Conversations With Cheryl is the newest addition to With Cheryl and features interviews with different experts in their respective fields on topics that are important to YOU, including mindfulness, job searching, and more. Each series features interviews with 3 different experts and goes live on the last Monday over 3 months!
In our final conversation in the JOB SEARCH series, we’ll be learning from on of my greatest friends in the world, Jenna Batchelder. Jenna is the Associate Director of Admissions at a New York City based law school. She has previously worked in Admissions at Cornell Tech and the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.
A note from Jenna before we get started …
First and foremost, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to With Cheryl! Eckk, I am so nervous (but, also excited)!
When it comes to interviewing in general and answering these questions, I am going to answer through the lens of my experiences in higher education, my work with applicants on a daily basis, and also my personal experience interviewing for jobs. I do think it’s important to remember that not everything I say or everything that you read about interviewing will work for you. Try different techniques and find out what works best for you. Applying to and interviewing for something new is a tremendously transformative and an intimidating experience, but hopefully so worth it at the end.
What would stop you from asking a candidate to come in for an in-person interview after a phone interview?
This is a difficult question, because I truly believe that every person and every interview is different and unique. But, since I have to give you an answer, I would say lack of confidence or lack of interest in the specific job or school. And honestly, it’s more than just “interest.” Anyone can do their research. I am talking about real passion and excitement for the next step in your life or career. To be honest, a lot of times (for me anyway) this is heard through voice inflections and how an applicant approaches a specific topic. Remember, there really is no right answer when it comes to interviewing. Trust that you’ve prepared and that you are a qualified candidate, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the position of being interviewed in the first place. Doing this will allow you to be yourself and let your personality shine through.
What are you looking for when you read through a cover-letter?
I’ll just say it…I don’t like cover letters. I think they are mundane and over-used. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t read them or pay attention to them. At the end of the day, they are simply writing samples and that is a big deal. People reviewing your cover letter and resume need to know that you can coherently and concisely write something with a beginning, middle, and end. I know this is contrary to what a lot of people say, but I wouldn’t suggest writing one cover letter for all positions you are applying for (and then changing out the position and employer). We can tell when you do this! The more general your cover letter, the more I might think you are not actually interested and that you couldn’t or wouldn’t take the time or effort to write a more tailored one.
Is it true that hiring professionals won’t look at a resume if it’s longer than 1 page?
Not true! But if you’re going to go on to a second page, it’d better be good. A second page should be utilized for essential work experience, detailed explanations of projects, research or publications, or consistent community involvement. A second page should not be used to list professional or volunteer experience that is from a decade ago and isn’t relevant to the role, and certainly not for things you did in high school. While we are on the topic of resumes…I personally prefer to see performance or achievement-based resumes. For example, don’t just give me the bullet points of your day to day tasks, but rather tell me how you’ve increased productivity or headed a new project with the company (think numbers, how can I quantify my experience). You don’t have to do this for every job you’ve had, but my rule of thumb is the most recent and the job you had right before that.
A few other things…be careful with jargon specific to the companies you’ve worked for (if I don’t know what it is, I am not going to take the time to look it up). Also, pay attention to past/present tense, gaps in your work history (be prepared to answer questions about this in your interview), don’t overuse the thesaurus, and proofread it a million times.
A note about writing your resume and cover letter…circulate them to a few people that you trust for honest feedback. Aim for three people. The first, someone that knows you well (understands you as a human, on your deepest level). The second, someone that can check it for grammar and typos (professor, editor, professional in your current field). And the third, a friend of a friend (someone that doesn’t really know you who you are, picture this person as your interviewer). These people serve different roles and should be able to give you great, honest feedback from multiple points of view. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about your materials and if you don’t like their answers – think of it as an opportunity to change things up.
What is your favorite interview question to ask a candidate? And, what are you hoping to learn from their response?
I have two!
- Many times in the application and or interviewing process personalities can be misinterpreted, what’s a common misinterpretation of your personality?
- I am looking for you to think on your feet and talk critically about yourself. It’s kind of the same as asking about your biggest weakness. Are you able to articulate something about yourself and think critically about how others or the world might view you. It shows the interviewer how self-aware you are.
- Is there anything you were hoping I would ask? In other words, is there anything not in your application that you’d like us to know about you?
- Don’t ever say no to this question or ones like it. Use this opportunity to talk about the position and company and why you’re interested. This is your time to add anything last minute that you want the interviewer to know.
Bonus interview tips: Silence is okay! I’d rather have an applicant digest the question and take their time to answer the question than just jump right in and ramble. Take a deep breath! An interview is an exchange. You are interviewing them too. Take water! Dry mouth is no one’s friend. Follow up with thank yous! Take notes during the interview and follow up with personal thank yous to each person recalling something that you spoke about.
What would you say to someone who has been job searching for months and keeps getting in-person interviews, but hasn’t gotten the job yet?
Don’t give up! Take this opportunity to follow up with the people and places that you have interviewed with over the last few months (be aware that it’s better to do this as soon as you are notified of their decision). Ask for feedback and things that you can feasibly change about your interviewing style. Maybe you aren’t really answering their questions or maybe you seemed uninterested. Some people will jump at the opportunity to help you, others may not and that’s okay. Side note, I was once told before I went in for an interview that I should tone down my bubbliness and energy. I appreciated the feedback, but decided that I wasn’t going to change who I was and then it clicked that maybe that wasn’t the right role for me anyway, even if it looked perfect on paper. Stay positive and keep practicing (practice makes permanent), something amazing will come your way.
WITH CHERYL READER QUESTION: What’s one piece of advice you can offer to someone to calm their nerves before meeting with an interviewer?
I actually have a few for you! Eat a good breakfast! No one wants you to pass out. Remember that they are human too! In order for this whole thing to work, you have to like them (and the job) and vice versa. Majority of the time once you’ve made it to an in person interview, the interviewer is looking to see how you would “fit” into the everyday hustle. Try not to be too hard on yourself! I know that I always walk away from interviews regretting things that I’ve said. I know it’s difficult, but try not to do this. It honestly just kills your confidence for the next one. Tell yourself that you can do this! I think a big part of interviewing and landing the job is fully believing in yourself. Can you picture yourself in the job, doing the everyday tasks, commuting there everyday, and succeeding in your new role? If the answer is yes, then you will ultimately perform better.
Good luck out there! You’re awesome!
Jenna Batchelder is the Associate Director of Admissions at a New York City based law school. Previously, she worked in the Admissions Office at Cornell Tech in New York City and the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. She received her BA in Communication Studies from SUNY Cortland and her M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College in Spring 2018. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and puppy.