You have a great résumé and have found a list of potential employers and contacts. Now what?
Here are 10 tips to make the most of the email, phone or in-person contact so you can get the job:
1. Keep contact brief and professional. Check spelling, grammar and content before shooting off a cover email and résumé. Be specific in your request and get to the point. Rather than a general query, provide a concrete request such as: “I am interested in a job or internship with Public Relations Firm X. I am available anytime after January 1. I will contact you on Tuesday to arrange an informational interview. Thank you for your consideration.” And stick to that follow up schedule.
2. Even if an employer doesn’t have an immediate opening, ask for an informational interview. Most employers will spare a few minutes to meet you if you have a compelling résumé. Don’t ask them out for coffee or lunch.
busy professionals don’t have time for this and are inundated with requests for their time. Instead, ask for 15 minutes of their time. And when you get it, make the most of it.
3. Talk and listen. Be specific when you are asked a question and back up what you say with tangible examples of your achievements that illustrate your skills. Don’t say you love public relations because you are a “people person” (young professionals say this all the time). Speak slowly and maintain your poise. If you are nervous it is always wise to pause for a second to gather your thoughts before you provide an answer to a question.
4. Bring extra copies of your résumé and bring a professional portfolio. A simple black binder with clear page sleeves is impressive. You can reference this as you answer questions to showcase highlights of your experience.
Don’t describe every single sample. Simply use the portfolio to show the depth of your experience and potential to the organization. Having a small selection of samples to leave behind is a nice touch, too.
5. Come armed with a notebook and knowledge of the organization. To prepare you would have done a search of the company and its clients so you can speak intelligently about the business and so you can make a personal connection with the interviewer.
6. Take notes and ask intelligent questions. Be sure questions or comments are relevant and sincere or all you’ll show is that you did a Google search.
7. Don’t forget to dress and act professional. Even if the place of employment seems casual, you should err on conservative. Employers take notice of how you look, act and fit in at their organization, before they even speak to you. 8. Be pleasant to everyone you see from the doorman to the receptionist. I’ve been amazed to see young prospects come for jobs wearing tank tops and smacking gum, with a friend in tow and a vibrating or ringing cell phone.
9. Many jobs have been won or lost based on personal chemistry. A former boss used to ask himself if this potential employee is someone you wouldn’t mind being stuck on a plane with for hours. Another professional colleague has confided that they loved the credentials of a candidate, but didn’t think that the person’s personality would mesh with their account team.
10. After you ace the interviews, be sure to request a business card from everyone you have met—even the most junior staffers. Immediately after the interview, thank you emails should be sent, followed by personalized hand-written thank you cards expressing your interest in the position and organization.
Employers can be selective with hiring decisions, so it is your responsibility to show your ambition, initiative and those undefined personal qualities that make you the best person for your dream job. It is never too soon to build your own personal map towards future success.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.