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Bob Spencer on Interviewing Tips for New Graduates

My name is Bob Spencer and I work for the Riverside, California Department of Mental Health. I serve as an evaluator for a program that aims to keep children with mental health and substance abuse problems in their natural home with their family. My goal for this blog post is to share some of my experiences from my recent job search. Finding a job in this economy is an unenviable position, but with enough persistence and tenacity, it is certainly not impossible.

Ted Williams, widely regarded as one of the best baseball players ever, owns one of the most famous quotations in the game. He said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor in which a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

“Teddy Ballgame” never had to look for a job.

As anyone who has gone through an extended job search can attest, receiving a call back on just one of ten applications can be promising, let alone three. If baseball is known as the “Game of Failure,” what does that make job hunting?

Here are some of the things I focused on when looking for my first “grown-up job.” Hopefully they will help you as well.

Hot Tip: Be Persistent!  Hiring managers are extremely busy—filling open positions is but one of their many responsibilities. If you submit an application or resume and do not hear back within several days, do not hesitate to follow up with a polite e-mail or phone call. Applicants are sometimes afraid to seem to “pushy,” but a friendly reminder can often help your chances of getting an interview, and may help you stand out from the other candidates. I actually looked forward to that follow up call, because it gave me the chance to connect personally with my potential employer instead of being just another name on a page.

Hot Tip: Give Them No Reason NOT to Hire You! Double-negative notwithstanding, this was my philosophy for any job interview I got. A well-crafted resume and cover letter are essential for “getting you in the door,” but it is up to you to make a lasting impression and convince the hiring manager that you are the right person for the job. Be prepared to talk about your experience instead of just your coursework and research history. Be true to yourself—the worst thing you can do is misrepresent yourself to your future employer. In my experience, adaptability is key. If you do not have experience with a certain skill or resource, emphasize that you are willing and able to learn anything they need you to learn. Always have questions for your interviewer! Have several questions, prepare them ahead of time, and write them down if you need help remembering. Your interviewers will be pleased that you are taking a genuine interest in the position, and will certainly not mind the role reversal of having you interview them for a few minutes.

Hot Tip: Most importantly, Don’t Take It Personally! Ted Williams hit 521 career home runs, but he also struck out 709 times. Job hunting is undoubtedly a frustrating experience. However, the key is to not take it personally when you get turned down, and instead continue looking for your next opportunity. As in baseball, patience and persistence are the tools for success in finding a job. Don’t get discouraged if you strike out. Instead, step up to the plate again, knock the dirt off your cleats, and swing for the fences!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

1 thought on “Bob Spencer on Interviewing Tips for New Graduates”

  1. Hi Bob,

    Great tips! Having done a stint in human resources at one point, I think it’s important that an applicant looks into the organizational structure and practices of HR before being too persistent. The reason being, at some organizations (including the one I worked for), applicants never interact with the hiring manager before an interview; rather, their interaction is exclusively with HR. So, on a daily basis, I would witness HR recruiters become annoyed at some applicants’ persistency, as their hands were tied due to the ultimate decision to hire or not resting with the hiring manager (who would never receive the emails or phone calls from the applicants). But, in an organization where the hiring manager is indeed the point of contact, I agree that some degree of persistency can help!



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