Hey Guys! My name is Chantel and I'm a recent invitee. Just to piggy back off of Jenny's Post (which was dead on
, I just wanted to put my spin on the subject. I made a blog post about it and I hope you don't mind my shameless plug. I hope it isn't too much and that it also helps someone. Blog Post below:
Any interview can be daunting but getting ready for the Peace Corps interview can be darn-right scary. At this point, you have probably been waiting months since you submitted your application and if you’re like me, have called to see if your application has in fact, been destroyed in a Tron Legacy race across the internets. It’s okay! The key to it all is preparation. While I’m far from an interview expert, I can say for sure that following certain steps will put you in the front running to getting that invitation. Here is what I have determined.
(Please obviously note that this may not apply for all applicants. Some of you are probably Peace Corps bad-asses with killer resumes that will have PC throwing you invites before you can say “Malaria”. Others may be just doing it for fun and still can’t point your selected country out on a map. All I can say is: I got the invite less than 24 hours after the interview. I’m not saying thats a record or anything but…I think that’s pretty friggin’ cool
Display professionalism from the moment that you create the PC account to the moment you receive that invite. Every time I contacted someone for info, I was polite and prepared. When I got the request for invitation, I opened my laptop and replied to avoid the unprofessional reply-from-a-cell-phone-email. I carefully chose my outfit and ironed everything and even put on pants (yes, it is a webcam interview but when someone knocks on your door and you HAVE to get up to get it -which happened to me – you don’t want your interviewer to see those PJs that you kept on). If you are dress like its a real face-to-face interview, you will act like it. And trust me, it is better to be over-professional than under. You never know who the person at the PC front desk knows and its so easy to deny someone these days. Be on top of it. I know this seems unnecessary to state, but there are some people out there who haven’t experienced this “UH-DUH” moment yet.
Know Your Country
This new process gives us the opportunity to know what country we are being considered for BEFORE the invitation (queue groans from the old school RPCV) so you ample time to gather info. Unless you were the “send me wherever” person, from the moment you submitted the Assignment Selection form, you should have done your research. Google the country. Look up the current events. Find recent blogs from current volunteers and read the entire blog from start to finish. You want to know what there is to like about the country, what challenges you may face and why you want to go there. Even if you want to risk it and not do those things, at least read the Assignment Description and Welcome Book that your interviewer will email to you before the interview. Impress the interview with your knowledge about the country, its climate, its infrastructure and its culture. During mine, I told her that I chose the country because of its variety of climates and scenery. I would have options of different places to explore during my down time and many adventures. I told her about the blogs and videos that I had seen and about how wonderful the people were. If you know someone from the country, talk to them! If not, FIND SOMEONE. I spoke to one of my Nigerian professors who introduced me to a Tanzanian professor in another department. My interviewer thought that it was great that I had already started making connections with the country. The more you can show that you like the country, the more likely they will feel that you would be a good fit and be able to complete your service.
Know Your Assignment
Read the assignment description and get it in your brain what skills that you have that will make you a great volunteer. Want to teach English to kids? Tell them about how you volunteered reading to day care kids. Want to work in a health center? Tell them about how you helped enroll people in Obamacare. Even if you have to B.S. that time that you sold candy for your baseball team into working in the business sector, do whatever you gotta do. While you are looking at those blogs, try to find some in which the volunteers are doing the same job as what you will be doing. If you tell the interviewer about the experiences that these PCVs had, it will display how serious you are with the assignment. And do not be afraid to display confidence. I am generally shy but for that interview, I laid the confidence out like I was at the poker table with my last chips and a horrible hand. Make them feel that you know what you are doing and that you are better than any other applicant (apparently other applicants for the position had Ph.Ds or were 10-year-veteran HS teachers, so I had to lay it on thick since my resume was the David to their Goliath). Refrain from saying “I think” and try to say “I know”. Because saying “I know that I can teach Filipino children English” sounds way better than “I think that I will know what I am doing”. But, please, when you are being confident try not to be an a-hole. Everyone hates an a-hole.
Know Your Resume and Aspiration Statement
Yea, you wrote it. Yea, you did everything on it, but TRUST ME, nothing is worst than having a brain fart, forgetting what you did in the past and being stuck with “That time I had a group project for sociology” as your response for “How are you a good leader?” Print out your resume and have it next to you. Highlight the events that you know you want to mention and what made those events special. If you have to, make an outline of everything so you can see it all at a quick glance. Know how they relate directly to PC service and how they will well prepare you. Remember your aspiration statement. (After months of waiting, you may forget why you told them that you wanted to apply.) Make sure you know why you want to be a volunteer, and if you want to add something that you didn’t say before, say it now. Seriously sit and think about why you want to dedicate 2+ years, know how you want to word your main points and write it in the outline. For example, there was a statement that I made sure I said about having one life to live and filling it with meaningful experiences and taking huge opportunities. After I finished saying it, the interview said that it gave her goosebumps. You want THAT. The last thing you want to happen is to remember that big statement that you wanted to say after the interview is over or to say it wrong and leave them thinking you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Pray, do yoga, go for a run, do whatever you need to do to be physically, spiritually and emotionally centered. 15 minutes before the interview, I got on my knees and prayed for focus and calmness (and I am not Catholic so getting on my knees was NOT USUAL). This is a huge opportunity and you basically have one chance to take it. You don’t want to be “out of it” during this thing and you don’t want your nerves to get the best of you.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
The interview went wonderful. You feel great. But then they ask that question and you draw a blank, fishing for possible questions and end up with the all time favorite “How did you like your service?”.
While the above is a good question, after interviewing hundreds of applicants, the last thing your interviewer wants is to have to lay out their Peace Corps Spiel. You don’t want to fall into a pool of applicants, you want to be memorable! Be prepared with questions before-hand and make them honest questions. You are more than likely talking to an RPCV and the gatekeeper to that invitation. Impress them by making them think. Don’t just ask how they liked serving, ask them about what made their experience unique or special. What challenges did they face? If they could do anything differently, what would it be? What was their favorite, funniest, happiest or hardest experience? Basically, ask the questions that they just asked you! Listen to their responses and show that you care. Tell them how amazing it sounds and how you hope to experience that. Then, turn it back to yourself. Ask them about your application and if there was anything you could do to make yourself a stronger candidate. I was even bold enough to ask her if there were any concerns that she had with me as an applicant. This is your last opportunity to do what you have to do to rock the interview. At the end, make sure you thank them for the consideration and show how grateful you are that they feel that you can step into the huge shoes of those before you (or something like that). It may sound silly but if you want that invitation, Do what you gotta do!
Once you are done, be done. Come down from your high, call your mom (or friend, if your mom still thinks you’re crazy for applying) and decompress. Watch your favorite show or movie and breathe easy. You put yourself out there and made the best effort that you could. If you don’t get it then, oh well. You should have no regrets. But if you DO get the invite, CELEBRATE!!! You are going to the show! Dance your butt off, call everyone……then sit down and get ready for the mountain of paperwork (philosophically, since everything is online now) and clearances that you have to complete. Welcome to the Peace Corps!
From: Let Chan Tell It: My Peace Corps Safari: https://letchantellit.wordpress.com/