By Kate Miller
The purpose of an informational interview is to talk with a professional who is working for a company or in an industry that you are interested in working in. This interview takes place either in-person or virtually. It may seem daunting or weird, but I can tell you from my experience that informational interviews have been the most important thing I have done throughout my internship and job search.
Informational interviews have been valuable because they have required me to get all of my ducks in a row, find some courage, be as professional as possible and ask a stranger for career advice. While the wording of an introductory informational interview email request may differ from person to person, most professionals and students know the parameters. You are simply trying to learn about what the professional does for a living. I promise, informational interviews become easier once you get the first one over with.
The first step to landing an informational interview is to reach out. As a student at the University of Oregon you have so many connections at your fingertips and alumni want to talk to you. So have courage, be professional and reach out. Be aware that professionals are busy so be considerate and grateful for their time and expertise. In my experience, professionals love sharing about their job and you being interested in what they do is exciting for them.
The first professional I reached out to was a woman at Edelman in New York. Edelman is a place I hope to work for one day and speaking with an alumnus about her experience helped me understand what it took to get there and provided me with a connection at Edelman when I was applying for their internship program. Networking has been most helpful while pursuing an internship and a strategy I will continue to use to one day find a job. In my opinion, PR is about three things: connecting, storytelling and strategy. The more connections you have the better.
Do Your Research
As a young professional, you need to show the person you are speaking with that you have done your research. You want to know what they have done in their career, how they got there and have some quality questions to ask. They are taking time that could be spent working to speak with you, so be prepared. The questions you ask should show that you are intentional and curious.
Send a Thank You Card
This is key. After the vast amount of knowledge, you have obtained from this professional, send a thank you card. It makes all the difference. It makes people happy to receive a handwritten thank you card and shows the professional that you appreciate the specific things you discussed with them and how much it has helped you.
Networking is essential and after your first informational interview, it will be way less scary. I personally love the insight and connections informational interviews provide me with professionals and I encourage you to take every opportunity that you can. It has led me to internship opportunities and has given me insight on where I would like to potentially work in the future.
You polished your resume, sent a top-notch cover letter and finally landed the interview for your dream job. Now comes the stressful part — preparing for the interview. Although you never know the exact questions your interviewer will ask, preparing for the hardest questions will ensure that you head into the interview with confidence.
Here are the top five questions you should prepare for:
1. What is your greatest weakness?
This is a question we all dread. However, it is a great opportunity for you to show your future employer how you overcome obstacles. Whatever your weakness may be, make sure to highlight what you did to overcome it.
2. Why do you want to work here?
This is your chance to show them how much you know about their company. Talk about specific project they recently did with a client and how it impressed you. Better yet, share about how you drew inspiration from a campaign they did and used it for a project you worked on at school. The employer will be impressed that you took the time to understand their strategies and reinterpret them for your own projects.
3. What are your goals?
This can be a tricky question. Do you talk about personal goals or work-related goals? The answer is both. Talk about an immediate goal you have—something in the near future such as getting a job at a company that allows growth opportunities. Then talk about a long-term goal such as working your way into a leadership role within that company. These answers will highlight short and long term goals as well as personal and professional goals.
4. What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
This is by far the hardest question to answer. You don’t want to sound cocky, but you also don’t want to appear to lack confidence. Employers are looking for something that makes you unique. Think about skills and experiences you have that will directly help you solve a problem this employer may have. Then tell them how those skills will help you complete a task.
5. What salary are you seeking?
While this might not come up in every interview, it is important to think about in case it does. Do some research and see what the going rate is for the position. You don’t want to go high and have it disqualify you from the job, or set the bar too low and allow them to pay you less then the others with similar qualification. Be prepared to give them a number and have confidence you are worth that amount.
These barely scratch the surface of possible interview questions. My advice is to research the company and know as much about them as you can. Look up as many interview questions as you need to calm your nerves. Practice them with a friend or family member and remember to take a deep breath before going into the interview.
