Monday, July 19, 2010

The Hunt: Interviews & the Secret Sauce

Through this short series, we've "Re-covered the Basics" and looked at "Concurring the Digital Realm." Now what factor is it that's going to help you land that dream job in public relations?

It's a simple principle, even though it seems to be looked over by most entry-level candidates, and it all starts with the interview.

Interviews & the Secret Sauce...

Getting your foot in the door with a firm or organization is a tough first step; however, the interview process will make or break your chances of getting the job you're after.

Interview Basics Check List:

The Look

  1. Professional Business Attire (first appearances DO matter, be conservative)

  2. Laptop and briefcase (with tabs already pulled up to display your online portfolio)

  3. Physical portfolio (just in case you need it)

  4. Notepad portfolio (with a pen, handout samples of your work, and that business card we talked about)

The Talk

  1. Be open and honest about your skills (and how they will benefit the position you are seeking)

  2. Be observant and create a personal connection with your interviewer

  3. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the job and the firm (it shows your interest)

  4. Keep eye contact (it shows confidence)

Other than this short check list, it's best to check out other tips you can find online. My personal favorites for PR interviews are "5 interview tips to get you the job" by Marisa D'Vari and CVTips PR job interview tips. You should also prepare a list of frequent interview questions to help study by.

Can you hear me now?

In the words of the How I Met Your Mother television character, Barney Stinson, "Suit UP!" even if your interview is over the phone. Phone interviews limit a lot of your presentation. Wearing your professional attire affects your inner psyche and helps build a sense of confidence. And that confidence carries in the tone of your voice, which is important in this situation. My interview for my now job at the Society of Professional Journalists was held over the phone while I was wearing a suit.

Other MAJOR phone interview tips:

  1. Make sure you are in a comfortable, quite location
  2. Internet access is a plus
  3. Phone reception is IMPERATIVE (For me, living in Mississippi at the time with AT&T as a provider was hazardous to the interview process so it was pretty important to find a location with stable service)
  4. Post your resume in front of you

The Super Secret Sauce!!


Yes, PASSION! The greatest weapon you can possess in you professional arsenal is passion! Its influence effects everyone around you. If you're not passionate about the job and firm you are applying for, then there is little reason to apply for the position to begin with. My passion for SPJ's mission and the objectives that the communications coordinator position required is what gave me the true edge during my interview with SPJ's Executive Director Joe Skeel and Director of Communications Scott Leadingham. It set me apart from the other highly qualified candidates and got me the job.

You don't have to over do it but don't be afraid to express why you want the position you're applying for, why you want to work in that field/industry and what you do to further your knowledge (books, blogs you read). The more informed you are the more impressive you'll look.

And (if asked) it's OK to share other goals you plan for yourself; personally and professionally. Having aspirations makes you a true asset and influence in helping to build upon a firm or organization's business model.

So there you have it. These are the factors that helped me in finding my first great public relations job. I hope these tips have helped to give you a new sense of perspective and I wish you all the best in the pursuit of your job.

Happy "hunting!"

The Master of Persuasion

This past year, 2009, marked the bicentennial birth of one of America's greatest presidents and in remembrance, I want to take reflection of the works of Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln was charged with one of the most devastatingly difficult moments in U.S. history- the Civil War. In his hands, he found the strength to bring together a divided nation in its darkest moments. By many historians, Lincoln is considered to be the greatest American president. He will always be mine.

To understand the impact of Lincoln's legacy is to examine his views on the subject of public opinion, and to study the techniques he used to influence it.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."- Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln understood that public opinion is everything and it drove an ethical center in his presidency. He also knew that to shape that public opinion would take the fine art of persuasion.

He recognized that bold new ideas needed time and patience to become accepted as "inevitable." Even with drastic change, Lincoln still gave the people time, announcing the immanent issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 days before hand rather than a bold immediate implementation of the act.

He also understood the principle of being forthright with the public. Persuasion, in Lincoln's view, did not include concealment in areas of disagreement. His listeners were entitled to know exactly where he stood, even if they did not agree.

Lincoln's eloquent use of language was profound and his rhetoric figures of irony, metaphor and extended metaphor reflected the styling of both the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare. In your spare time, I highly recommend reading the series of articles by's Joe Romm, detailing the precision of Lincoln's work in these styles. It is a wonderful view into the mind of our greatest president.

Lincoln's mastery of language, inspiring determination and faith in us all are the same principles any public relations practitioner should live by. Thank you, Mr. President.