Continued from Part 1:
During class: At the beginning of class, I collect all of the students’ résumés. I ask the in-person interviewers and the Skype interviewer to spend one to two minutes introducing themselves and their practices (it’s a bit cumbersome to include the phone interviewer here). Each in-person interviewer then picks an interviewee by drawing one of the students’ résumés from the pile. I like this selection method because it ensures that students who might hesitate to volunteer end up participating. Students who aren’t actively interviewing at any given time form “fishbowls” around the interviews; I tell them to be prepared to ask questions or offer constructive feedback after the interviews are over.
The first round of interviews is the screening interview round. I ask the interviewers to conduct basic screening interviews, as though they are winnowing down a large group of candidates. The interviewers read the students’ résumés for the first time as they ask questions, which is typical of many first-round interviews (at least in my experience). Having the interviewers come in “blind” this way puts the onus on the students to highlight their experiences during the interview, rather than letting them rely on their résumés to do the work for them. Of course, if you choose to match students and alumni up before class, you could certainly circulate the students’ résumés in advance so the interviewers have a chance to read them.
After ten to fifteen minutes—or whenever the interviews have reached their natural conclusions—the interviewers draw new résumés from the pile for round two, and the non-interviewing students rotate around the room to observe someone new. This second round is the call-back interview. I ask the interviewers to conduct the interview as though the students are candidates who survived the initial screening interview and are being brought back for more in-depth questions. The interviewers tend to ask tougher questions during this round to suss out whether the candidates are a good fit for this job. “What kind of salary are you looking to make?” is one I hear frequently.
The call-back interviews tend to last another ten to twenty minutes, and then the interviewers draw their third batch of résumés. The final round of interviews is the post-offer round. I ask the interviewers to act as though they have extended an offer to the candidates and are now negotiating the jobs’ salaries, benefits, and other related issues.
When the post-offer negotiations are over, we reconvene as a group and debrief. I often ask the Skype interviewer to join in this debrief so that we can address the added complications of interviewing via technology. During this debrief, the interviewers provide general feedback about effective and ineffective interview behaviors they observed and the students ask interviewing strategy questions and provide their own feedback. This is a great opportunity to address students’ concerns about hiring negotiations and for them to get answers to the questions they really want to ask, like “How do I ask an employer how many hours I’m going to have to work without making it sound like I don’t want to work hard?”
My students have told me this is one of the most helpful exercises we do during the class. I suspect it’s successful in large part because the students find it personally relevant and take the interviews very seriously—more so than if, say, I were conducting them. I’ve also been fortunate to have had wonderful alumni volunteers, who have shared their contact information with the students and have offered to be a resource for them.
I hope you’ll try interview speed dating in your class! And if you think of any ways to improve upon it, please let me know.