As we often hear, the US job market has changed dramatically, and in so many ways, over the past few decades. Much of this has to do with technological change — Moore’s Law and such. Beyond that, though, there is simply a shift in expectation. We are expected to do our jobs for a few years, outgrow them, and move on. For some, much of this growth occurs under the aegis of one employer, through a series of promotions. But more often, it involves dusting off the resume and moving on to an entirely new employer every few years.
Last week, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and the Support Team convened for a monthly training, and part of the day was devoted to polishing resumes and preparing for interviews. As we talked about the dos and don’ts of job-seeking, I reflected on my role in the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator hiring process, and what I look for in a VMC candidate.
Each year, we have about 300 applicants vying for 30 positions. In such a competitive field, what can applicants do to distinguish themselves? Here are a few:
Seize every opportunity to showcase your skills as a writer. The Volunteer Maryland application includes two required essays. And Volunteer Maryland, like other AmeriCorps programs, receives additional applications through the AmeriCorps Portal. The AmeriCorps Portal application template includes two questions that invite essay responses. When I see strong, substantive essays in these applications, I almost always get in touch with the applicant to schedule a screening interview.
You cover letter doubles as a writing sample, too. When I receive applications attached to email, I am always drawn in by a well-written message that includes brief information about the applicant, their interest in the position, and their gratitude for my time and consideration.
Be prompt. If a hiring manager gets in touch, reply within 24 hours. This conscientiousness shows that you will be a reliable employee. Show up for interviews five to ten minutes early and get back to your interviewer promptly with a handwritten thank you note.
Be prepared for behavioral interview questions. Show up for each interview ready to share stories about your professional and academic experience. Include stories that show how hard you work, what a good leader you are, how well you manage time, your strong relationships with peers and supervisors, your ingenuity and your ability to learn from mistakes.
Exit graciously. If either you or the potential employer decide not to move forward, express gratitude for the experience and opportunity. Good impressions pay untold dividends in work, as in life.