I handle the internship and co-op programs here, and, especially for summer, I get hundreds of resumes for only two open positions.
A few weeks ago, AC Lesley wrote a blog post about some major resume mistakes we see: Why We Passed on Your Resume (Sorry, Not Sorry). She did a great job emphasizing the importance placed on an applicant’s attention to detail.
Now that your resume looks great and you’ve scored an interview, what do you do? Here are a few interview tips to help you stand out from the crowd and snag that gig!
Let’s start with the pre-interview prep:
Do your research. I’m not just talking about reviewing the website to identify a few clients to mention during the interview. Really research the company. Check out work the agency has done on behalf of its clients (Google is an amazing tool) – previous work is a pretty good talking point to bring up during the interview. It shows you’ve done your research. Read the company blog (well, I guess you’ve got this one covered, since you’re here) – see what they’re talking about. You may even stumble upon a post or two that can give you great insight into how to get hired (just sayin’). Check out the company’s social channels – you can really grasp the company culture this way. Is it laid back or buttoned up? Is this a culture you feel would be a fit for you? You can also bring up some funny or impressive posts you saw.
Dress to impress. The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is well-known for a reason. You’re walking into an office, trying to knock out others for a position you really want – make sure you look the part. Ladies, make sure your hair and makeup are done and appropriate for the position. It’s in your best interest not to come in with a messy bun on top of your head and raccoon eyes from last night. Guys, make sure your hair is combed and if you have facial hair, see that it’s clean and trimmed. I know you’re thinking, “Umm, obviously,” but you’d be surprised.
Now for the clothes. I know you’re on a student’s salary (aka nothing), but you just need one nice interview outfit. It doesn’t have to be a full suit (unless you plan on going into finance or law), but a pair of black pants and a nice shirt or a professional dress will make solid additions to your wardrobe that you’ll use for years to come. Stores like H&M sell some nice, inexpensive pieces.
Buchanan PR is pretty laid back, but nothing speaks, “I don’t really want this job” more than showing up for an interview in jeans.
All right, you look great and you’re dressed to kill. Here’s what to do when you arrive at the office:
Greet everyone with a smile. It’s pretty obvious you should always treat everyone you meet with respect, but this is extra important during an interview. If you’re rude to the person who answers the door, there’s a 99% chance you won’t get the position. Companies, especially those on the smaller side, will ask every person what they think of a potential candidate. If one says, “She was rude” or “He ignored me when I spoke,” you’ve pretty much guaranteed someone else will get the position. Also, your use of good manners will make your grandmother proud.
Ask questions, please. We’re PR people, we love to talk. If you don’t have any questions, it makes us think you’re uninterested in our company. Be sure you have at least three non-position-related questions – the kind that won’t get answered while the interviewer does his or her spiel (how many hours, what the position entails, pay, etc.). Remember all that research you did beforehand? Now’s a good time to start asking about that. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How did you get started in PR?
- What do you like most about working here?
- What do you like least about working here?
- How would this internship differ from others in the area?
- What are the most important qualities you’re looking for in an intern?
You did it! You rocked the interview. Now what?
Send a thank you note to each person who interviewed you. This is something that can really set you apart from other candidates. Drop each person an email expressing your interest in the position and thanking them for taking the time to interview you. Bonus points if you can add in a personal item that you remember from the interview. Extra bonus points if you send a handwritten thank you note, too.
If there are two equal candidates and I’m trying to decide between the two, the one who sent the thank you note usually gets the position. But what if you realize the position isn’t for you? Send a thank you note, anyway, and let the interviewer know you feel it’s not a fit.
Finally, the PR world is very small. If someone reaches out to you to schedule an interview, always respond, even if it’s to say, “Thank you, but I’ve already found a position.” And if you don’t get the internship or job, be polite and thank the messenger for letting you know. You never know when and where you’ll encounter that person again. Plus, your grandma will be proud of you, again.
Though these tips were geared toward interns, they definitely apply to all interviewees.
So, now that I’ve gone through my tips, what about you? Do you have any suggestions? Also, interviewees, this is a two-way street, what advice do you have for interviewers?