Erin Hunt Moore here, LCI’s Senior Counselor, with a few pointers for job candidates on how to get noticed and what habits and practices to leave behind.
Over the past months, we’ve dedicated more than one LCI blog post to employment – from best job search practices and resources for the fresh graduate from our own Tarah Beaven to the power of the thank you note from our Philadelphia affiliate, Anne Buchanan. With unemployment still hovering around 11 percent in California (the second highest in the country, as reported in May 2011), as well as an influx into the job market of both new graduates and the underemployed, this is a hot topic that isn’t going away soon.
Having recently spearheaded the hiring process for a key account support role here at LCI, I’m armed with fresh fodder on interviewing and communications etiquette to share. I’ve conducted my share of interviews in my 15-year career, but this time around was a bit of an eye-opener. It’s been a number of years since I’ve interviewed with such gusto and a number of things have apparently changed.
We are in the business of communications and relationship-building. Candidates looking to land in the world of PR should be prepared to communicate well and make an impression. I confess that I’m a bit of an etiquette stickler – and while I feel that social media and digital communications have opened doors to quick communications and convenience (which we love in many ways!), there are a number of best practices and good graces which seem to have dropped off along the way – or have simply never been taught. So, what stood out from my foray into Craigslist recruitment and the subsequent interviewing marathon? A few rules of engagement:
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Neglect to introduce yourself: Yes, we have posted a job opportunity and know that the attached resume is likely in response. But, how much better would it be to include a note of personal introduction, either in an official cover letter or special email note, letting us know who you are and how you are an ideal candidate? Make a strong first impression. This may be your last. Note: these folks did not make it in the door.
- Leave off the resume: Reverse of the above. In this case, interest is expressed without an attached resume. Don’t create an extra step for the person you’d like to impress. Wouldn’t you like us to see how qualified you are? Note: also not invited in for an interview.
- Submit error-filled correspondence: There was a time (not so very long ago) when spell check did not exist. There’s no excuse today for sloppy and careless grammar and writing – especially when the job you’re interviewing for demands impeccable writing skills. This is your opportunity to shine! Have someone take a look for you. Your resume and letters should be immaculate and reflect your skill as a savvy communicator.
- The novel: Rule of thumb – resumes should never more than two pages, even as a C-Suite executive (well, there may be some flexibility there). If you’re applying for an entry-level position, you’ve not likely had enough experience to fill two pages. Keep it simple! Longer resumes won’t be read.
- Showing up without an appointment: Arriving in person to speak without an appointment is never a good idea. Be respectful of the schedules of others. And, worse yet, if you’ve been turned down for a position, do not show up to an office without an appointment to discuss the decision in person. Rejection can be tough. But, this will not change a hiring manager’s mind and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be considered for work with this company. You will, however, be remembered – just not in the way you were hoping.
- Over-communicating: Yes, I did mention that communication is a good thing. There are limits to that. Follow-up is important. Once is a good standard, unless you’ve been asked to check back in at a later time. More than that and you’ll find yourself outside of the good graces of the person you want to impress the most.
- The cold-call: Don’t call a company or hiring manager blindly without emailing an introduction and resume first. Give your contact the opportunity to review your well-crafted introduction and resume before contacting – offering a point of context, rather than catching them off-guard.
- Be professional: You simply can’t go wrong with corresponding articulately and with respect, arriving on time, dressing appropriately (suit, no jeans) and bringing documents with you for your interview. (Note: while I love punctuality, I did have at least two candidates arrive more than a half-hour early. There must be a term for that – eager – but, better early than the opposite! They waited for a bit.)
- Stand out: Create a resume and letter which is succinct and stands out. There are so many wonderful and easy programs available to you – add in a few subtle bells and whistles. Provide information without being asked (i.e. writing samples, a link to your blog or website, references).
- Know who you’re speaking with: Do your research! Display a clear understanding of the company’s business and set of clients and communicate why you would be an asset to the team. Even better: take a look at case studies, account successes, media coverage, etc, and provide feedback during your interview. What stood out, what you liked. Let your interviewer know that you are informed and aware of their work.
- Do take time to follow up: Graciousness is something which should always be intact – especially in this fast-paced climate we’re living, working and communicating in. Take time to follow-up and thank your interviewer, even if you don’t get the job. You don’t know what the future will bring and where that person might end up. There could be a place for you – especially if you’ve done everything you can do to position yourself as a strong, positive and capable candidate.
There are many resources today for etiquette around interviews and job searches –and for communication, in general. We may be moving faster today, but certain principles hold true. Manners and etiquette will always make an impression and ultimately take you far.
Please connect with Erin at [email protected]. If you’re interesting in working at LCI, please DO send a complete cover letter and stellar resume to [email protected], where you can also find further information about the company and its award-winning work.