Recently, I walked into the zoo of a job market called teacher job fairs. A total of 556 people showed up for a whopping THREE available English teacher positions throughout the much desired district. Saying that 437 people showed up for the FIVE available history positions would be an overstatement, and I’m not talking about the 437. Okay, fine, maybe it was 80 people rather than hundreds, but it certainly seemed like I was a small fish swimming in a deep, murky sea. I had no idea how I would navigate my resume to the top, or push my small, unaggressive self to the front of the pack.
I walked into the school, with an unknown level of confidence. I had no idea what I would walk into on the other side of the glass doors. First thing I saw? About seventy five chairs lined up, organized by discipline. You want a math position? Let me ask, do you have a degree? Great, step right up. How about a science position? Let me ask, are you breathing? Please, step right up, you’re hired. In the English and history section, different movement was taking place. Within moments, groups of hopefuls quickly stole empty chairs from the math and science section to set up shop and endure the 30-45 minute wait for their English or history interview.
Ultimately, the wait proved beneficial. I watched countless people ahead of me yay-ed or nay-ed as interviewers seemed fit. Although, no decisions were made, I could pinpoint who made the cut and who made it to the reject pile. “You have no experience? What are you doing here?” “You’re still waiting on your certification? Come back next year.” As I scanned through my interview cheat sheet one last time, I inched my way to the front of the line, allowing one person to skip over me because it meant I would interview with the less intimidating of the two. I wondered if our interactions in the holding space were evaluated. What about how we approached the table when called, how we greeted each interviewer, and finally how to position our body at the awkward round table?
Before I knew it, my name was called. After a two second scan of my resume, the witty, Zooey Deschanel lookalike, raised herself from the seat and said, “wait right here….I want you to meet someone.” I will spare the details because it won’t enhance the advisory component of this post, but the bottom line is, I was considered for the position because of my dual subject certification. Credentials aside, I can’t help but think my skimmed and scanned resume and cover letter aided my cause. Here are some tips on navigating an open job fair for a specific district.
- Research. I can’t stress this enough. My last job was an open market, once you were hired by the district, you were free to speak with any principal in all 200 schools. In my most recent position, each subject area has a district department supervisor conducting the initial screening and interviews based upon availability. Therefore, I prepared several cover letters based on who I may be interviewing with…department supervisor one or two, subject area one, two, or combined position.
- Check your resume and cover letter. Put it away, check it again. Repeat daily for a week. I probably changed mine a total of 18 times. Make copies. Check the spelling. check the address, etc. I can’t stress this enough. You are bound to find errors.
- Talk to other supervisors and personnel during downtime if they engage in conversation with you. You want them rooting for you. In a short 30 minutes of waiting, I had the physical education supervisor cheering me on, checking back in after the interview. In this case, the phrase “any PR is good PR” held true.
- Greet other prospects, but don’t engage in conversation. It’s really not worth it. Also, if you ask me, reviewing potential Q+A topics is a much better use of your wait time.
- Highlight items that are on your resume, without focusing on them. For a simple equation, begin reflecting on an experience by sharing your response, then throw in the “when I participated in curriculum planning last summer.” Highlight the skill, not the title. Your goal is to make the interviewer become more interested in what you did in said position, so much so, that they have to go back and revisit your resume AFTER your interview. This session is simply a screening. You want them to place your resume in the “revisit” stack, not the “reject black hole.
- What to wear. I opted against a suit for this event, and I’m happy with my decision. I wore a grey 3/4 sleeve dress, black tights and dress boots. If I could do it again, I would make sure the dress was a bit more comfortable, I did a lot of sitting. I threw on simple stud earrings, a small pendant necklace, and a simple ring.
- What to bring: I strategically placed copies of my resume and cover letter in one folder, organized for easy access based on the position I interviewed for. I carried a small notebook, a pen, and that’s about it. I would advise against carrying a purse, it just seems weird with business attire. A mid-size bag/tote in a solid leather seems most practical and professional.
- Follow-up. Send a thank you note to whoever you interviewed with. THIS is KEY, since there are so many applicants for so few positions. If anything, it will have them revisit your packet of materials.
Next up…the personalized/second round interview.