How to be a more competitive candidate after you've applied

By Lora King
Oct. 26, 2016

As a placement officer, I often get asked at the end of the interview, “How can I be more competitive for this position?”

This is a great question and one that I’d encourage anyone applying to become a Peace Corps Volunteer to think about.

Why do I need to be more competitive?

In 2015, the Peace Corps received a 40-year high of nearly 23,000 applications for approximately 4,000 open positions. Hard skills are some of the first things I see when I look at an application, and I’d encourage you to read my colleague Erin’s advice on how to choose a position. Look at the desired skills section of the postings you are most interested in (or for which you are currently under consideration). The skills listed there will give you an idea of the kind of volunteer experience you might gain that will be most relevant — and thus most competitive — for that sector or position.

We look at more than just hard skills and experience, however, and it’s the other pieces that may demonstrate someone’s suitability (or lack thereof) for Peace Corps service.

But how do I demonstrate those soft skills?

First, review our Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers. These are the 10 expectations we have of all Volunteers whether they are serving in Nicaragua, Namibia or Nepal. While this could be an entire post of its own, as a placement officer I want to know that you have read, reviewed and taken these 10 expectations to heart. I would like to see that you are prepared and committed to 27 months of service, to improve the quality of life for the communities we serve and to have the flexibility to do so under conditions of hardship if necessary.

Second, we do expect that our Volunteers understand the importance of professionalism during the application process. You are applying for a job and we expect that our Volunteers will conduct themselves in a manner they would with any other job application. Wear professional clothing, double-check the interview time (is it Eastern Time and you are located in California?) and have your phone ready in case there is an issue with the video interview.

Interview preparation will go a long way in demonstrating your interest in the position. Be prepared to discuss your experiences and to demonstrate the research you have done into the Peace Corps and the position you are interviewing for. Even if an applicant hasn’t experienced many of the common challenges, I hope they have done research and recognize that they may face challenges like lack of running water or daily access to internet.

Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up with your placement officer if you have gained additional skills and experience, or if you have continued to research the country for which you are being considered. A short email to reiterate your continued interest is a great way to show us that you remain committed to service.

Whether or not you’ve submitted your application, it’s never too early to start researching and preparing for Peace Corps service.

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

Lora King

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