Austin is a senior public relations student graduating in fall 2014. Austin is interested in pursuing a career in investor relations and financial communication. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Samuel Mann
Landing an interview is the most exciting and nerve racking experience in a new graduate’s life. In this day and age, we face extreme competition not only from our classmates but also from kids across the country. This is why it is important to do your homework before heading into an interview. Here are a few tips to impress an employer at your next interview:
Research. You should never underestimate the importance of research. Your insight will show your employer that you have come to the interview prepared. Most importantly, it will demonstrate your ability to problem solve and give them confidence that you can complete assigned tasks.
Bring Questions. Have at least five questions written down that you can refer to in case they slip your mind. Make sure your questions show you looked into the company and you have a good understanding of how the company operates. Something you might ask is, “I see that your company’s motto is … can you explain to me how that is seen in day to day operations?” This will show that you have done your research and that you are assessing whether or not this company is right for you.
Take a deep breath. Everyone knows that interviews are scary and stressful, but you want to appear calm and collected. Deep breaths help to calm you down so you can think more clearly, and a calm demeanor will show confidence in your abilities.
Send a thank you note. It may sound old school, but it is always good to follow up with a hand written thank you note after the interview. Thank you notes show you appreciate the opportunity to interview and handwritten notes will set you apart from other candidates. Start off your letter by thanking the employer for taking time to meet with you. Then in the body talk about things you learned from the interview and referring to your relevant skills. Conclude by thanking them again and encouraging them to contact you if any questions arise.
The job market is full of stiff competition and you need stand out. If you enter an interview with a solid understanding of the company and bring good questions, you will be sure to make a good impression. What are some of your interview tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments.
Austin Zerbach is a senior majoring in public relations. Austin plans to pursue a career in event management post graduation. You can contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So you have finally landed the interview. Now what? Here are 10 tips to help you overcome anxiety and land any internship or job with ease:
1. Come prepared. Do your research about the company or the person interviewing you. When they ask you why you want to work for them, you can talk about work they have done for clients or campaigns that inspired you. Also, bring a pen, paper and a copy your resume.
2. Know your resume like the back of your hand. Chances are, your interviewer is not going to read through your entire resume before the interview. They will be glancing over it throughout your conversation and asking you to speak more directly about experience that intrigues them. Practice elaborating on key points on your resume the night before your interview.
3. Come with three great questions. When your interviewer asks you if you have any questions at the end of your interview, you have a chance to ask more about what really interests you about their company. Try to avoid sticking to questions about the internship position itself.
4. Arrive early, but not too early. Try to walk into the lobby about five minutes early.
5. Map out your route the night before. Know how to get to the company that you’re interviewing at and how long it will take to get there.
6. Prepare an interesting elevator pitch. If you only had 30 seconds to tell someone about yourself, would you just parrot information that they could get from your resume? Be creative but strategic.
7. Dress to impress, but keep company culture in mind. Even if the company you are interviewing at is casual, you should show in your attire that you take the interview seriously. Typically for a casual company, you don’t have to wear your nicest suit or heels. Find one formal piece, such as a blazer, and balance all of your less formal items around it.
8. Be confidant. You have to believe in your abilities before anyone else will.
9. Smile. Show that you want the job and that you are happy to be there. An interview is really just a conversation between professionals – not a hostage interrogation session.
10. Say thank you. Write a hand-written card thanking your interviewer for considering you for the position the day after your interview. It shows that you’re detail oriented and makes you stand out.
Amelea Renshaw is the 2013-2014 University of Oregon PRSSA operations director. She is currently a junior double majoring in advertising and public relations. You can contact Amelea at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @amelearenshaw.
Cathy Hamilton started Verb Marketing and PR, a full-service marketing communications firm, in 2003. Verb specializes in strategic planning and consulting, media relations, brand development and management and more. Hamilton runs Verb with her Creative Director, Doug Ferguson. As president, Hamilton has a variety of responsibilities ranging from strategic planning to sales to team management—ensuring that all work exceeds client expectations.
Q: How did you get where you are today?
A: That’s a huge question. I got started in public relations because I liked to write and I thought the PR field would be more diverse and varied than reporting. At that time, the advertising field required more that you could do your own design and I thought that you had to really be a true artist. Also, at this point there weren’t programs like InDesign and Photoshop and all of that, you had to be more of a natural artist, able to draw with your hand. I can art direct but not actually produce myself. So I headed into PR.
