Jobs in wildlife are not your standard career choice. And the standard tips on interviewing don’t always apply for these careers. Here’s some advice for interviewing for jobs in wildlife or other environmental work to help you land that dream job.
Dress for Success
Dressing for an interview for a job that involves working outdoors in rugged terrain or scooping zoo animal poop may seem awkward. The general advice of dressing for a higher position in the organization when interviewing may not apply to careers with wildlife. Management may come to the interview wearing stained jeans, steel toe waterproof boots, and a baseball cap or sun hat.
But that doesn’t mean you should dress just as casual for the interview. You still want to wear career clothes. If you are applying for an outdoor type job, dress in nice office type clothes. For men, you can wear a tie but probably skip the jacket. Women should dress conservatively. If you are applying for a job that requires mostly office work, lab work, or meeting with business or governmental officials, then do dress as a manager would. For men, that means adding the jacket and a conservative suit for women.
Important note: When setting up the interview, ask where the interview will take place. If you will be touring the facility or park outdoors, do not wear heels or your expensive best shoes. You may even want to bring a change of shoes to the interview for a tour of the grounds.
Know the Equipment
Whether the job requires operating guillotine doors, radios, hoses, and rakes for zookeeping, or dissolved oxygen meters and conductivity meters to test water quality, or GIS software for land use mapping, be sure you have a good working knowledge of the equipment. If it’s an entry-level position, you may not need actual hands-on experience, but do know the terminology and basics. If you don’t know what GIS stands for and you are applying for a habitat restoration job or land planning job, you might be passed over for the position.
Study Before the Interview
You should have a firm grasp of the organization’s mission and operations before the interview. Most of this information can be found on the organization’s website, but also do a search of newspaper and other internet articles to learn the history and people in the organization. The interviewer will expect you to be familiar with the organization and will probably lead the discussion in a direction that will test how well you will fit into the organization and its mission.
Know the Laws
From zookeeping to environmental work, both state and federal laws guide the organization you are interviewing with. Know those laws that affect the organization and its mission. This may include USDA APHIS regulations, NEPA, CEQA, the Clean Air Act and the Oil Pollution Act, and may other regulations. Also, have an understanding of the local, state, and federal departments that regulate the specific activities of the organization. For example, zoos are regulated by state animal control laws and APHIS.
Know the Professional Organizations
Be familiar with the professional organizations associated with the group your are interviewing with. If there is time before the interview, join the related professional organization and attend events or seminars.
These types of positions lend themselves to trivia questions. And you better know the answers because they will relate to the job position. For example, if you are interviewing for a zoo or wildlife habitat job, know which species are endangered, local, and some species names of the more common flora and fauna. Typically the trivia questions are easy, so you don’t need to prepare like it’s a final college exam. If you follow the above advice in preparing for the job, then you will probably know the answers to any trivia questions the interviewer may throw at you.
Be Prepared to Perform
Since jobs in conservation, environmental, or wildlife work tend to require actual experience as well as academic knowledge, be prepared to show you can actually do the job. Depending on the job position, you may be asked to work with a zookeeper for several hours or act out a scenario with the interviewer, such as speaking with a member of the public asking many questions on a variety of topics. If this is for an environmental education job, you will probably be asked to pretend the interviewer is a classroom full of children and you will be expected to make a quick presentation on the spot. And don’t be surprised if you are handed a random object by the interviewer, such as a stapler, that you are to present on. You may be given scenarios that have actually occurred at the organization and asked how you would react or handle the situation. These types of interviews test the interviewees quick thinking, confidence, and past experience, all qualities necessary to any career with wildlife. In these jobs, you are often put into surprising situations that you must be able to handle in the moment without fear or pause.
Prep yourself for the interview with a list of questions. If you’ve done your homework and familiarized yourself with the organization, environmental and wildlife laws, and professional organizations, you should have a good foundation for starting your own discussions during the interview. Interviewers for jobs in wildlife are looking for an active participant in whatever the organization’s mission is. If you ask educated questions, you will show that you plant to fully engage in the job position you are interviewing for.