In the Suburbs: Decades pass, but Job Search 101 still a tough course
Published 6:08 am, Sunday, August 30, 2015
I had the good fortune this summer to be called for two middle school-level language arts interviews in Bridgeport schools. I was encouraged, since I hope to get temporary certification this fall. I also stopped by Fairfield Warde High and Fairfield Woods Middle schools (I had subbed in these schools the most during my five past years of subbing), respectively, to drop off credentials for consideration as a long-term substitute.
The two Bridgeport interviews were short, but intense. For the first, I was asked to complete a quick essay before the interview started about how I would turn around a negative assessment about my students from the administration. The interview itself was centered around my approach to teaching, how I would apply Common Core standards and my philosophy about discipline.
The principal, who was very thorough, assured me I’d hear one way or another by the end of that week. I rushed home, dashed off a quick thank you note and mailed it immediately. There was no call and no e-mail. I followed up twice with no return phone call.
For the second interview last Wednesday, I felt much better prepared, but certainly not over relaxed. I was interviewed by the principal and a member of the organization now running the school. I met the principal at a job fair in March of this year and she remembered me, but I hardly felt complacent.
The line of questioning was similar to the first interview, but I paced myself more and thought through my answers. The interview team also gave me more comprehensive answers to my questions. Again, I was assured that I’d hear one way or another by end of the day Thursday. I also presented copies of my credentials, a thank you letter and a couple of copies of earlier columns I’d written about education.
After receiving no promised call again (the principal said she needed the new teacher there by Monday of this week) I followed up Monday as a formality. The school secretary was kind enough to call me back to say that the position had been filled. At least I had closure. I know things have changed in terms of the employment environment over the past seven years and hiring managers and principals are busier than ever. But I’ve always been a no-nonsense guy. If the fit isn’t there, just tell me on the spot and I’ll leave quietly. I’d prefer that over dragging out the process by promising that I’ll hear one way or another when I’ll never get a phone call.
I’ve concluded that the promised phone call approach is just a strategy to let the prospective candidate down more easily. Trust me, it doesn’t work. Even when I tried to be cavalier about ever hearing from these school principals again, I still hoped for the calls and secretly hoped for some feedback.
I think for any of us who are still active in the job market, feedback remains the most important area. I’ve appreciated the criticism, no matter how tough.
On one job interview, arranged through a recruiter, I was fortunate to learn that I had stumbled on two of the most bizarre areas I could have imagined. Neither, by the way, had to do with competency or chemistry. The interviewer was upset that I had arrived too early and he thought I asked too many questions. Go figure. But I learned a valuable lesson.
Among many friends who are looking for jobs, I’ve learned that they often have heard nothing, even when there has been a second interview. One friend, for instance, got to a second interview on three different job possibilities and left anticipating a job offer on two of those. He never heard another thing and was very disappointed.
In talking with another friend, I picked up on a pattern that I observed might have cost him the job. He kept talking to me about telling interviewers that he “hoped” to do certain things or would try to accomplish assignments. I suggested that he come across as more aggressive without sounding pushy. He texted me last week to say that after nearly a year, he had another interview, tried the aggressive approach and had been hired. He was thrilled.
I certainly hope I’ll have the opportunity to interview again in education, but time will tell.
Meanwhile, I’ll have to do my own introspection about what went wrong and work on improving that. For now, I’m very happy to be back at my current job as a teaching assistant.
Steven Gaynes’ "In the Suburbs" column appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.