Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just Be Yourself

I got a second interview!  This means that I already had the first interview and was called back for a second.

Obviously this is a huge pat on the back to my ego.  I'm beginning to realize that, in today's world, there's a difference between "I got a job" and "I got a job during A RECESSION!" 

In a recent article I read entitled, Potential Reasons Why You're Not Getting Hired I learned that "there is about a 6:1 ratio of job applicants for each available position".  This presumably means that for every job out there there are at least 6 people going for it.

Frankly, I find this number to be surprisingly low.  I keep hearing true stories of positions where employers get applicants in the hundreds.  I myself experienced it while I was working at The American Boychoir School.  I was going out on maternity leave and needed to hire my own replacement.  The position was for the Executive Assistant to the President and I had 92 people apply!  And that was back in 2008 before the real crash hit.

Either way, whether it's 6 or 600 people who are vying for the same job, the message is still the same.  You have to be the absolute right person for the job to get it.  Interviewing used to be about "manipulating" the social interaction; making them think that you're the right person for the job.  But not even that works anymore (did it ever?).  They really are looking for the perfect permanent fit, and if you're not that person, sayonara!

So, like I said, I'm beyond excited and pleased that I made it to round two at this one school.  The position really does sound like a perfect fit and I'll admit I did work really hard preparing for it.  The question then remains, why am I as scared about this second interview as I was about the first interview?

One of the problems with the second interview is that you have NO idea what to expect.  At least in the first interview you know they're going to ask you questions...about the job you're applying...and probably lots of things that they most likely could have learned just by reading your resume.  Well, with all of those niceties out of the way, what else could possibly be left to discuss?

I've been asking around and I've heard many horror stories.  One is that they're planning on bringing all of the remaining applicants in and they're going to seat us all in the same room and interview us simultaneously.  Then, we are not only expected to answer brilliantly, but quickly, to beat everybody else out of answering first.  Kind of like Jeopardy but a lot meaner.

I've also heard that my interviewers could become a group of students and I'll be expected to teach a class.  This is for a school librarian/public librarian position, so I could be asked to do all sorts of things!  They could ask me to hand them information literacy lesson plans for say...first, third, and sixth grade.  Or they could ask to provide ideas for youth services programs I might want to do for their public library.  While this isn't nearly as scary of a prospect, it does take a whole lot more planning!  Especially because lesson plans usually go the way of best laid plans...and we all know what happens to them.  Really good lesson plans don't happen the first day you walk in front of a new group of students.  They only happen after you've really had a chance to get to know your kids, their needs, their learning styles, and the school's curriculum.  A good lesson plan is like a carefully drawn map, connecting your brain, and your students' brains.  That's not something you can just google and download.  Still, it's a possibility that they just want to see how I "perform" in front of students.

Another possibility is that I could just of course be offered the job as soon as I walk through the door.  My husband went on a second interview once where the job was offered on the sport.  It wasn't a second interview, it was more like a contract signing.  While this is obviously an ideal situation, it would have been nice to know ahead of time that the "hoop-jumping" is over and we can all exhale and start celebrating.  Wouldn't that be nice?  I can see the phone call now:  "Ms.  Gonzalez.  Are you available on April 11 for a second interview?  Don't worry about bringing another copy of your resume, just bring champagne."

I talked to my husband about my second-interview jitters, and he had some great words of advice.  He told me that companies have second interviews for many reasons.  In my particular instance, a month will have transpired by the time the second interview comes a long.  That means that many of the applicants (if any) that also made it to a second interview might have been snatched up by other schools.  It makes it easier for the school to cull the herd, so to speak.  Apparently, the longer any company takes to make a decision, the easier that decision may be for them. 

In a way, to me, that sounds like playing with fate.  Or maybe not so much playing with fate, as relying on fate.  If you're really the right person for the job, you'll be there!  Somehow, magically, the powers that be will keep other job offers away and you'll still be there to snap into place like a lego when the right job finally makes that offer.  At least that's a nice thought.

When pressed about how I should prepare for my second interview, my husband grew thoughtful and told me, "Just be yourself."  Obviously there's something or many somethings I did on the first interview that landed me the second interview.  There some spark that they saw.  I need to stop focusing on what I haven't shown them or what they may have missed, and instead remember what I DID say.  There are gems there. 

So, by all means, I intend to prepare.  I'm going to grab a few lesson plans, maybe do a cursory strategic plan as if I'd already gotten the job, and maybe think about some innovative fundraising opportunities.  In short, now that I know all about the position and the district, I can tell THEM what I can do for THEIR school instead of just why I'm generally awesome.  But through it all, I'm going to remember to just be myself. 

Always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of somebody else. ~ Judy Garland

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