Job Interviews

Job interviews are a chance for a potential employer to get to know you and your work history better, to inform you of the details of the job and answer any questions you may have. For this it is important to put your best foot forward and come ready with answers to any questions they may ask you. You should also know exactly what you are getting into.

Do some research on the company before you get there and if you know the name of who you will be meeting with, google them so you know what you are getting into. You should understand the employer, the requirements of the job, and the background of the person (or people) interviewing you. The more research you conduct, the more you’ll understand the employer, and the better you’ll be able to answer interview questions (as well as ask insightful questions). Scour the organization’s website and other published materials, search engines, research tools, and ask questions about the company in your network of contacts.

Another key to interview success is preparing responses to expected interview questions. First, ask the hiring manager as to the type of interview to expect. Will it be one-on-one or in a group? Your goal is to try to determine what you’ll be asked and to compose detailed yet concise responses that focus on specific examples and accomplishments. A good tool for remembering your responses is to put them into a story form that you can tell in the interview. No need to memorize responses (in fact, it’s best not to), but do develop talking points.

Plan out a wardrobe that fits the organization and its culture, striving for the most professional appearance you can accomplish. Remember that it’s always better to be overdressed than under and wear clothing that fits and is clean and pressed. Keep accessories and jewelry to a minimum. Try not to smoke or eat right before the interview” and if possible, brush your teeth or use mouthwash.

There is no excuse ever for arriving late to an interview. Short of a disaster, strive to arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled interview to complete additional paperwork and allow yourself time to get settled. Arriving a bit early is also a chance to observe the dynamics of the workplace. The day before the interview, pack up extra copies of your resume. If you have a portfolio or samples of your work, bring those along, too. Finally, remember to pack several pens and a pad of paper to jot notes.

As you get to the offices, shut off your cell phone. (And if you are chewing gum, get rid of it.) A cardinal rule of interviewing is to be polite and offer warm greetings to everyone you meet from the parking attendant to the receptionist to the hiring manager. Employers often are curious how job applicants treat staff members and your job offer could easily be derailed if you’re rude or arrogant to any of the staff.

When it’s time for the interview, keep in mind that first impressions, the impression interviewers get in the first few seconds of meeting you, can make or break an interview. Make a strong first impression by dressing well, arriving early, and when greeting your interviewer, stand, smile, make eye contact. Offer a firm but not bone-crushing handshake. Remember that having a positive attitude and expressing enthusiasm for the job and employer are vital in the initial stages of the interview; studies show that hiring managers make critical decisions about job applicants in the first 20 minutes of the interview.

Once the interview starts, the key to success is the quality and delivery of your responses. Your goal should always be authenticity, responding truthfully to interview questions. At the same time, your goal is to get to the next step, so you’ll want to provide focused responses that showcase your skills, experience, and fit with the job and the employer.

Provide solid examples of solutions and accomplishments but keep your responses short and to the point. By preparing responses to common interview questions, you’ll ideally avoid long, rambling responses that bore interviewers. Finally, no matter how much an interviewer might bait you, never badmouth a previous employer, boss, or co-worker. The interview is about you and making your case that you are the ideal candidate for the job.

While the content of your interview responses is paramount, poor body language can be a distraction at best or a reason not to hire you at worst. Effective forms of body language include smiling, eye contact, solid posture, leaning forward active listening, and nodding. Detrimental forms of body language include slouching, looking off in the distance, playing with a pen, fidgeting in a chair, brushing back your hair, touching your face, chewing gum, or mumbling.

Studies continually show that employers make a judgment about an applicant’s interest in the job by whether or not the interviewee asks questions. Thus, even if the hiring manager was thorough in his or her discussions about the job opening and what is expected, you must ask a few questions. This shows that you have done your research and that you are curious. The smart jobseeker prepares questions to ask days before the interview, adding any additional queries that might arise from the interview.

The most qualified applicant is not always the one who is hired; the winning candidate is often the jobseeker who does the best job responding to interview questions and showcasing his or her fit with the job, department, and organization. Some liken the job interview to a sales call. You are the salesperson and the product you are selling to the employer is your ability to fill the organization’s needs, solve its problems, propel its success.

Finally, as the interview winds down, ask about the next steps in the process and the timetable in which the employer expects to use to make a decision about the position.

