5 Things to Consider When Applying to CAC AmeriCorps

Recruitment season is in full swing here at the CAC AmeriCorps office! From the time we begin recruitment to the time we fill all the positions in our corps, our office can go through close to 300 applications. With that many applicants, the positions can be quite competitive. We all want each of our applicants to succeed, so each of us here in the office sat down and thought of 5 things that impress us (and other general advice) during the CAC AmeriCorps application and interview process…you’re welcome!

Jason Scott, CAC AmeriCorps Program Director

1. Choose your references wisely.
The difference between a ‘Satisfactory’ appraisal and an ‘Above Average’ or ‘Outstanding’ appraisal in our Corps may very likely be a determining factor whether you are competitive or not.  Ideal references should know you fairly well in a work/volunteering/internship/service context and be willing to speak specifically about your demonstrated potential for success in our Corps.  Direct supervisors in a related discipline area tend to make the strongest references.

2. Have a sense of where you see yourself in our Corps.
CAC AmeriCorps has a website, social media and other resources readily available online that can help frame your application and interview.  Being prepared in this way illustrates your specific interest in our program and helps us find strong site matches in our Corps.  Many will not be offered an opportunity to serve with the first site they interview with.

3. If something may come up on a background check, be transparent about it.
A ding on a background check may or may not exclude you from serving in our Corps, but not mentioning it / being deceptive about your criminal history will very likely get you excluded / kicked out.  All members are cleared through a robust criminal history clearance process that includes a state check of the state from which you applied, the State of Tennessee, FBI and National Sex Offender Public Website.  This is a federal requirement and there is no exception.

4. Fill out the ‘Skills’ and ‘Interest’ portion of the application thoroughly and write more than one or two sentences in the ‘Motivational Statement’ section.
The first two are the sections of your application that programs can see when they are recruiting potential applicants for their program.  These sections are a good way to illustrate your knowledge, skills and abilities in a categorical way that will help recruiters/interviewers get a better sense of how what you have to offer. The ‘Motivational Statement’ section is essentially your cover letter that allows you the opportunity to share a little about yourself and make a value argument as to why you are competitive.  This is your opportunity to connect.

5. A commitment to serving others/something bigger than yourself and the ability to articulate purpose and passion.
This can be for a discipline area like water quality, public lands, poverty alleviation, etc. or it can be for working with your hands, educating children or coordinating community events.  It can even be a heart felt discussion about a past experience and how it contextualizes your application.  Issue driven disciplines have little room for indifference.

Ariel Allen, Assistant Program Director

1. Fill out the “Interests” section in the application.
This is actually the most important section to me because it shows not just your experience but what you actually personally enjoy doing. The more detailed your app, the better idea we get of who you are and which site would be a successful match.

2. Look at our website!
If you are offered a first round interview, there is a reason we include a link to our website. The more informed an applicant is about our sites and our program, the easier it is to match you. Plus we give you major kudos points when you do your research! (Extra bonus points if you mention this blog!)

3. During the interview, it is aok to not have an immediate answer.
Take thoughtful pauses- it shows confidence and maturity rather than rushing to fill the silence with an answer.

4. Be honest with what you are looking for.
Our end goal is for you to have a meaningful and empowering experience through our program. If you are not interested in field work and hiking 8 miles a day- tell us! We have many sites that are more administrative. Not comfortable with data collection or analytics? Let us know and we can help steer you towards the right site.

5. I’m always impressed with an applicant that asks about the Knoxville community. It shows me that you are already interested in the people, the service, and the mission- not just the position at face value.

Nicole Stephens, Support Services Specialist

1.) People that take the time to cater their answers to our program/put an environmental spin on their answers.
It shows me that you are actually interested in what you are applying for.

2.) When people take the time to do research and ask about Knoxville itself.
As someone who moved to Knoxville to participate in this program, I was very curious about what life was like in a city I had never visited. If you are seriously interested in our program, you should be too!

3.) When people take the time to read the blogs on our website-and ask questions about them! 

4.) When people ask about my own experiences as an AmeriCorps member and now as an AmeriCorps staff member.
Each AmeriCorps experience is different, but it shows maturity to ask the thoughts of someone who’s been through the program you are applying to.

5.) When answers are conversational.
I am always impressed when an applicant takes the time to do more than talk about themselves during an interview

Christine Doka, CAC AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

1. A well thought out Motivational or “Why I Volunteer” statement.
I want to know that you care enough about making a difference that you will be committed to your year of service.

2. When I can tell if you’ve looked at the website.
And better yet, have an idea of where you would like to fit into our corps (aka, you have a site in mind that you are interested in learning more about).

3. Ask me how our corps “works.”
With all the different programs (S/N, VISTA, occasionally NCCC) we facilitate through CAC AmeriCorps, I understand it can get a little confusing. If you have questions, let me know! I’ve participated in 2 out of the 3 aforementioned AmeriCorps programs through CAC, so I have a good working knowledge of the intricacies of both.

4. Timely and transparent communication through the interview process.
It is really appreciated when you get back to me in a timely manner and are transparent in your communication. I want to make sure that you find the perfect fit for your service, year. It’s normal to have questions or doubts at first. Let me know, and I’ll be more than happy to share my experiences with you and how I made it work.

5. Pause and take time at the beginning of an interview question if you know it’s a tricky one.
It shows that you care enough to give well thought out responses.

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This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.