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Updates to PEP Courses for Fall and Winter Terms

Highlighted below are the changes associated with PEP courses:

TO: MSI Students
FROM: Margaret Hedstrom, Associate Dean for Academic Programs
RE: Important updates on 2010-11 course offerings

Dear MSI Students:
Greetings from SI's new headquarters in North Quad. As we head into the final stretch of summer, we have made a few adjustments in the class offerings for the coming year. We also have approved some new options for what can count for certain degree or specialization requirements.

Here are updates regarding specific courses:

SI 529 eCommunities - offered in fall
Paul Resnick will offer this class in fall term this year rather than in winter.

SI 539 Complex Web Design – seats added for Fall term
We have added some additional seats given student interest; however, remember this course is also offered in winter term.

SI 534 Theories of Social Influence - now counts for management distribution
This course has been approved to count for the management distribution requirement. Students who took the course last year may also count the course for the management distribution.

SI 543 Java – seats added
We have added some additional seats given student interest.

SI 572 Database Design - offered fall without PEP credits and in winter with PEP credits
The popularity of this course had been increasing steadily and really jumped this fall. The course also has a new instructor, Colleen Van Lent, who has received very positive evaluations for teaching SI 543. To accommodate the growing student interest, we have decided to offer SI 572 in winter term as well as in fall term. However, due to the transition to a new instructor, we are not able to offer the PEP component of the course for the fall. Starting in winter, the external projects that justify the PEP credits will be offered again as part of the class. If you are enrolled in this course and need the PEP credits to graduate this fall, you can seek advising from Joanna Kroll or Xiao-Wen Zou to identify an alternative plan.

SI 645 Information Use in Communities - offered winter term
This course will be offered this academic year, after all. Our new faculty member, Joyojeet Pal, will teach the course in winter term.

SI 686 User Generated Content (New title; formerly Public Goods)
This course has a new title, and now counts for the Social Computing specialization in addition to Community Informatics and Information Economics for Management (formerly ICD).

Note that the updated TAP sheets are now available at http://www.si.umich.edu/msi/taps/. Remember that you can follow the new options described above for meeting requirements. The updated TAPS will reflect changes in the terms that courses will be offered as well.

Please check the status of your fall registration. If you signed up for an extra course or two that you no longer intend to take, please drop courses you no longer need to make room for the incoming MSI students who will be registering Wednesday, July 28! If you need to make a change in your schedule, you may want to take care of it soon.

Enjoy the rest of summer and best wishes,

Margaret Hedstrom
Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor
School of Information
University of Michigan
4323 North Quad
105 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285

Posted by kkowatch on July 23, 2010 at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

Building Interview Skills: Intensive Preparation Strategies

It can be difficult to know where to start in preparing for an interview. There are so many pieces of advice available to the general public that the development of interview skills can be an overwhelming and stressful process. It doesn’t have to be that way. Mock interviews aren’t always the best initial strategy, and manicures are no prerequisite to landing a dream job. For the potential employee who has just started the application and interview process, it’s best to simply be knowledgeable. People who are aware of their high degree of knowledge are likely to be confident, well informed, and capable of sustaining dynamic conversation in an interview.

Know Yourself

It’s easy enough to have a résumé. But how much self-knowledge does that really reflect? A résumé is a basic summary of experience and skills, but there’s much more to a person than one or two pages of text. It’s important to know what makes you interesting, what qualifies you to do the work you love, and what you want out of a career. Employers want to see the full 3-D image that makes you a real person, so don’t make the mistake of limiting the amount of information you provide in an interview.

• To get more information on yourself, go back through any letters of recommendation that have been written on your behalf. These will provide positive snapshots of your skill sets, abilities, and work ethic. It’s usually a good idea to have a few short quotes or quote summaries from past employers or coworkers in mind when preparing for an interview.
• Determine the high and low points of your career and analyze why you experienced success or failure in those instances. This can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, which is useful information in an interview. It’s also helpful if you can suggest alternative ways to handle situations that have challenged you in the past.
• Figure out what you want out of your career. If you don’t know, then try to get an understanding of how work fits into your personal goals. Employers want to know whether or not they can sustain you throughout the length of your career and how much of your time you’re willing to devote to their company.

Know the Company and Position

Once you have a firm grasp of the positive facts about yourself, it’s time to figure out how you would fit into the company.

• Most e-mail requests for interviews will have information about who sent the message. Go to the company website, find the staff page, and figure out the role of your interviewer – what does he or she do to help the company grow? Would you be working beneath him or her? This is usually the case, so it’s important to know who your interviewer is.
• Find out more about the position you’re being interviewed to fill. Think about how your experience would qualify you to do this job well. What outstanding skills do you have that would set you apart from other interviewees? Comb the website to make sure you understand every detail and can talk freely about your knowledge of the company and what you could do for it.
• Think about what you would do first if you were hired. For example, is there anything about the company’s website that you would fix? If you’re an editor, find a block of shoddy text to re-write and show it to the interviewer. If you’re an expert in design, rearrange a page on the site. Lawyers can almost always find something to fix – maybe there’s copyright infringement on an image or a poorly worded summary of a legislative change. These are bold moves, but they make sure that the interviewer knows how proactive and hardworking you are.

