5 Ways in Which My Higher Education Placement Exchange Experience was Like The Hunger Games

Spoiler Alert! Ok, if you haven’t figured out at this point in time that Katniss lives through the first Hunger Games, I guess I just ruined that for you, but come on, the second movie has already come out. This blog deals with how my experience as a candidate at a higher education placement exchange somewhat resembled the experience of a tribute in the Hunger Games. Before I go into that I want to say that no blood was spilled, and that I understand many professions do not have large placement exchanges like the one described here. Hopefully you will be able to take away some good advice to use in your job search in relation to interviewing. 

1. You are going to a strange city and have little idea of what to expect. 
 I landed in Baltimore, having been there only once almost 14 years ago. I didn’t know anyone else going and I only had one pre-scheduled interview. Taking a tour of the interview area, a.k.a. the arena, was daunting to say the least. The best advice I can give on this is to do your homework before hand and plan to be overwhelmed. The staff gave a great orientation so I highly recommend doing that and becoming as familiar as possible with the layout of the buildings.  Below is a picture of the interviewing area, it was enormous.

2. Your goal is to impress as many of the interviewers as possible. Just like Katniss showing off her archery skills, you want these people to think highly of you. I certainly don’t recommend shooting an arrow at any of the interviewers but there are a couple of things you can do in order to stand out.  First of all, do your research. I can’t stress this point enough, it will be very clear to the interviewers who has actually taken the time to learn about the position/institution and who is just winging it. If you have a fantastic personality, you might get by with generic answers but your best bet is to know why you like that specific position at that specific place. Secondly, know yourself. If you’re busy trying to be something or someone that you’re not, it’s going to show. You will have a much better experience if you know why you’re qualified and why you would be a great fit for the position.

3. You will get tired, possibly sick, all the while having to be “on”.
Okay, so I didn’t get stung by any genetically enhanced insects, but I did come down with a cold. I really don’t have any great advice for this other than to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep, wash your hands, carry sanitizer, and if do you get sick, try and take care of it as soon as possible. In terms of being “on”, realize that you not feeling well is going to impact how well you interview. Don’t stress over this because there’s nothing you can do about it other than to put on a brave face and try and make the best of a bad situation.

3. “Sponsors” will send you gifts in order to make your experience better. 
 Even though they didn’t come in little parachutes, getting SWAG was the highlight of my day.  

Two pieces of advice for this: 
  1. Don’t read too much into getting something.  It doesn’t mean you have the job, it could just be that a university has a lot of stuff and they need to get rid of it before going home. 
  2. Don’t read too little into getting something. They didn’t have to send you anything, so if you do get something, it means they at least like you enough to take the time (they are very busy too) to think of you specifically.  
Basically, just enjoy the gifts for what they are and let them be a bright spot in your hectic day. Below are some of the gifts I was sent.  

  4. In the end, only one person “wins” the job for which you’re interviewing.
No, you will not die if you’re not the victor, however, you do need to be aware that there are less positions than there are candidates. Simple math will inform you that someone out there is not going to get a position for which they interviewed. All I can say about this is that you have to keep positive (I know easier said than done) and truly believe that a right “fit” will come along.  Hopefully the odds will be in your favor.

Ultimately, I didn’t have to kill any of the other competitors. I, like everyone else, made it through unscathed. The best part of the experience was the experience itself, I gained a lot of interviewing experience and I honestly do feel considerably more confident in my interviewing skills than before. If you want to practice your interviewing skills in a considerably less overwhelming environment, come by the Auburn University Career Center to schedule a Mock Interview. You can practice your skills and gain information that might help you during your own personal Hunger Games.

Written by Bobby Whitehead
Graduate Assistant in the Career Center

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