Monday, November 19, 2012

He wore jeans and a T-shirt? Di's guide to Oral Boards

Today I had my interview for the Supervisor position at our Department. The Public Safety Dispatcher (PSD) IV is the Person in Charge, the Big Kahuna, the Signature on the Evaluations. Unlike when I applied for the PSD III job, I wasn't anxious. This time I wasn't looking to move out of Las Vegas. There was no pressure to find a position. Whether I get the promotion or not is irrelevant - I still have my PSD slot and I'm not going anywhere for a while - 15 years at least. <insert big sigh>

Before I go one about my 45 minutes with the guys, have you ever sat on an oral board? I have. It's tough being neutral, asking the same questions over & over again. Every candidate is hopeful, wants the job, and believes they are the best person for the slot. You can almost smell the fear when they watch you write notes on your paper. What did she jot down? Did I say something bad or good? Sure, the great folks have you smiling, and the bad ones have you biting your tongue.

Let me tell you a couple of things NOT to do at an interview.

First: never, never, ever wear jeans and a T-shirt to a job interview. Really. I'm not kidding. The one guy who did must have never heard the adage 'you have one chance to make a first impression'. Yeah, he did alright: HORRIBLE. We all marked him low on our score sheets. Then again, maybe that was his best outfit? Seriously, go to the thrift store and find an outfit for a couple of dollars. Remember the movie, "Big" where Josh comes to the Christmas party in a blue prom tux? At least Josh tried. That garish blue ruffled disaster would have been better than casual Tuesday at Red Jim's Bar. I prefer a skirt/blouse (or dress) with low heels and nice makeup (no drag-queen specials).

Be clean. And by clean, I mean showered (or bathed, your choice) with groomed hair. Ladies, wear hose, guys wear socks. Miami Vice style went out of fashion in the early 90's. Leave the Atlas-sized bling at home. Cover any tattoos with long-sleeves. I don't want to see that you 'heart Jill V 4ever', especially if Jill has been crossed out and replaced with Suzzi (with 2 'z's).

Be on time. We may have a long list of people to see. It may only be 15 minutes to you, but to us, that was one person's time.

Leave the kids at home. Get a family member, friend, or babysitter to watch them.

Walk in and shake hands with each person. Watch your language. Be polite. listen to the questions and make eye contact.

I bring five or six resumes with me and offer one to each person. If they accept, I pass out each one with a thank you, if not, I put the papers down. No problem. So far, no one has turned them down. Once the interview is done, I shake hands and thank each person a second time. You might also consider taking all of your certificates, class completions, CEU's, in-house training notices, certification cards (expired ones that you don't carry with you), letters of recommendation, commendations, and any other documentations that could be worthy to a potential employer and put them sheet in a plastic sheet protectors in a binder. Mine are in a binder that zips closed, tabbed out in sections (POST classes, CEUs, commendations,, etc.).

A quick tip: I also have a small ringed notebook that I record my employment history (and have done so since my first job when I was a teenager). I include supervisors, co-workers, phone numbers, start/end dates, and payroll information. That habit has come in handy when filling out background packets. This notebook, and the binder below, are kept in safe places. In the event of an emergency, I grab the two and I have my important documents ready to go.

When answering questions, ask for clarification if you aren't sure what the board member means. Try to word your response clearly, leaving out the 'uhs and ums' out. Speak up, don't murmur. Don't pepper your reply with explicatives and keep your answer relevent. No one cares about Aunt Millie's chest pain and how she called the fire department two weeks ago. It has nothing to do with your interview. If your partner passed out and you had to dispatch the paramedics and still handle the police, that's different.

When asked if I have any questions, I always do. I ask when decisions will be made, if I will hear one way or another, and how many positions are open. I don't bother asking about pay or benefits (those are on the announcements). I may ask about shift hours. how did mine go?

I went in with no expectations. I wore a pink flamingo (the female equivalent of a monkey suit) with my face made up. I had to re-do my face paint after trying some new stuff that started itching. I'd almost had the colors right, too. This is why I don't normally wear make-up: just too much hassle. It's fine when we go out or for a special occasion (like this).

Waiting in the tiny reception area, I finally am greeted by the Captain. It's just the Captain & the Chief (wait, isn't that an 80's pop band?). We do the meet & greet spiel (I work with these guys, but go through the motions anyway). The questions start. We were all provided with them in advance, but I didn't prepare anything in advance. I decided if  couldn't answer them without studying, I had no business going forward.

A couple of the follow-up questions to my responses were pretty candid. I was honest with some of my replies. I have been so in my dealings since I've started and saw no reason to change my style. The Captain knows my style and the Chief will become familiar if he chooses me. I am nothing if not consistent.

We discussed the CAD system. I am a firm believer that you shouldn't ask my opinion if you don't want the truth. So they heard my honest evaluation. I do have some credibility, having worked with five other systems at multiple agencies. Both  of them had copies of my application, and had read it. The questions they asked were modified to apply to my experience. My supervisor experience was reviewed. No surprise there. I told them about the shift frm hell as an example of a stressful shift (I handled simultaneous calls of a barricaded suspect & critical mass demonstration on two channels due to short-handed shift). Yeah - that was bad day.

I did bring in my binder which has copies of my certificates, commendations, letters of recommendation, and two magazines containing articles I've written (one in 1993 and one in 2010). They each flipped through it. I made a point of telling them the proof of what I said I did in my application was contained in the binder.

Now I, and the other candidates, will wait until next week when the decision will be made. I don't care one way or the other. As I told them, I still have a job. I am betting my senior co-worker will get the Supervisor, which is okay. 

Maybe I shouldn't have been so casual, huh? That's just me, trying not to sweat the small stuff anymore. My heart does better when I relax.

Stay safe out there!

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