Okay, application season is in full swing, with Dietitians of Canada applications in, and applicants awaiting calls for interviews. At this point in the game, you’re probably thinking more deeply about the programs you’ve applied to and picturing every possible turn out – what your life would be like in each one.
Something that was mentioned over and over in my surveying of my network was reaching out to interns or graduates of the program of interest. Those who reported doing so were happy they did, and those that were hesitant to reach out for help wished they did.
So what are you looking for when you reach out to an intern or graduate of the program you wish you could get into? Well, real talk, you’re really wondering “What did you do to get in and how can I do that?!” Buttt.. that’s not really appropriate to ask. So what is? Well, that’s exactly what this post will get into, so let’s get to it.
Firstly, I’ll share some questions I think are inappropriate to ask, and then we’ll delve into some more effective substitutes.
What Not to Ask:
“How did you get in?”
Straight up asking this is kinda rude. Firstly, it gives off the impression that they didn’t get the position because they deserve it, and secondly – How do you answer this?! There is no secret code they have that unlocks the opportunity – they didn’t hypnotize the program coordinators – they didn’t hack the system – there is no easy way to answer this! They got in because they damn deserved it. Next.
“Can you send me your cover letter?”
Um, no. When people ask me this my first question [to myself] is, ‘Why do you want this?’ Every single applicant is so different and has vastly different experiences to reflect on and skills to draw on, so having a sample of somebody else’s cover letter is utterly useless. I then wonder if people ask because they want to examine the formatting and tone, to which I would say, “Do your research – look online for generic cover letter formatting/tips, or see your career counselor.” I personally worked on my cover letter with my school’s career counselor, and she was incredibly helpful when it came to formatting, tone, etc – way more helpful than somebody else’s cover letter would be!
The runner up is, “What did you include in your cover letter?” which is also a useless question again because of applicants’ various experiences and such. When people ask me this I give a generic speel that includes NO NEW information. “My experiences, related to that of the program”, “skills/assets that would be transferable to the tasks of the program”, “What I plan to do with the lessons learned if I were to complete the program, etc”. NO NEW INFO. Nothing to see here folks. Next question.
“What did they ask in the interview?”
K nobody is going to tell you that. And it’s not because they’re mean or secretive or whatever – it’s because it is confidential and they are not allowed. In many interviews for these programs, interviewees have to sign a document stating they will not share any information to outsiders. So you can see very quickly why this question is also useless. What could you ask instead? Let’s see.
The Application Process:
K so we just went over what not to ask about the application process, and I shot down all your prospects. So now what? What IS appropriate and helpful to ask? How about trying these:
“What did you find helpful when preparing for your interview?”
“How did you effectively make use of the space or word count allotted for the cover letter?”
“How did you research/learn more about the program before writing your cover letter?”
“What do you think would be more effective for me to put a focus on in my cover letter, X or Y?”
“What resources did you use to help you with your application?”
“What part of the application did you spend on the most time on?”
“What piece of advice might you give to somebody applying this year? What do you wish you had known when you applied?”
You see folks – more specific, more insightful, and more well-thought-out questions. Those are the type that will likely give you some of the advice you were after.
Often times when people reach out for advice this is where they stop. They ask questions about the application process and then they’re out. But let me open your mind to another approach to the conversation – other whole subsets of questions that will really help you develop a clearer picture of the program in question.
And why does it matter how clear the picture is? Because the clearer the picture the better able you are to paint yourself in there and to demonstrate that in both your application and interview.
Check back next week to explore questions you might ask in relation to the culture of the workplace, the workload, the flexibility, and generally other applicant’s personal experiences. You aren’t gonna want to miss out on this new approach to more effective, enlightening conversation.