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Manager of the year gives interview tips at RCC

As part of the “Future Leaders” series of presentations offered at Rappahannock Community College, Angela Davenport of Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Tappahannock came to the Glenns Campus on March 6 and the Warsaw Campus on March 7 to coach student audiences on making a good impression at interviews and in the workplace.

Lowe's Manager of the Year speaks to RCC students

Lowe's Manager of the Year speaks to RCC students

Davenport is store manager of the Tappahannock location—as well as the most recent “Store Manager of the Year” for the entire Lowe’s chain—and as such, has extensive experience in employment interviewing. She emphasized that in these times, very few people find a job that will last their whole working life. Frequent job changes are more the rule than the exception, and each change means at least one interview.

When she was sent to Tappahannock to open the new Lowe’s in October 2005, Davenport says that she had to interview over 1000 people. “I had openings for over 100,” she says, “but I could only find about 90 applicants” that she thought could fit in and do the work. A large part of her hiring standard consists of noting whether an interviewee is professional in both appearance and behavior. “You have to dress the part for the job you want to get,” she says. “No T-shirts, no flip-flops, and if you have tattoos or piercings, keep them covered. Keep your body language respectful—no eye-rolling. Learn something about the company before you go in, by doing a little research online. Present yourself confidently—give the interviewer a big smile and a warm handshake, and say your name clearly. Be authentically you. Be honest, be real—you’ll be amazed at how far you can go.”

Interviewers, Davenport stated, will often ask applicants to tell them what they are good at doing. “Think about it ahead of time,” she advised. “Understand your strengths, figure out your weaknesses, and be thinking of what you can improve.” And when answering questions, she suggested, always end with something positive: “No, I can’t work Sundays,” for instance, sounds much better when followed by “But I would be happy to work on weeknights.” As for following up on interviews, Davenport suggests giving prospective employers two days before calling back. A thoughtful touch is to mail a postcard thanking them for the interview opportunity, and saying that you admire the company and would like to be a part of it.

Job applicants will especially be judged on their “people” skills, says Davenport, since every employee needs these skills, no matter what work they do. Maintaining a positive attitude toward co-workers, supervisors, and the job itself is crucial, including such basics as answering the phone cheerfully and otherwise giving excellent customer service. “Be knowledgeable and helpful,” says Davenport. “Offer help to the customers—don’t make them ask for it.

After 21 years at Lowe’s (starting at a branch near her home in Newport News) Davenport knows what it is to climb the ladder of success. She has worked closely with RCC on a number of employee training programs, and is an enthusiastic advocate of the college’s efforts to educate the workforce. She has very generously offered to hold practice interviews with job seekers who feel that their interview techniques need improvement; to take advantage of this offer, please call the college. Information technology professor Ruth Greene (804-333-6796) will be happy to arrange meetings (at the college, on either Wednesdays or Thursdays), as will career coach Jackie Nunnery (804-333-6788) and job development coordinator Constance Peay (804-758-6739).

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