GETTING IN THE DOOR: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT FOR THE JOB SEEKER

 

  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.

 

WHAT WORKS

  • 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.

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5 Comments

  1. David Landis Reply

    Erin, thanks for a very spot-on blog. I can’t believe how many young job seekers don’t understand that “asking for an informational interview” before sending your resume (and an introductory email) is not appropriate. How would any of us even know your capabilities without taking a look at your resume? And if you don’t send a resume, it usually means you’re not qualified. So therefore, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. Most of all, Erin, I appreciate your thoughts regarding manners and etiquette – thank you’s, as our PR colleague in Philadelphia, Anne Buchanan, has repeatedly said – are always in style. Cheers, David

  2. Benjamin D. McWilliams Reply

    Great advice Erin! I was lucky enough to have a few mentors in business school who made it clear that manners and presentation were of paramount importance during the interview process but many people my age seem to fail to recognize their importance. Having just gone through the process of finding employment, I was shocked to see so many other candidates arriving at their interviews in jeans or with mismanaged facial hair. Even if the company you are applying to allows people to dress casually in the office your interview is a chance to demonstrate your commitment. Overdressing shows that you are willing to do as much as possible for the job. The other points I found particularly salient in this post were the nuance of punctuality and the importance of following up. Punctuality is the art of being at a specific place at the correct time not the practice of arriving early for fear of being late. I personally think following up is the most important part of the process. With the job hunting process moving online volume is a major issue. Employers are inundated with resumes as the jobless fire them down every possible vocational avenue. It’s very difficult to see if someone is actually interested in a job or personally invested if they don’t even have to pay for a postage stamp to apply. Also generic cover letters make it possible to apply for a job in thirty seconds without even knowing what it is. Following up is a way to show you’re interested; it’s a way to show that the position is valuable enough to merit your time and effort. When I was looking for jobs I opted to only apply for the ones I knew I’d actually enjoy and would be willing to commit to on a long term basis. While this narrowed my search it also gave me the time to custom design my cover letter and be vigilant in following up. I think the fact that I was committed to the process showed that I was interested in getting this job not just interested in getting any job. And look at me now; I have a job at Landis Communications Inc.

  3. Laura Conway Reply

    Nice post Erin. I would think that a lot of these points would be already understood, but it’s true that they definitely need redefining these days. Fun and succinct. Well done!

  4. david Reply

    Ben, your interviewing skills are one of the reasons you stood out from the pack. Glad you’re here at LCI. Cheers, David

  5. Scott Hanson, APR, Fellow PRSA Reply

    As the hiring process at many companies becomes more automated, with some only accepting resumes via their websites or HR department e-mail boxes, it is even more important to stand out.

    Oh, and thank you for the post.