As a recent college graduate, Jason Wright’s job hunt is like many others’ — he prepares and sends a resume and cover letter to schools, hoping for a coveted teaching position.
But with most employers looking for experience and only experience, it’s rare that every candidate gets a call for an interview in today’s hiring climate.
“Experience means a lot to schools,” said Wright, 32, who worked full time in the operating room at Albany’s St. Peter’s Hospital while also earning a degree, “and as a new grad, it’s kind of disheartening, and you feel dispirited.”
But one Troy charter school interviewed every single candidate, including Wright, who applied for one of its four open positions in history, writing, science and reading. During a two-hour window Saturday morning, True North Troy Preparatory Charter School administrators and teachers interviewed 55 applicants in its second annual speed-interviewing event.
Candidates of all ages and experience showed up in freshly ironed slacks, button-downs, pressed skirts and shiny shoes, looking to make their best first impression.
They had three minutes at three different stations.
Aside from the requisite bachelor’s degree and student-teaching experience, Troy Prep’s founding principal, Paul Powell, was looking for those intangibles not found under skills or experience on a resume. He wanted to know how one woman would spend the first five minutes of her class. He wanted to hear what progress meant for teachers and students and what it looks like on a monthly and annual basis. He was eager to hear a 30-second overview of a lesson plan. He wanted examples.
“I think a cover letter is often something people generate for a bunch of different schools,” said Powell, who first incorporated speed interviewing three years ago at True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School, “but we ask people to respond to questions that we provide them. We’re able to hit the same objectives, but I think we do it in a more exciting and efficient way.”
Sixty-four applicants reserved a spot at the event, and 55 showed up, some who have taught for many years, others who were looking for a career change from landscaping or nursing. The room reflected the current labor market in education, Powell said. No applicant had to wait by their e-mail or phone. Everyone received face time.
A timer goes off.
“Please pause where you are and move to the next station,” announced Jasmine Corp, Troy Prep’s office manager for two years.
A buzz filters through the room as candidates rise, smile, shake hands, hope for the best. And on to the next one.
“We generated a lot of buzz for this,” said Corp, who oversaw last year’s speed-interviewing session. Though this year’s event is later in the season, she said, the turnaround from advertisement to interviews was only two weeks.
Scott Glanzrock walked into the Third Street charter school not knowing what to expect. He student-taught for a semester before going on the job hunt. Speed dating, he understood, but speed interviewing, he couldn’t really wrap his head around.
“With so few jobs out there, though, I feel the best thing is to take any opportunity you have for a job at all,” said Glanzrock, 32, of Guilderland, “so I have no problem doing it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get a job.”
The drawback of speed interviewing, he said, is that at times it took him a minute just to figure out what school officials were even asking him. By then, a third of the interview was over.
But for Wright, of Albany, that was the allure of Saturday’s event. Most people spend the traditional 30 to 45 minutes in interviews wondering if their face is red, if they sound like they know what they’re talking about or how smart they sounded on the last question.
“I didn’t feel under pressure to give that coffee can answer every time,” he said. “I think with the three minutes you have, you have to be yourself. Because if you don’t be yourself, it’s going to be clearly evident in the first minute.”
First impression is everything, he said. And not just for employers, but for impressionable students.
In what takes most employers weeks or months, Powell said he narrowed a candidate pool down to “a solid top 10” that he plans to contact within two weeks to invite to Troy Prep to teach a 30-minute sample lesson.
“We get to assess those qualities that you can’t see on a resume,” Powell said. “It allows us to meet a lot of people, talk to them and find some great teachers.”