Know the Questions

All interviews include the inevitable core of questions and commands such as “How do you prioritize important tasks?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Be sure to have answers prepared, but don’t allow yourself to sound rehearsed. It may help to write several responses to keep up a sense of immediacy and variety once you get to the interview. The following links include additional advice on how to develop interview skills, such as popular interview questions and preparation tips.

• This PDF from Sydney University has two sections that can help refine interview skills. The first section begins on page 3 and explains the importance of understanding the recruitment process of a given company or organization. There’s also a “Successful Interviewing” section that starts on page 17.
• The Iowa Resource Guide for Job Seekers has a wealth of relevant information for the potential employee. A “Preparing for the Interview” section can be found on page 9.
• This PDF is a checklist for interviewers, but it’s very helpful for anyone preparing to be interviewed. It can help you understand why interviewers ask some of the questions they ask, and it can also give you a chance to prepare strong answers.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo: Public Domain
URL: http://lh6.ggpht.com/_yTX1KlazeUg/SUpl2u6JggI/AAAAAAAAHuI/1aUHp0-HwsM/s800/295W%20in%20Cubicle%20Offices.jpg

Posted by kkowatch on July 23, 2010 at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

How to Answer Essay Questions for Information Related Positions

I was skimming through listserv messages yesterday and one in particular caught my eye. A professional at a SI-related organization wrote a very nice statement on what they look for when screening applicants for a position. This particular application process includes essay questions and the writer shares what sort of level of review goes into this part of the application and how to best answer essay questions that ask for the applicant to demonstrate knowledge and experience. Read on....

..".its interesting that you posted this, as I have been spending much of the past 3 days scoring applications for a position we have open in our division. I get asked to do this a lot, as I am reasonably good at it, and was coming across a common problem that I wanted to point out to people.

Like many large organizations, [our organization] does not rely on resumes for job applications, instead having a structured system that generally entails an initial screening of minimum qualifications (years of related work, educational attainments, needed credentials). Applicants that pass that phase then get scored on their answers to a series of narrative questions. This is generally the phase I am involved in. Once scored and ranked, the top candidates are then interviewed. Note that the only point at which a resume actually plays a role is after the interviews:
if a number of candidates are closely ranked, then the resume may be an element that plays into the final decision.

This is not particularly unique to [our organization] - this kind of process is fairly common in both public and private sector HR systems.

The reason is related to the hundreds of applications received for every job opening. Such volume necessitates a fairly structured system that ensures consistency and fairness so that we are comparing apples and apples. Resumes alone would not allow for this consistency on such a large scale.

The most common mistake I see in the process relates to the narrative questions. These questions generally want the candidate to demonstrate knowledge and experience, not simply state it. For example: In answer to a question regarding retention scheduling, simply saying that you have done it for x number of years is not sufficient. Saying how you did it - mentioning, for example, how you analyzed the operational needs, legal and fiscal requirements, and potential historic value of the records being scheduled - actually demonstrates knowledge. Maybe you had to research HIPAA requirements. Perhaps your schedule resulted in significant volume reductions in a given operation. These kinds of details, which don't have to be long, can really make a difference, as they demonstrate knowledge and experience.

I'm amazed at how many people pass over these types of questions with the most cursory answers, assuming their qualifications/resumes speak for themselves. They don't. You may have the best resume in the world, but given the process described above, if you don't pay attention to the narrative questions and demonstrate knowledge, you probably won't get too far in the process.

Posted by kkowatch on July 23, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

United Nations Competitive Recruitment Exam - September 19, 2010

The United Nations is once again offering the National Competitive Recruitment Examination (NCRE) for full-time professional positions.

This year the exam is open to citizens of the US, as well as a host of other countries listed on the link found in the attachment. Deadline to apply for exam consideration is September 19.

Students interested in UN careers (in the fields listed below) should consider applying for the exam even if not graduating in the coming year as it can take a few years before finalists are offered positions.


For U.S. citizens seeking junior professional posts.

EXAMINATION CRITERIA (all must be met)

1. Be no more than 32 years old as of December 31, 2010 (UN requirement).

2. Have at least an undergraduate degree (advanced degree is an advantage, but is not required) in one of the following occupational fields or related areas:

• Administration
• Demography
• Economics
• Human Rights
• Legal Affairs
• Radio Producer (only for Arabic, Chinese, and French)
• Security
• Statistics
• Web Design/Development

3. Be fluent in English and/or French, the two working languages of the Secretariat. Knowledge of additional official languages of the UN (Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish) could be an advantage.

NOTE: Admission to the exam may be limited to the 40 most qualified Americans per occupational group.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: September 19, 2010

Detailed information and application forms may be obtained at:


Examination will be held on December 1, 2010, in
New York City and San Francisco. Travel expenses to and from exam site will NOT be paid by the UN or U.S. Government.

Posted by kkowatch on July 07, 2010 at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)