeed are things you should do when getting an invitation to an interview.  Normally, a caller, after identifying him/herself and the reason for the call, will ask you if you are still interested.  Assuming you are, it's fine to say 'yes' but before you hang up the phone there are questions you need to have answered.

The next bit of information you will receive will be something along the lines of "We'll be holding interviews next week Monday and Tuesday both morning and afternoon."  The worst thing that can happen here is s/he will simply assign you a day and time (say, Monday at 2:00).  But even if that happens, I suggest you counter with "Just to be sure I have some flexibility in travel plans [if you're coming from out of town], is it possible I could get the last time on Tuesday?"  If you are applying within the community that you live, you might tell the caller that you have a previously scheduled appointment on Monday, so "Would it be possible for me to take a time late on Tuesday?" or something along those lines.

The reason you are doing this is that research shows the last person interviewed gets the position slightly more than fifty percent of the time.  Why?  You are the person most remembered, of course.  On the other hand, if you bomb the interview, you'll be remembered for that too.  But you aren't going to do that, right?  In any case, the worst thing they can say is that you do not have a choice and you'll simply have to settle for the offered day and time.  But it might interest you to know that in more than forty years of applying for jobs and going to interviews, I have never failed to get the day and time that I requested.  Institutions and their HR departments are remarkably accommodating when it comes to people they truly want to interview.

Next, you need to know where the interview will be conducted.  It's possible the caller will have already given you that information, so pay attention and take notes from the moment the call begins.  If you are asked if you know where the location is, your answer is "Yes, I have that right in front of me."  Why?  Because in your research up to this point, you have downloaded a map giving you the precise location of the building you are going to visit.  So, the caller will be impressed that you have done your homework and it never hurts to impress people at the institution right from the get-go.

Ask how many people will be conducting the interview and if it is possible for you to get their names.  You will certainly be given a number (anywhere from a single interviewer to a committee of several).  If you have handouts or material to share with them, you now know how many copies to make.  If you get the names, that is a definite bonus (though often you will not be told who the folks are ... but it doesn't hurt to ask).  You can now research these people and find out something about them, their tenure with the institution, their specific job, etc.  Knowledge is power and the more you have, the better prepared you are for what is coming.  

If there are going to be second-level interviews, you will want to know about them.  If, let's say, they interview six people at the first level, they may invite back three finalists for the second round.  At this point, the odds are still against you at three to one, but that is a definite improvement over where you started at perhaps three hundred to one, right?  Often these second level sessions are with someone higher up the food chain, so you really have to bring your A-game.  The other two people are probably as qualified as you are, so you will need to be very specific about why you think you are the best choice for the institution.  Remember what this is all about: what YOU can do for THEM.  In any case, knowing when the second-levels will take place is important for your travel plans (assuming you have to travel a fair distance).  Very good employers know this and will often schedule the second levels immediately after the first, or perhaps the following day.  Other employers without much regard for you, will wait a couple of weeks which will necessitate you making the same trip twice.  

Finally, remember your manners and thank the people at every stage for the opportunity to interview.  No matter how wonderful you are as a candidate, good manners are always appreciated.

Good luck!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.

Expertise

I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.

Experience

I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Publications
Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

Education/Credentials
B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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Thousands of individuals

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