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Now Hiring! Tips for Acing the Interview for Financial Aid Director

A jack of all trades has nothing on a financial aid director. FA directors rely on so many competencies to perform their jobs that I often wonder if the best person for the job would be one with split personalities – a personality with the mind of an analyst, another with the charm of a politician, still another with the strategic skills of a master chess player, the critical thinking of a general, and of course the infinite patience of a kindergarten teacher.

Instead, most directors have one personality – and one heck of a skillset. It isn’t an easy task to communicate that special set of skills, important characteristics and breadth of knowledge in an interview, but somehow you must. This post offers advice on how to ace your financial aid director interview and land the job of your dreams!

Show your passion.

Are you excited about helping students fund their educational dreams? Then sing it in your interview. Just as any business owner wants to hire someone who will be as dedicated to their clients as they are, schools want to hire financial aid directors who care about students and genuinely want to help them. Never forsake passion in pursuit of professionalism. Smile and be open about how enthusiastic you are about the industry.

Know your audit findings and solutions.

How your department performs on audits is of obvious importance. However, it’s equally important to be able to react to audit findings with proactive solutions. Admitting you had findings in your last audit is far less reason for concern when you couple those findings with the specific strategies you set up to prevent future issues.

Put on your critical thinking cap.

If you’ve been a director before, you know that the work environment is constantly changing. Each year, there are new compliance regulations and new students with unique situations. You may sweat over the solution to one special situation and then never encounter it again. In short, many issues financial aid directors are faced with require the ability to weigh the odds and choose the best situational response for compliance and for the student’s interests.

A skilled interviewer will not ask you to “recall a time when…” but will instead ask for your reaction to a scenario in which each choice has pros and cons. Take your time and consider all angles of the issue before giving your answer. Do not say what you think he/she wants to hear; instead, rely on your experience and intuition.

Be confident.

If I am interviewing a candidate for a financial aid director, a position I know is going to pull that person in several different directions and require her to be quick thinking and responsive while delivering excellent customer service, I expect her to be fairly unruffled, even when I ask the tough questions. Sure, you’ll probably feel some level of anxiety during a job interviews, but it’s important to convey confidence in your abilities and experience. Answer questions with an even tone, and don’t apologize or contradict yourself. Don’t boast, but be your own cheerleader, celebrating your worthiness and excitement for this job. Because who would you rather hire: The person who believes in himself, or the person who hopes you believe in him?

Do your homework.

This is a tip from Interviewing 101, yet some applicants still let it fall through the cracks. Research the school and the person interviewing you. If you take the time to be thorough for your interview, the interviewer will assume you’ll be as thorough as an employee.

Share Your Stories

What has worked best for you in past interviews? What do you wish you had or hadn’t said?