Throughout college Cathy had numerous different internships, and upon graduation Cathy received a job working in Marketing. She loved her job but was then offered a Public Affairs job in Eugene where she worked for 5 years. She wanted something more fast paced and found that she did like Marketing firms, but she felt that many of the clients were being pushed into a marketing solution for something that could more easily be solved by PR. Her mission was to change the idea of companies who worked under the notion “whatever we have…you get.” Her experience in both the Public Relations field and the Marketing field lead her to the idea integrating the two as one. Her vision was to create a small firm where the top people were always the ones working with the clients, and for her, a single person in charge of the PR and marketing.
Q: When did it “click” that this was the right field for you?
A: “I always liked writing. I think it was always clear I would do something with writing and it’s just morphed over time. It definitely started more with PR and then morphed more into marketing which I think is just more of a function of the market here and also just how communications has changed it’s just really in a totally different ball game than it was, even when I started–which was not–well I don’t think it was–that long ago. It was a totally different era for PR. It changes a lot which is what keeps me in the business. There are parts of it I don’t care for but the parts of it I do are that it is always changing so if you are a fickle person if you like that constant challenge–I mean really, right as soon as you think you’ve got it figured out it changes and you’re expected to be there ahead of the change–so if you like that kind of constant pressure it’s a great field.”
Q: What are employers most looking for in students with my background, as to day, with people just entering the field?
A: “A good writer. The ability of engage, to be responsive. What always makes me smile when we have interns is how they take feedback…I take feedback positive and negative all day long, you know? A client may not like a particular word and you just have to be able to bounce back and say ‘okay, we’ll fix that’. [In addition] you do always rely on that core desire and ability to write, that and an interest in experimenting and that willingness to be pushed all the time. “
Q: How do you see this industry changing within the next decade?
A: “I have no idea what we will see in ten years. You know, if you had asked me that ten years ago I would have said definitely electronic means. I wouldn’t have necessarily predicted the specifics of it, and I don’t think it’s even settled down yet, I think that we’re still trying to figure out. Yeah, we know social media is huge, we know how it plays in, and we know how to use it but what’s coming what’s going what the next big thing will be…is [all] up for debate. Regardless of that kind of [means] the thing that people have to be really good at is being flexible, being eager to learn. You have to have kind of an innate curiosity because that part will stay the same.”
Q: What special advice do you have for a student seeking a job within the PR and marketing fields?
A: “You’re pushed you will never become comfortable in this job. If you do then you need to be pushed a little bit more. And I think if you don’t like that it’s maybe not the right job…and there are times in life when you don’t want that, when things get chaotic you kind of want the calm which is why I’ve seen people slip in and out of the field…I think it’s more of a personality trait than a talent set. [Also you have to remember that] you will never put something forward the first time that is perfect. [This also] is a good reason to do internships, you find out what you like and don’t like and you can leave gracefully.”
Image (c) of Hamilton, Verb Marketing and PR
Post by Leigh Scheffey, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Leigh through our blog editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many pieces of the job search process that are out of your control: job availability, who else is applying, how organizations find candidates, etc. Therefore, focus on what you can control. One of the earliest career development theories proposed, Planned Happenstance, suggests that one must acknowledge the presence of chance in the career planning process, but also work to increase the likelihood of chance opportunities. For example, if you have an extensive professional network, the likelihood of you hearing about an unadvertised job position will be higher. In order to be a successful job/internship seeker, you must facilitate opportunity by building your network and taking advantage of opportunities that you create.
According to a 2012 study conducted by the US Department of Labor, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of networking in finding media jobs is even more essential, as students often encounter professional opportunities through an industry professional or well-connected professor. In the media industry, word-of-mouth and networking are critical.
Follow these steps to utilize and expand your network:
1. Start with who you know. Your instructors, who are also industry professionals, have great connections. Friends who have already participated in internships may be able to make appropriate referrals as well. If you have family working in the media industry, approach them too.
2. Spread the word. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job or internship. Provide some details on your professional goals so they know which connections are relevant. Your best friend’s mom may work for Edelman.
