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Friday, March 13, 2009

How to Bring up Your Spanish Community Service Learning in a Job Interview


by Ann Abbott

I have always sustained that Spanish community service learning provides students with really important pre-professional experiences.

But what good are those experiences if students' potential employers don't know about them? I have activites and test items that ask students to "translate" their Spanish CSL experiences into resume items, cover letter content and interview answer material.

So this item on "How to Answer 10 Tough Interview Questions" caught my eye. Spanish community service learning won't give you the magic answer for all ten of those questions, but for students who are going out into a very tight job market with perhaps very little experience under their belts, they should certainly draw from their Spanish CSL experiences as much as possible. The key is translate those experiences in key ways:

  1. Detail what you accomplished, not just your duties.
  2. Tell what you learned from the experience.
  3. Explain how what you learned is applicable to the job you're interviewing for.

With that in mind, here are some of the article's "10 Tough Questions" and how a Spanish CSL student might answer. (For some, I have left the original wording and added information about Spanish CSL in italics.)

Tough question: "Tell me about yourself."
Suggested answer: "I graduated from University X and while I was there I studied X and Y. In particular, I took a course that required that I work in a professional setting with local Spanish-speakers. Among other accomplishments, I helped ten clients fill out their tax forms, all in Spanish, and for my team project we made a step-by-step video explaining in Spanish how to fill out the simplest tax form; we posted it to YouTube, and it has had 2,000 views so far. While I have enjoyed the challenge of working in a local not-for profit, I'm looking to put my communication and technology skills to use in [your sector]."

Tough question: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
Suggested answer:
"I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer. I also know your company reaches an international market, and I'd like to grow into work in which I travel and utilize the language and culture skills I developed during my Spanish service learning work. The Latino market will be even bigger in five years, and I'd like to help your company build those relationships."

Tough question : "What are your weaknesses?"
Suggested answer:
"When I worked at X organization, I felt butterflies in my stomach when I spoke Spanish on the phone. By the end of the semester I was pretty confident, but I'd like to continue honing my spoken Spanish. I enjoy speaking with people and building a good rapport, but there's always a lot to learn about other cultures. I know your company has many international clients so..."

Tough question : "Tell me about the worst boss you ever had."
Suggested answer:
"The Volunteer Director at the organization where I worked was great. But because I was a volunteer, not a full-time employee, she wasn't able to utilize all my skills to help the organization as much as I would have liked."

Tough question: "How would others describe you?"
Suggested answer:
"My teacher-supervisor for my service learning work asked me to work one-on-one with a student who was behind in reading, in Spanish. She had confidence in my Spanish abilities, my patience with the student, and my creativity--I constantly had to think of new ways to keep the child engaged with the books."

Tough question: "What can you offer me that another person can't?"
Suggested answer:
"I'm the best person for the job. I know there are other candidates who could fill this position, but my language skills, ability to work in a multicultural setting and my drive set me apart from the pack. For example, I could have taken all "regular" courses, but I loved the extra responsibilities that my Spanish service learning course required, and here are some examples of what I accomplished..."

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