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Student Engagement Center expands resources with new interview suite

By Gillian Frew

Noisy roommates. Bad lighting. Constant distractions and interruptions. These are some of the challenges Grant Traynor '19 faces in a new video made by the Student Engagement Center to promote its latest professional resource—the interview suite.

It's a funny video, but Traynor's on-screen quest for a quiet space to do his Skype interview points to a real problem: Many students, especially those who live on campus, lack the right environment to conduct a successful phone or Skype interview.

"Now there's a quiet space for them to do interviews with prospective employers," said Gayle Townsend '80, assistant director of career development in the SEC. "We were able to create this really nice, professional space that's very calm, so when a student comes in for an interview, the employer on the other end sees a professional atmosphere."

Before doors opened on the interview suite, which the SEC debuted during Family Weekend in late October, many students were stuck doing interviews in their dorm rooms or the library, where conditions may not be so idyllic: "Working in the library or in a café, it's noisy, it's loud, there are people interrupting and it doesn't come off well to employers," Townsend said.

"The minute we put the word out that this was open, we started getting requests to reserve the room for appointments."

Becca Gainsburg '19 used the new space to interview for a summer internship with the Borgin Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and hunger worldwide. She decided to apply after meeting with Victoria Wolff, the SEC's internship coordinator, and is among the first batch of students taking advantage of the new interview suite.

"It was nice—I just walked in and sat down," she said. "You just go in and do your thing, which is cool."

Gainsburg applied for several other internships—"probably too many!"—and plans to do her next phone interview in a study room in the library for comparison's sake.

The interview suite is the latest in a growing list of resources the SEC offers to students seeking career development support.

"Our goal is for this to become a very highly used space," Townsend said. "Then students are aware that this is just one more service that the SEC provides. Sometimes getting them in the door allows them to see all the other services that are available."

For instance, Townsend gives interested students the opportunity to rehearse practice interviews with her, in which she asks industry-standard questions to help prepare them for the real thing. There's just one twist—the whole thing is on camera.

"None of us likes to watch ourselves on film, but it can be so helpful," she said. "You can see if you're twitching or twirling your hair or not making eye contact, and then make adjustments to become a more viable candidate. Most of us are not aware of the little habits we have until someone points them out... This way you can hear what filler words you use, or if you're talking too fast. It's a great way to prep for interviews."

As far as the interview suite goes, it's already proven useful not just for students interviewing over the phone or from behind a screen, but for staff members conducting in-person interviews as well.

"It's wonderful to have a quiet, professional setting, as it gives the candidate the respect for their interview that they deserve," said Community Service Coordinator Abby Juhasz, who recently used the space to interview resident academic adviser candidates. "It's been especially helpful to me since I share an office space with my colleague, which is a wonderful experience, but not ideal for an interview situation."

Annie Boyenneh '16, an executive office assistant in the SEC, said additional items available in the new suite are another added bonus: "We provide laptops, microphones, anything students need to succeed at their interview. There's also a board that provides interview tips and books for students to use or check out."

"We've had nothing but positive response," said Townsend. "Even faculty and other staff members are excited about it. It's really nice to have a space that's professional. And it's quiet!"

Published on Nov 6, 2015
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