3. Conduct informational interviews. Once you make new connections, ask if these industry professionals will engage in informational interviews—an interview where you ask questions about a job, profession and industry. You can gather information about a job/organization and expand your network. Who knows, if you make a good impression, it could lead to an internship.
4. Follow up. When people graciously donate their time to help you, be sure to say thank you with an email or a hand-written note. Also remember that networking is reciprocal. Maintain the relationship by checking in or referring your new connection to a recent article of interest.
5. Take advantage of the opportunities you create. As you meet more people, introduce yourself, identify a mutual professional connection and offer to have a conversation over coffee or lunch. You can also attend networking events such as the PRSA New Pros Agency Tours. While putting yourself out there professionally can be intimidating, staying on the sidelines won’t get you anywhere.
While chance plays a role in the search process, you must create opportunities by engaging in the most effective search strategies. Databases are a great place to start and can give you a sense of available opportunities, but they put you in a passive role and are incomplete. Instead, actively work to expand your network; you will create more opportunities for yourself. Put yourself out there.
Guest post by Miranda Atkinson, a current Career & Academic Adviser for the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.
During spring agency tours on Friday, May 3, the University of Oregon PRSSA chapter had the pleasure of sitting down with Bob Frause, CEO and founder of Frause in Seattle, Washington. In addition to his prominent role within the public relations industry, Frause is extensively involved with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) as a member of the National Board of Directors and Past Chairman of the PRSA College of Fellows. He also sits on the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. Frause’s substantial experience in the industry has allowed him the opportunity to develop several important tactics to help young professionals in the PR job search.
1) Remember that every interview is a real interview. In the process of looking for a job, informational interviews have become a popular tool for networking with professionals. However, just because you are not actively applying for an open position does not mean you should take it any less seriously. When you set up an informational interview, prepare for it in the same way you would for an interview for an open position. Make sure to research both your interviewer and the company. Be ready to ask he or she specific questions that show you have done your homework. By the end of the interview, you should make the professional wish he had on open position or room in his budget to hire you. You never know when this could lead to a job offer.
2) Put interests at the bottom of your resume or in your cover letter. Recently, many students have been advised not to include interests unrelated to public relations on their resume. Though according to Frause, curiosity outside the industry is something he looks for in a potential hire. If you are interested in travel or cooking, find a way to integrate these interests into how you present yourself because this will suggest that you are a more rounded and experienced individual. You also never know when these outside interests will coincide with client work making you an ideal person for the team.
3) Ask for a job and don’t take the first “no.” During an interview it is important to remember your self worth and prove that to your interviewer. If you don’t think you are the best person for the job there is no reason the person or people interviewing you will either. In Frause’s opinion, at some point during the interview, it is important to ask for the job. Though many times you will be told no, you can then spend the rest of the interview proving why you should be hired for that job. This tactic also shows self-confidence and your ability to be a leader. Frause admits this might not be a good tactic for all interviews, but suggests that you should be able to establish if this will work during initial research for the interview.
4) Get at least two professional contacts before you leave. At the end of an interview, make sure to thank them and ask to be put on the list for future open positions. This shows that you would like to continue a relationship with that person and the company. After thanking her, ask for any contacts they might have that you could use to expand your network. Frause’s advice is to leave with at least two new contacts that might be beneficial to you.
5) Create a graphic biography of yourself. One tool that Frause suggests is something he calls a graphic biography of yourself. This should be a roadmap of who you are as a person and a professional. You could use this in your portfolio or in an interview to help you stay focused on what you want to convey about yourself. This can also be useful to have in front of you during a telephone or Skype interview to help you steer the conversation and prevent you from forgetting something you wish to share about yourself.
6) Avoid misusing pronouns. Though sometimes this aspect of writing and speaking can be forgotten, Frause says that this is one of his main pet peeves and a mistake he encounters frequently. All grammar is important and proper use of pronouns contributes to your overall image as an educated individual.
Making the right impression during an interview – whether it is formal or simply an informational one – can make the difference in getting a job offer. Frause advises young professionals to be proactive, confident and unafraid to ask the hard questions during the job search. What do you think of Frause’s professional advice?