This blog post will help you prepare for interviews and improve your chances of landing a great job. Please note, that while some of the advice offered here may seem obvious to you, it might not be obvious to everyone, and we would rather share things that sound basic rather than omit something that we assume you know.
These tips are provided for your consideration for both direct hire positions as well as contract assignments. Although a contract job is not a “commitment for life,” the employer conducting the phone or face to face interview will be looking for a strong indication that you are committed to the position you are being considered for and that you are truly interested in their district. Many interviews for contract jobs are done strictly by telephone, and as such are often perceived by the candidates as less important as an interview that takes place face to face. In fact, the opposite is actually true. A telephone interview may be your only chance to make your best impression. It is much more difficult to get the “real you” across by phone, so you need to make the most of every minute by preparing ahead of time.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:
Research the employer in advance. Learn specific details about the organization, the department, and specifics about the job so that you may be as informed as possible about them. Most of this information can be found on the organization’s website or by “Googling” them and reading articles you find online. If you are working with a recruiter they should be able to help you collect much of this information, but whatever else you can learn on your own will only serve to help you even more. For example:
- Size – the number of clients served, and if it is a school based position, the number of schools, administrators or managers.
- Recent awards and honors the company, district or organization has received.
- Reputation – How is this employer or school district perceived in the city/town compared to others.
- Administration – a visit to the school or company website will generally lead you to current news and information about the organization.
- The makeup/census of the caseload – What are the economic, geographic, cultural and socioeconomic factors for the families that you will be serving. If the employer is a school district, is it growing or shrinking?
- How big is the department? Number of therapists? Number of administrators?
- Total number of clients/students served – Is the caseload growing or is there attrition?
- If a school, how are the children served? Are the students served through a pullout model? Are therapy sessions done one on one or in groups?
SPECIFIC JOB QUESTIONS TO HAVE ANSWERED BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:
- Why is the job available?
- Exactly where is the position located?
- What will be the population and makeup of your particular caseload?
- Is there a supervisor over your area or will you report directly to the Director or Assistant Director?
- How many hours am I guaranteed (or can I expect) per week?
- Is paperwork done by computer or manually, and will I be provided with all the tools I need to succeed?
- Email address of the interviewer so you can send him/her a “thank you” note.
All of this will not only create a stronger image of you in the interview, but likewise will provide you with a better basis for evaluating the opportunity if an offer is made.
FOR THE PHONE INTERVIEW:
- Schedule a time where you can give the interviewer your undivided attention.
- Keep the interview “clinical” and focused on the job duties. Other, more general questions can be answered by your recruiter or through your research.
- Don’t talk about money yet. If you are working with a recruiter, they will have that information for you. If you are interviewing on your own, get through the interview first and follow up with human resources for salary information.
- Let the interviewer ask his or her questions first to ensure that the interviewer covers all that they want to learn about you. If there is time, feel free to ask job related questions.
FOR FACE TO FACE INTERVIEWS:
- Getting there: Have good directions and allow plenty of time to get there.
- As a starting point, it is critical to understand that the impression you make in the first few minutes of the interview generally sets the tone for your success or failure for the entire interview.
- Dress conservatively; avoid bright colors. Make sure hair is clean and neatly styled. Avoid perfume and cologne but make sure you wear deodorant to control perspiration and odor.
- Be exceptionally courteous to everyone you meet.
- Even if you’re having a bad day, put on a smile and show your enthusiasm for the job. Many hiring decisions involve more than one candidate. Personality and motivation are often tie-breakers.
- If you want the job, ask for it. At the very end of the meeting say why you’re excited about working there and that you’d like to have the position.
Heidi Kay is one of the founding partners of PediaStaff and is the editor-in-chief of the PediaStaff Blog, which delivers the latest news, articles, research updates, therapy ideas, and resources from the world of pediatric and school-based therapy. PediaStaff is a nationwide, niche oriented company focused on the placement and staffing of pediatric therapists including speech-language pathologists.