Common courtesy and politeness go far in interviewing; thus, the importance of thanking each person who interviews you should come as no surprise. Start the process while at the interview, thanking each person who interviewed you before you leave. Writing thank-you emails and notes shortly after the interview will not get you the job offer, but doing so will certainly give you an edge over any of the other finalists who didn’t bother to send thank-you notes.

Work Attire

There is an expression, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” Even if you’re happy in your job it’s still important to look your best. This doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit, but it does mean looking neat, clean and well-groomed (daily showers!!!) at all times. A Company’s objective in establishing a formal work dress code is to enable the employees to project the professional image that is in keeping with the needs of the clients and customers to trust them.

In a formal business environment, the standard of dressing for men and women is a suit, a jacket, and pants or a skirt, or a dress paired with appropriate accessories. Clothing that reveals too much cleavage, your back, your chest, your feet, your stomach or your underwear is not appropriate for a place of business. Clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished. Any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other employees is unacceptable. If you experience uncertainty about acceptable, professional formal business attire for work, please ask your supervisor or your Human Resources staff.

Slacks that are cotton or synthetic material pants, wool pants, flannel pants, pants that match a suit jacket, and nice looking dress synthetic pants are acceptable. Inappropriate slacks or pants include any that are too informal, this includes jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, Bermuda shorts, short shorts (all shorts!), bib overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as people wear for exercise or biking. Dresses, skirts, skirts with jackets, dressy two-piece knit suits or sets, and skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable. Shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, and turtlenecks are acceptable attire for work if they contribute to the appearance of formal, professional dress. Most suit jackets or sports coats are also desirable attire for the office.

Conservative walking shoes, dress shoes, oxfords, loafers, boots, flats, dress heels, and backless shoes are acceptable for work. Not wearing stockings or socks is inappropriate. Athletic shoes, tennis shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, and any casual shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office.

A professional appearance is encouraged and excessive makeup is unprofessional. Remember that some employees are allergic to the chemicals in perfumes and makeup, so wear these substances with restraint. Hats are not appropriate in the office. Head Covers that are required for religious purposes or to honor cultural tradition are allowed (don’t forget your koptuff!).

Certain days can be declared dress down days, generally Fridays. On these days, business casual clothing, although never clothing potentially offensive to others, is allowed. Clothing that has the company logo is encouraged. Sports team, university, and fashion brand names on clothing are generally acceptable. You might want to keep a jacket in your office for the days when a client unexpectedly appears on a dress down day, especially if the client is wearing a suit.

These dress code policies are generally what you might see in an office, it is always best to consult your offices rules first. For some more tips read the attached article.

Work Conduct

Workplace success relies on much more than simply fulfilling the requirements of your job description. “Professionalism,” is a valuable trait, and its basic tenets can be applied to any job in any field. Arriving on time to work and for meetings demonstrates commitment to your job. Chronic lateness, meanwhile, is a blatant show of disrespect for your coworkers, superiors and entire organization. Keep an eye on the clock both at the start of the day and during your lunch break to make sure you arrive and return on time.

Everyone has bad days, but bringing your bad attitude into work not only reflects poorly on you but also accomplishes nothing. Resist the urge to take out your bad feelings on others and instead commit to check your attitude at the door. Focus your energy on the positives: what can you do to make a bad situation better?

When coworkers are exasperating and deadlines are intense, work can be a stressful place. Keep your temper in check during challenging situations. If you can’t control your emotions, walk away until you’re in a calmer state of mind. The stereotypical “dog eat dog” office environment has been replaced by cultures which value collaboration beyond all else. If your coworker needs help with a project, offer to pitch in. Remember that the accomplishments of your colleagues also reflect well on you and your entire organization. Just as you should be willing to share your knowledge and talents with your coworkers, you should be equally receptive to the contributions of others. The expression “many hands make light work,” holds true in the workplace for those willing to accept the assistance of others.

No one expects you to like all of your coworkers, but sharing your negative opinions and personal gossip interferes with productivity. This doesn’t just pertain to talking about others, but also to talking about yourself. Being friendly with your coworkers is one thing but chronically airing your dirty laundry over the water cooler is unprofessional.

In life, no one is immune from mistakes. It’s inevitable that workplace mistakes will occur, but acknowledging your errors, making your best effort to correct them, and learning along the way can help you recover and avoid future falters.

You also need to be aware of office etiquette. Do you text during meetings? Leave dirty dishes in the communal kitchen? These office no-nos are disrespectful and can interfere with how you’re perceived by others. Pay careful attention to office etiquette and make sure your behavior is in line with expectations.

