In light of our upcoming Regional Activity (April 9-10!) which I know everyone knows about and is most assuredly planning to attend (if not, go to our web site, www.usm.edu/prssa and register IMMEDIATELY! You don't wana miss out on thiss!!) I've decided not to bore you further with talking about it's infinite benefits ( networking, advice from experts, social media reviews, competition for $400 CASH-in -your-hand on Sat. April 10!) and have decided to touch on a new topic that is or will be affecting us all at one time in the close approaching future.
We dread them. We want them. We need them and they make us want to curl up and hide in a corner just thinking about them.
The gateway to all opportunities is undoubtedly an interview of some kind. How you approcah this gateway could mean the difference between getting or not getting the job of your dreams. There are a few things I learned just this year though that I think have made me a more experienced interviewee and as a fellow soon-to-be post-grad, young, PR professional I thought it might be helpful if I shared a few.
1. First off, it's essential that you be prepared.
I've been told by one of my dearest friends that I am the most prepared person she knows. It's a quality that has helped me a lot when it comes to interviewing and that everyone should decide now to adopt. Preparation is NOT just googling the company, although, that's an important part of it. Preparation means knowing all you can about the company. When did it begin? Where are it's offices? What type of clients do they work with? If you know who the interviewer (s) will be beforehand, google them too! Look at their facebooks and blogs. Get insider info on them. You may not use it, but you might find you have something in common that could be helpful when making a personal connection during your talk. Being prepared also means rehearsing. I have been known to do this before any kind of professional conversation with someone who could help me get a job. Ask a friend to quiz you on potential interview questions. It helps if the person is also in PR or in your same industry so they can ask the right types of questions. I have found that actually saying the words, hearing them, and having an idea how they will sound during the real thing, helps me stay organized. If you're doing a phone interview, you have a huge advantage. Always have notes in front of you to use as a guide (this helps you stay focused and have less rambled answers) and smile the entire time. They can tell. Trust me.
2. I was surprised that some people did not know this, but at the end of an interview, when the person says, "Well______, it was great talking/meeting you. Do you have any questions for me?" The correct response is NOT to say hurriedly, no, thanks, nice to meet you and bye. The correct response is to actually ask questions. I found some good ones on this blog: http://itsaprthang.wordpress.com/. Ask things that will give you a window to reiterate good things about yourself. Like, "what is the most important quality you're looking for in the ideal candidate for this positions?" "What could I expect on my first day if I was selected for this position?" "Can you describe the office culture at X Company?" Also before ending an interview either on the phone or in person, it's not a bad idea to reinforce or quickly recap why you think they should pick you. If they tell you the most important quality they are looking for in the candidate, assure he or she that you have that quality, that you would love to become a part of their team and feel that you have skills that would benefit X company immensely.
3. The final tidbit I have to offer is about what to do after the interview. Most interviewers will say, "feel free to follow-up." But, what exactly does that mean? It is sometimes difficult to determine if you're being pushy or naggy by calling to see if they have made the decision or by emailing them once a day. Here is how I typically follow-up after an interview and I invite you to copy my strategy (I've gotten positive results with it):
- When you leave the interview, already have in your car, an addressed and stamped thank you note envelope. Take a few breaths and write out a note thanking them for interviewing you and relating something they said in your meeting. Then, find a post box near the company and mail it so it will get there in a couple of days. It is also professional to type a note on letterhead that matches your resume. Send it the day of or the day after the interview though, no later. If it gets there 2 weeks after the interview, the point is lost.
- Three business days after the interview send a follow-up email. This email can say similar things to what you said in your note. Thank them for their time, let them know you hope they are keeping your application in mind, maybe ask a question you forgot to ask in the interview (nothing that has to do with salary, paid time off or holidays though. Save those questions for when they offer you the job!) You want them to know you are still thinking about them.
- A few days after the interview, find your interviewer on Linkedin (you will have already done this in the preparation stage). If they have one, add them.
- Also, start following them on twitter. You can even tweet and mention them, and that you enjoyed meeting them ( this can be done the day of the interview as well.)
- Call the person who helped you get the interview and tell them how great it went ( the day of or after the interview).
- Send a thank you email to anyone at the company who helped you set up the interview. Did a specific HR person have to call or email you a few times to set up the appointment? Thank them for being kind and helpful. Every bit helps!
Those are about all the tips I have today for how to ace an interview--except of course, for attending our Regional Activity April 9-10. It will help you learn all about how you can highlight social media expertise in your interview and on your resume, in addition to SO much more! Hope that everyone is planning to attend. See you there!
PRSSA VP of Membership