The Placement Conference was Fantastic…Now What? Tips for Surviving the On-Campus Interview.


If you work in Student Affairs the recruitment season is in full swing. Thousands of anxious candidates have been updating their resume, rehearsing their answer to the “strengths and weaknesses” question and are ready to interview with a variety of schools at one or more placement conferences.

While placement exchanges can be intense, your experience with each school is brief—a short first round interview of 30 minutes and perhaps a second interview. Hopefully, these interviews went well and you are invited for an on-campus visit. This is a fantastic sign that the staff believes that you have the skills to be successful within their respective department.

Because the on-campus interview is a day-long (or more, depending on the institution) experience here are some things to consider before you get to campus.

You are always being interviewed: The moment a member of their staff picks you up from the airport or greets you at breakfast, you are being evaluated. Consider how you dress, act and speak even during times where there is no formal interview being conducted (i.e. meals). These things matter.

As a recruiter for my own department I want to see people who are consistent in their words and actions both during the interview as well as during the rest of their stay. I have seen dynamic candidates use inappropriate/offensive language during the non-interview portions of their visit simply because they though they were “off the clock.” There is no such time when you are interviewing, remember that.

Do your homework: It might be possible to get invited to an on-campus interview by impressing schools with your own experiences but at an on-campus interview I want to know that you have thought critically about the type of institution you are interviewing with. Our staff wants to hear what you believe will be the challenges in moving from your current place of employment to our school. You won’t succeed in this process without demonstrating that you have an understanding of our campus culture and departmental goals.

Ask good questions: “Why do you like to work at (fill in the blank) university?” is not a good question. It tells me nothing about your level of understanding about our institution and I am not exactly sure of the focus of your question.

“I recently saw that you are building a new Student Center in 2013, how do think this might affect the campus community?” is a much better question. 1) It tells me that you know something about what is happening on our campus, 2) There are a variety of ways that this can be answered that will give you (the candidate) insight about our university.

Please remember that we (as recruiters) want you to succeed in your interview. If we have brought you to the on-campus interview stage we believe that you have the skills to do the job. This interview helps us to determine “fit” both for you as the candidate and us as the current staff.

Finally, when our staff asks what they should be looking for in a potential new staff member I always suggest that they think about it like this: “Can they do the job and would you (and our students) want to go to lunch with them?”

Good Luck to you as you begin this next stage of your professional journey!

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About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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