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Application tips from placement officers: How to put your best foot forward

Application tips from placement officers: How to put your best foot forward

How many of us know the heartbreak of pouring our all into a job application, only to be turned down? 

Maybe we made it to multiple interview rounds and to add to our pain, we don’t know the “why” of the rejection: Was it something said? Lack of experience? What could have changed the outcome?

Since the Peace Corps continues to have high numbers of applications, aspiring Volunteers must ask themselves these questions. So for all who want to know what they could have done differently or those who are seeking tips before they apply, these are some of the responses that ten placement officers gave to five frequently asked questions we see online.

What is the first thing you notice in the application?

The résumé, closely followed by the motivation statement – these make the first impression. Please don’t send a résumé with an objective statement targeted to another job, or list relevant experience on the last page. These oversights may make your application seem like an afterthought. Also, remember that the motivation statement is a two-part question where you provide us with a sample of your professionalism: take the time to answer both questions, spell-check and capitalize appropriately.

Besides looking at the application, are there other things that help you decide if you want to interview somebody?

Absolutely! I often send a skill addendum to better understand an applicant’s qualifications, or an email to clarify a degree or expected graduation date. Even if you have limited sector-related skills, the way you respond back supports my decision-making process. For example, receiving a blank form back, a poorly written or incomplete response (like an email reply that looks a text message, with no greeting or signature) or not responding by the deadline shows lack of professionalism and commitment. But an applicant who can state that they are eager to learn or are actively seeking more skills even if they don’t have them yet – this is the right attitude.

How can applicants stand out during an interview?

There are many ways – and not all are good! Remember that you are being interviewed to be a representative of the United States and a face for the Peace Corps, so take care to prepare for the interview. Be early, have prepared and honest responses to the interview questions we sent you, set up in a quiet space and don’t show up in a T-shirt.

What makes an applicant stand out in a particularly competitive Volunteer job opening?

Some of the people that I’m most eager to invite demonstrated their commitment to serve in multiple ways. They were enthusiastic in the interview, telling me what made them excited about serving in my program even if they didn’t directly apply to it. They have tried to learn about the people and culture, not just the country’s landscape or political situation. A thoughtful thank-you note or an email after the interview telling me how they will gain more skills also tells me that they take their application seriously.

What is the single most helpful first step for anyone who wishes to apply?

Talk to a recruiter. From résumé advice to insight to what positions may have a higher need or tips for when to apply: recruiters are there to help!

Each quarter, the placement office receives thousands of applications and each of us must make difficult decisions for our uniquely competitive programs. Each invitation decision is the result of careful consideration, weighing all aspects of how you represented yourself through the application process against other aspiring Volunteers. This is because, as Core Expectation #5 reads, a Volunteer will be responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for professionally conducting themselves. Your application is your first chance to show you are ready to take on this challenge.

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.