Gentle Tips for (New or Even Seasoned) Evaluators Looking for Jobs
Summer is a time when people generally tend to look for new jobs. In the past few months, I have received several inquiries for a position at my company. Although, we are currently not hiring—but this may change soon—I have entertained all queries to know what’s out there. Talent wise.
More importantly, I have been in this position several times when I was looking for a job right out of grad school.
No one trained me on (strategic) job hunting.
We are a small education research and program evaluation firm that works on grants awarded to school districts, colleges, and universities from various federal and state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and private foundations. I lead a team of four evaluators and an administrative staff member. You may say, I run a tight ship. If you are curious to know who we are and what we do, please check us out (www.mnassociatesinc.com).
Back to the queries. Most of the email queries, DMs on twitter, and via MNA’s website were general, open inquiries requesting for a quick phone chat, meeting over a coffee/lunch (before COVID), or a zoom meeting. I have responded to all of them via emails within a span of 24-48 hours.
Be nice. Be professional. Always.
First, I thanked them for their interest and requested them to send me their current CV, LinkedIn profile link, or a website (if any). I told them right away that MNA wasn’t hiring but if they are still interested to share their information, it would be for a future potential consideration.
Most of them reverted. I read their profiles on LinkedIn (even if some of them didn’t share them but they are public profiles and not hard to find), CVs/resumes, browsed their websites (if any), and scanned their publications or reports (if accessible).
Some of them asked to talk to discuss more. I agreed. I conducted 20-30 minute informational phone calls, a handful of zoom meetings, and maybe one coffee meeting (pre-COVID).
Again, I told them that we are not hiring right away since some of our work was on pause in spring due to Covid and we are trying to wrap up a few reports. However, if a position opened up later in the year, I would (re-)consider their application and if they were still available, we would talk again. Most of them were open to this proposition.
A good fit.
Prior to my follow up calls or face-to-face meeting, I spent considerable time reading their CVs to learn about them and their work. More importantly, to better assess if they might be a good fit for the work I am really interested.
When I say a good fit, I mean, if they have:
1. Research and/or program evaluation experience (any field)
2. Show an ability to employ qualitative and/or quantitative skills on and off field
3. Completed course work in research and/or evaluation theory (any field)
4. Have statistical/analytical skills, and
5. Any prior publications (as first or co-author) or completed technical reports.
What prompted me to write this?
After some point, honestly, I got a bit tired of asking the same questions of all interested candidates.
I asked them some basic questions:
- How did you “find” me? What prompted you to send me a note?
- Did you find anything interesting about MNA (e.g., work, people, projects, clients) that may have prompted you to contact me?
- Are there any specific areas / topics that you are interested to work/contribute?
- Might you have any in/direct experience in the kind of work MNA does?
- What are you looking in an ideal evaluation job/position?
Do your homework.
No offense but doing some homework and the small details do matter if you’d like to be hired and do a job that you may grow to appreciate or even love. And by the same token, a company owner could do some homework on the candidate if they’d like to hire a talented person for the kind of job they have for them.
Here’s what I have learned as a small business owner looking to hire a talented professional in my company at some point.
This is not a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts– what works best, etc. Just may be my thinking based on my experience these past weeks. Also, I am not penning these from an HR professional’s perspective, but from someone who runs a small research and program evaluation business; who runs a very tight ship.
Mass emailing may not be the best strategy.
Sending a mass or generic email to a company owner/contact is not a very encouraging sign to show an interest to work in that company.
Please take the time to do some research and home work on the company you have sent the note.
Same goes for the company/ person who wants to hire talent. Do your homework too.
Market your skills but do align them with the company/organization’s work.
Tell them what your specialized skills and content area(s) are. Where do your skills fit in the organization’s mission, work, and how you may contribute to their projects?
Most companies and organizations have websites and/or LinkedIn pages of the owners, maybe a Facebook page and a Twitter handle too. Do check them out. Learn about them and their products.
Tell them if you have done any work in areas or fields they work, how you can be an asset?
Cite your work, any research/technical report you have read and how that has helped your ways of knowing.
Have some research skills. We can sharpen them further.
Often times, small companies don’t have the time or capacity to train staff.
The expectation is that the candidates will have minimum research skills and are willing to learn on the job.
As a team, we all support each other but can’t complete someone else’s project/tasks.
Marketing. I know it’s not a great word but is needed.
Finding a job is challenging in these times. More so, for someone who is looking for a break.
But, a bit of homework does go a long way.
Be honest. Always.
If you don’t feel like you have all the specialized skills needed by the company (e.g., statistical skills and/or prefer to do qualitative work only), just say so. There is no shame in being honest.
We have a team of evaluators—some of who are better at one skill than the other. We are a team and help each other to get work done.
Personally, I would love to have a team member who has taken the time to do some background research on my company, has focused questions about our work, products, team, skills, history, and tells me how they can help us with their experience, knowledge, & skills.
What can we as a company learn from them? Ask me any question if it’s not on the website.
No question is ever silly. Just ask.
I am learning a lot too.