The Point of Placement…

Placement.  Such an interesting topic.  It divides people.  TPE or C3?  To interview or not to interview?  I guess what I am asking is “Is placement really worth it?”

I have been on both sides of the placement table on three separate occasions and I am not sure the time and energy are worth it at the end of the day.  Call me a blasphemer all you want.  I just don’t buy into the fact that placement is the best way to recruit and hire staff members anymore.  I don’t know of a single person who has been hired on the spot at placement.  I have never hired someone on the spot at placement nor would I ever do something like that.  I am quite sure no one would nor legally could because of HR processes.

So that begs to ask the question, “Is there a benefit to placement?”  I think there is.  It allows a school to narrow down choices for a position.  “Is it worth the grind that candidates tend to put themselves through?”  Now, that is where I question placement.  I believe candidates should be limited in how many interviews they can participate in at placement.  The “buckshot” approach that I see some  candidates take is not the best way to use their time or energy.  Putting a limit on the number of interviews will force candidates to be more selective about where they interview.  This will allow for campuses to be interviewing candidates who are serious about the positions they are applying for.

At TPE two years ago, I knew people who were interviewing for over 15 positions in ONE DAY.  That is excessive and ridiculous.  One cannot be serious about that many positions or properly prepared for that many interviews.  It is waste of time for those hosting the process.  If you are not serious about a job or willing to accept an offer on the spot, then you shouldn’t apply.

I learned this lesson the hard way.  I applied to a job at a religiously-based institution and  was offered an interview with the office at TPE.  I knew that it would be a stretch for me to accept the position, but I was panicking.  Everyone else around me was interviewing for 20+ positions in residence life.  I had interviews with 10 schools.  Instead of really thinking about the position and institution, I went ahead with the interview.  It was a disaster.

Midway through the interview, all I kept thinking was how I could graciously apologize for wasting their time.  It was never going to work and I knew it from the very beginning.  Before I sat down in that chair. I had no intention of ever moving to that part of the country.  I wasn’t even that keen on the job.  I did it because I felt a pressure to do it.

Hindsight is 20-20.  Well I am trying to share my hindsight with you and advocate for a change in placement policy to help everyone involved.  If you are a candidate please take into consideration the amount of time and energy put into the process.  As you labor over every cover letter and online application you are forced to submit, the institution is spending as much time reviewing resumes, checking references, convening committees, and spending money to interview candidates.

This means as a candidate you should really invest time figuring out what you want.  Where do you want to be in the country?  Do you have a significant other to consider?  Do you need to be close to family/friends?  Do you want to be in a big city or smaller town?  Do you have financial constraints to consider?  These are all important personal factors that should be considered before starting a search.  Take the time to do some narrowing before you cast a wide net.  Your personal happiness will have an impact on your job performance.  Make sure you identify what will make you happy in advance.

After you have answered these personal questions, then start looking at and learning about the position, office, and institution before submitting your resume and cover letter.  Make informed decisions about where you are applying.  Talk with other professionals, graduate students, and/or colleagues about offices/campuses.  Really make sure you would be willing to say yes before you shake hands and interview.  Don’t let the pressure of what others are doing impact your process.  You are the one who will need to work there, not the person interviewing for over 20 positions at TPE or C3.

What are your recommendations for people participating in Placement?


About Justin Sipes

Learner Input Strategic Achiever Analytical
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4 Responses to The Point of Placement…

  1. Justin, I’m really enjoying your blog. Placement is going to be interesting this year. I understand there are already over 500 candidates. This year both placers and placees will be able to sign-up on site. I’m wondering how that is going to work!

    I’ve never done placement because of my geographic restraints. But I believe your advice is solid on not “interviewing everywhere!”. It will also be advantageous to participate in other parts of the conference and network.

    Or, maybe Placement just needs more Old Bay!

    • jusip001 says:

      Jeannette – If a school advertised Old Bay as part of their employment package, I would interview there in a heartbeat. 🙂 Old Bay is the easiest way to appease me!! I was not aware that people could sign-up on site this year. As you said, it will be really interesting to see how that is managed. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. C.J. Mathis says:

    Your introduction had me thinking that we were going to have a disagreement! 🙂 I completely agree with you about candidates needing to be more selective. I don’t necessarily believe that the hosting organization should restrain the candidates because at that point in one’s life and career, they should be able to make responsible decisions and hopefully they have a mentor to help guide them through the process.

    You mentioned feeling pressure to take additional interviews because everyone around you had tons of interviews. Similar to how we counsel potential new members in fraternity and sorority life, I would encourage everyone to focus on their own experience. When I went through placement I only interviewed with 6 schools over the entire placement period, which I know seems shockingly low to most. Like you, I’d taken time to consider what was important to me and if a job didn’t fit those things I didn’t interview for it even if it was in my preferred functional area. I ended up leaving with 3 on-campus interviews, which was a lot more than most of my peers who went on an interview marathon.

    Most of my advice for placement would echo most of the things that you’ve said. However, if there is an institutional type, school, or position that an interviewer might be uncertain about I wouldn’t say don’t interview at all. They have invested both time and money to participate in placement so I think it’s worth giving that institution 30 minutes of your time to see if it’s something you’re interested in exploring further. As you mentioned, no one is hiring on the spot and will likely offer on-campus interviews after placement. If you’re not feeling it after your meeting at placement, then decline the offer to go on-campus. Departments are investing large amounts of funds to bring in candidates and it would be most fair that someone who is truly interested and might be a better fit have the chance to capitalize on that opportunity.

    My last piece of advice is sort of contradictory. Don’t settle, but don’t be too picky. I always tell people that I look for a job that I can be happy with about 70% of the work I do and the other 30% is a necessary evil. No job is perfect, just like no employee or institution is perfect. Find a place where you can truly be satisfied both inside and outside of the workplace. Once you get a job, remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    P.S. I thoroughly enjoy your blogs as well!

    • jusip001 says:

      Great point in your third paragraph C.J. Placement does allow candidates a safe opportunity to interview for a school that may not fit their institutional profile type, but could have a really great position available that would be challenging and fulfilling. In addition, I love the 70/30 suggestion you lay out in your last paragraph. We often get caught up in looking for a perfect job. But is there really a perfect job? There are always going to be aspects that are necessary, so what is that balance? I think the 70/30 hits is right on the nose. Thanks for reading and commenting!! I always appreciate your thoughts.

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