Procrastination is a fact of life, but in the workplace it can lead to frustration between colleagues. Follow through on your responsibilities and your coworkers will view you as reliable. Conversely, show appreciation to coworkers who do the same. Independent of level or title, every person in your workplace deserves to be treated with respect. The more respected team members feel, the better you’ll be able to communicate and collaborate for optimal results.

“Never criticize, condemn or complain” is mantra you should turn into a habit. Instead, smile a lot, thank people for what they do and praise them.  Yes, praise them. It will stick in your craw your entire life but you should practice until it flows out with ease.  “Did you have your haircut?  It looks great!”  “I read your report and it is really impressive.”  “I can’t believe you came to work feeling so poorly, that shows real commitment.” Look for things to praise and do a few every single day. Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

Learn to take a compliment!  Practice saying “Thank you, that’s so kind of you to say!” over and over until it also does not stick in your craw!!!  

Good luck!!!

Sexual abuse

Difficult topic.  No culture or religion that I am aware of is immune to the horrible situation where children are sexually molested by older children or adults.  There is a lot to say about this so I refer you to this very complete reference.

What we know from the Catholic priest pedophilia disaster is that in strict religious environments where sex is not discussed there is higher risk of unreported abuse.  In many religious communities sex is considered highly sinful, a high power disparity exists where leaders are not to be questioned, and people have learned not to stick there necks out.  When people are punished for criticizing leaders there is less willingness for parents to stand up for their children.  Also in some of these settings there is a tendency to sidestep laws such as mandatory reporting of suspected abuse to state authorities.

There are many people who have alleged sexual abuse on the Bruderhof.  It is rare for such a person to take the huge personal, emotional, family and financial risk of taking legal action.  Recently the hof has adopted a policy to try to reduce future abuse but it is unclear whether this is for legal protection or out of true dedication to stamping out abuse.  We can only hope it will be successful.

Scenarios that have been alleged in the past include a servant misusing their power to sexually molest boys, medical personal misusing physical exams for their own sexual arousal, adolescent teens molesting younger children, parents sexually molesting their children.

Often children are not aware that abuse has occurred.  They often believe that any sexual interaction was their choice.  Often the abuse is so disturbing that memories are suppressed.

The important thing for you to know is that if you were ever touched sexually or inappropriately by an older child or adult, this is wrong and it wasn’t your fault.

People who have been abused should report this to their state’s child protection services.  They should arrange to see a therapist on a regular basis.  They should seek out others who have similar experiences so that they have social support around these isssues.  All this is hard to do and often none of this happens, but they are good goals.

If you need help with any issue you can reach out to us and we will try to connect you with support and advice.  [email protected]



Finding a guide

It is important that you find people to talk with early on.  Your entire life has been packed with people and things to do and all of a sudden your built-in 1000 friends are gone.

“I have a lot of family outside the Hof. People who don’t may have no one to actually turn to. Obviously this website is a help and I also found non-family, non-former-Bruders to help as well.”

If you don’t have a good family member on the outside to turn to, consider asking for a mentor.  “Talking to an ex-Hofer and comparing your story is not only therapeutic but also helps organise your own thoughts. You start actually seeing how ludicrous the whole thing is and move on slowly. Also when kids start figuring out college,etc they will have someone to advise them. And no one is better at doing this drill than those who did it before.”

Reach out any time to [email protected]


“The hardest thing for me to deal with was the emotional part of being alone and having so little to do with my time that was constructive. I was really lonely and although I quickly developed a routine of going to the gym and hanging out with coworkers or walking by the river, I honestly had no idea how I would possibly move on from that. I cried every night for a month. I got really good advice from outside family to basically cut out all the sentimental bull shit and move on. The sooner you can move on the better and stop thinking about it”

That’s from a very recent leaver.  Old timers will say that decades later you will likely still be dealing with it and that at some point processing it with other people who have left the hof is very useful.  You can’t just bury a problem like this.  Like Jack’s magic beans it can lead to a whole heap of trouble!  (maybe that is what that story was about!)  But in the short run, make yourself get up and do something useful. Look forward, not backwards for the most part.

If you think it would be useful to have a mentor/friend who has been through this just write to us and ask.  [email protected]

Talking with your parents

Unlike most people who move away from home, you are going to have to adjust to a very different relationship with your parents.

