An Insiders Guide To Landing Interviews

Having been both an interviewee and an interviewer a multitude of times and in various situations in my career I have the unique insight of being on both sides of the table.

After graduation, I spent months sending out my resume and cover letter to every teaching position in a 100-mile radius of Chicago. I had gotten very little interest and was totally frustrated verging on panic. The thing with teaching is that you must get a position before school starts. If not, it’s a whole year of subbing until positions open again.  July was already in my rear-view mirror, and I was beginning to lose hope when I saw a position posted that was perfect for me. I was determined. I marched myself into the district superintendent’s office and begged his assistant to hand my resume to him. She took pity on me and agreed to put my resume on the top of the pile. I got an interview and the position.  If I were to try that little stunt today, I would be tossed out by a security guard at best, and at worst be arrested and sent to overzealous new teacher jail.

Years later I found myself on the other side of the desk. I was a part of the interview committee tasked with hiring teachers.  There were several teachers sitting around the conference table with a giant stack of resumes to go through.  It was tedious.  After we narrowed it down to those who possessed the right requirements, we still had a good stack of resumes.  We then eliminated those with typos or poor grammar in their resume (for a teaching position? Really?), We continued to eliminate candidates if their resumes were difficult to navigate, if they used silly fonts, or for various other infringements until we got down to a reasonable number of people to interview.

Then it was time to do the first round of interviews.  We were all once again sitting around the conference table but now with a nervous, sweaty candidate sitting before us.  It was excruciating. Questions were asked and answered.  Some were eliminated because they did not possess enough knowledge of current teaching practices and others because we decided they wouldn’t fit on the team.  I remember we disqualified one guy because his slacks and jacket didn’t match.  I sat through so many interviews that they began to blend together. We couldn’t refer to candidates by their names when discussing the interviews because we couldn’t remember who was who.  We resorted to “the guy whose wife just had a baby, the woman with the ginormous necklace, the new graduate who used too many buzzwords, etc.

After finally getting down to 5 candidates who would go on to a second interview with the superintendent, we got word that someone was hired.  Someone we hadn’t even interviewed. A recent college graduate who just finished student teaching and had a connection to the niece of the superintendent.  She did turn out to be an excellent teacher and I quietly removed myself from the interview team.

Now that I own Launch Coaching and Academic Coaching Associates, I’m back to interviewing potential employees several times a year.  Each time I post a job on Indeed I get 600-700 resumes within the first couple of days. It seems like a lot but is not uncommon., but still overwhelming. So how do I decide who to interview?  At first, it’s mostly a process of elimination just like when I was on the hiring committee at the school where I taught.  All the posted requirements must be met and if not they are off the list.

Here are some hints to land an interview:

1) Your resume should have no typos or grammatical errors, and make sure you have the skills listed in the job description.

2) Your resume should be absolutely no more than 1-2 pages max.  A potential employer doesn’t have time to read anything longer.

3) Have your resume and cover letter reflect the job you are applying to.  List relevant skills and experience and leave out an experience that was more than 15 years ago.

4) Find out who does the hiring and email them directly.  Employers love employees that take initiative and it will help you stand out from the crowd.

5) Network! Ask everyone from parents to former teachers to alumni to help you get a foot in the door.  It really is who you know.

Most importantly, target specific jobs that line up with your skills, experience, and goals.  If being able to work remotely is a deal breaker, only apply to jobs where that is possible. If a job requires 5 years of experience and you have one, look for positions that are more aligned with your experience.

Would you like more information about how to target viable positions and stand out from other applicants? Sign up for a free consultation to talk with a professional career coach who exclusively works with recent college graduates and young adults. Also, check out our JumpStart Program to get your job search up and running.

FREE 20 Minute Phone Consultation!