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Hey Job Seekers: read this

July 1, 2008

Given the softening economy, I figure a few of you are out there interviewing with new companies.

Whether interviewing for a job, especially in my industry, PR, keep in mind these timeless tips (and deal breakers).

  • HSECHRU (handshake, eye contact, “how are you?”) – mean all of it. firm handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, and ask how they are doing. But only if you mean it. I want to meet real people when I interview potential candidates. If I respond, “Well, it’s been a busy day – a client just acquired two companies in a week, another is launching a major new product and we’re kicking off a new client tomorrow – wouldn’t have it any other way,” I expect a bit of banter back and forth on these topics. I’m looking for a real person who’s comfortable “going off script.”
  • Your files(s), pad and pen should be the only thing on the table. Anything else is a distraction.
  • And definitely don’t pull a Roger Clemens a la 60 Minutes and hold and spin a water bottle. That, too, is distracting.
  • Remember – we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. And it’s absolutely critical in an interview situation to listen to your interviewer and address his/her hot buttons and questions throughout the session. Don’t wait until the end to ask your questions. By that time, you may have lost your opportunity. For example, when asked: “What did you learn in your previous role that will enable you to succeed in the role we’re offering,” answer succinctly and then be the one to follow up with a simple question such as, “I trust you see these traits as being integral to this position. Are there others you can share as well?” Doing this positions you as genuinely curious while enabling a real dialog. Chances are that your interviewer mentions a few more and you can then react. Listening is key.
  • Do your homework. And now in this day and age, do your homework on your interviewer. It’s not that hard and you can create a strong first impression. But no stalking or being creepy.
  • Often times, I have a member of my staff begin the interview and then I follow up with the candidate for the final 30 minutes. I absolutely LOVE it when a candidate takes initiative and asks me a question(s) or comments on something he/she learned in the previous 30 minutes. This tells me two things: you’re smart and curious. I always give the candidates a few minutes in between the “grilling” in hopes that they think about the first interview. Keep this in mind.

A few deal breakers include: over anxious and communicating in a not so sublte way that you want to be CEO tomorrow; asking about vacation time (maybe I’m crazy but I find this to be an off-putting question in a first interview); talking negatively about your former employer; unshaven.

I am still shocked and awed at candidates who come through the doors and fail to communicate baseline intelligence on my agency. That’s the ultimate dealbraker. If you can’t answer, “So why LEWIS,” you’re just another boilerplate candidate.

More tips to come in a follow on post.

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