One recent leaver said “I spoke with mine a lot because I could but very easily argued with them. When I left, I was not super honest in saying that I was never going back. My parents didn’t even want me to think about that. Make sure leavers realize that however they feel at the time, they may eventually want a good relationship with their parents and the easiest way to maintain that is to not talk about anything consequential. You don’t have to tell them everything anymore. Also, you will never justify your choices or change your parents minds​ so don’t even try. Resist the temptation to ping off angry emails to anyone back on the Hof.”

That’s good advice.  Most other leavers have soon figured out that the best thing to communicate with your parents about is non controversial stuff like the flowers and birds outside your window.  They will not be able to handle many of the things you do and the choices you make so spare them the details.

And whatever you do, don’t expect anyone there to apologize or even recognize anything they did wrong leading up to your leaving.  That kind of humility doesn’t seem to be in their toolkit.

Begin to build a new support group outside the hof made up of new friends or other leavers who know exactly what you are going through in a way no one else possibly can.

How to develop credit

You will need credit to function well in life. The first step is to have a job that pays you something.  The volunteer setups the hof often arranges are nice but if you plan to make it on the outside, get a real job.  Next start a bank acccount and start saving money.

When choosing a bank, ask if they have starter credit cards.  These require you to maintain a balance of ~$500 and may use the card up to $500. Use the card heavily for small things like food but pay it off each month religiously!  You can set up your account to pay the minimum each month automatically in case you forget to make a payment, which is terrible for your credit.  But don’t just pay the minimum, pay it off completely.  This means treating your new credit card like a debit card, it’s not for spending money you don’t have.

After 6 months of religiously using and paying off your card ask your bank to move you to a regular credit card or increase your maximum, but keep paying it off religiously.  Later a car purchase or student loan will continue to build your credit rating.  Not paying a utility bill like phone or heat will destroy your credit rating.

Credit rating means how much people trust you to pay back loans.  It’s not based on knowing you personally, its computer generated.  Any missed payments, very easy to do, reduces your credit rating.  There are sites that allow you to look at your credit rating but beware, these are money making sites and they want to sell you more than you need.

Over time, if you always pay your bills on time and never default on a loan or bill, and don’t maintain high balances on your card, you will have a good rating and be able to buy a car or a house when the time comes.

Relationship with the Bruderhof

No one but you should decide how you interact with your family. That being said, so often it is entirely out of your control. It can be heartbreaking to see your connection or lack thereof dictated by the Church. It  is easy to be angry with family still in the community. After all, they made a decision that led to extreme separation, by giving up their freedom of choice through baptism. But then, so did I. I chose to leave, knowing I would likely have little to do with their daily lives in the future. I was fully aware of the way they treat leavers. I decided I would put myself through the pain of separation for the sake of personal agency. Even if I were still within the community, there’s no guarantee I’d be living on the same commune as my mother. It’s always going to be painful, but each individual has to decide if the separation is worth it – if the cost of choosing your own career path, the people you surround yourself with, the way you dress and where you live – if the ability to make these choices for yourself is worth letting go of a relationship that ultimately strangles your sense of self. One can also keep hoping they revamp their policies towards leavers.  Perhaps one day people will be able to come and go freely on the communes, promoting the healthy family unit they claim to support. Until that day, there are hundreds of people out here willing to step up and be a family to those like us who have essentially lost ours.

On Social Life

Be wary of people’s motives! The community didn’t teach me much about stranger danger or how to advocate for myself. I found myself in uncomfortable and even dangerous sexual situations throughout my first year of college because I didn’t know how to say no to people. I had to teach myself to be assertive. Being selfless and self-effacing might work in the Shalom group but it has no place in the social sphere of today. It will only make you look like prey to unscrupulous men. Own your weaknesses and strengths and learn to use them. I no longer worry about feeling rude when I am uncomfortable with a situation. I speak my mind and make an exit. I’d much rather be known as a bitch than a pushover.

With regard to friendships – some people may want to accessorize you when they hear your story – i.e. “This is my cult friend!” That type of behavior makes me uneasy. I do not like to be reduced to my background, especially when that is such a small part of who I am today. Friendships should be supportive and uplifting, and involve a mutual give and take. Don’t feel bad about being selective with whom you give your time to. You don’t need negativity to bog you down while you are building your new life. Say adios to the haters and don’t look back.