If you are a casual follower of these posts you probably know that I’ve done a fair amount of talent acquisition. At Kaplan most of that experience involved finding talented administrators, engaging marketing reps, and enthusiastic teaching prospects.
What I learned through trial and error was that there is no substitute for integrity, humility, and a sense of duty, regardless of the position. In the world of Independent Educational Services, an Ivy League Pedigree and Stellar Test Scores may get you in the door but, these days, neither will guarantee an offer.
Having said that, a commitment to scholarship is never a bad thing. Here are some things that I’ve noted from past interviews with a number of exceptional candidates:
- Great candidates do their homework. For example, if one is applying to tutor SAT/ACT, one should take the time to visit the College Board or ACT to ensure that any changes to the test are understood. So if one is applying to work as a tutor, try checking out their website and look for a mission or vision statement. This may help determine cultural fit.
- Great candidates write a cover letter/email and the cover letter includes two or three bullet points related to the specific position. The cover letter is well conceived, checked for spelling and grammar, and representative of one’s normal communication style.
- Great candidates include past test scores and familiarity with subjects other than test prep (i.e.–SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, DAT/OAT). Consider this the way in which the company can quickly determine if you go into the “set up an interview” pile or the “maybe, but not urgent” pile.
- Great candidates are authentic and honest. They come prepared to explain why they want to tutor, what led them to the company’s posting, what they are good at, and where they could stand to improve.
- Great candidates have humility. Assume for a moment that you are smart, a gifted communicator, and genuinely interested in teaching others BUT you have almost no experience tutoring the SAT or the ACT. Sound familiar? Here’s what not to do: pretend you are equipped to do something you have not yet done. Instead, explain other areas of strength (volunteer tutoring, AP, SAT II, Subject Expertise) and a willingness to learn what you don’t know. Good managers will see potential and quite often, invest in your development. Poor manager will not. But why would you want to work for a poor manager?
- Great candidates have humility Part 2. Great candidates are punctual and put together. This may be an obvious one to most folks but things like punctuality, grooming, and deference are generally non-negotiable with most firms–particularly boutique tutoring and admissions firms.
- Great candidates are responsive and detailed in their communication. They understand that any exchange could conceivably be viewed as the way in which they will communicate with the company as an employee or with their students in the future.
- Great candidates know the true measure of their past experience is student success. If you don’t not know how your past students have scored on their tests, ask yourself why? Great firms generate virtuous relationships that generate desirable and quantifiable student outcomes.
- Great candidates prepare and ask questions. If you don’t have question based on your preliminary research, chances are you may be applying for the wrong reason. The company will want to get a sense of how it would be to work with you and, in-turn, you should want to understand how it would be to work with them.
- Great candidates don’t ask about money…at least not at first. We all may want to know the answer to this question but patience here is important. Either you have a sense of the pay rate or you can wait until after the first interview to ask the question.
- Great candidates are willing to score qualify. If your test scores are greater than five years old, or if you have not seen the New SAT, don’t worry–you are not alone. This is a great time to flip the script through acknowledging the potential for growth. By displaying a willingness to re-test you demonstrate: self-awareness, honesty, humility, industry awareness, and a willingness to commit (among other things). This may be a difference maker in the process.