From the Intern's Desk

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Interviewing Tips and Tricks

“How many job interviews should you expect to have before you land an actual job?”

This question came up in tonight’s #prstudchat. Many people had different answers, but the 5-6 range seemed common.  All the great networking you’ve been doing (after learning some great techniques, of course) is paying off. Now you’ve landed multiple interviews. What should you do?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short.

Come up with a game plan in your head. Role play. Imagine yourself walking through the door, into the interview. What are you wearing?

Look professional when going on a job interview

Tips On What To Wear:

Men – You can never go wrong with a suit. I define a suit as a jacket, dress pants, button-up shirt, tie and well-shined shoes. The jacket and pants match. The tie and shirt coordinate. Suits are impressive, regardless of whether the job would require you to wear one every day. If it’s too hot for the jacket, bring one anyway. Some places are cold and air-conditioned. You don’t want to be shivering in a thin shirt. Plus, jackets hide sweat stains.

Other accessories: belt, cuff links if necessary and a watch.

Colors must be subtle yet refined. Dark navy, brown and grey are the most neutral. Black may be too formal. As for the tie, ditch the happy face one your grandma gave you for Christmas. Stick with a small pattern or stripes. The shirt should be an accent color in the tie.

Remember, these are just suggestions, but together they create the most basic look that you will certainly feel confident wearing.

Women – Stay conservative. No short anything, no low-cut tops, no stilettos. If you wear a dress, make sure you can sit comfortably in it. No spaghetti straps. Bring a cardigan. Suits are also a good choice. Lighter fabrics like linen are great for the summer. Wool is a classic for winter.

Colors are more flexible for women, but stay in the neutral range. Add an accent color with a bright blouse or accessory but nothing too overpowering. Keep the patterns to a minimum. Heels must be a comfortable height for walking and in good condition. Flats are also perfectly acceptable.

Grooming Tips for Men and Women – Neat and clean. Brushed hair, brushed teeth. Tamed facial hair for men (preferably none) and light makeup for women. The best tip is to look natural.

[I borrow some of these tips from Virginia Tech’s Career Services office, where you can also find more detailed suggestions]

Continuing with the role play, you walk into the office and greet your interviewers. What do you do?

Be confident when shaking hands and introducing yourself

Shake Hands: Grip firmly, but not too tightly. Look directly into the interviewer’s eyes or at the space between their eyes (they won’t know the difference) and smile. Pump once. Let go. Remind yourself to breathe.

Introduce Yourself: “Hello, I’m Sara Steffan. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet with you today.” Be sincere. Make them have no choice but to like you.

Back to role play. After you greet, now what? Follow their lead. If the interviewers sit down, sit down as well. Make sure everything is prepared to give to them: your résumé, cover letter, writing samples, etc. Also, make sure you have enough copies for everyone who’s interviewing you. They don’t like to share.

Question time. Are you prepared for everything they’re going to ask you? This is where the role play comes in handy. Imagine the kind of questions they’re going to ask you. Maybe they’ll ask about your experience, or what you’d bring to their team. Write down a few key points and memorize them. You want to sound natural, so don’t memorize a whole speech.

For a more detailed approach on what to do during every step of the interviewing process, I like these points from the Connecticut Department of Labor. They offer several different strategies, like arriving early, that will help get you the job.

Before you know it, the interview will be over, and you’ll be hearing, “You can start on Monday.” With these tips, you’re on your way to getting the job.

What are some other important things to remember when interviewing?

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Networking Techniques

Everyone talks about it. No one defines it. It’s extremely important when looking for a job, but what exactly is networking? I define networking as pursuing relationships and maintaining them on a professional level. Meeting new people, promoting yourself and creating connections are the building blocks to landing a job.

Exchanging information is key when networking

Important Things to Remember about Networking:

Take advantage of the 145 Million registered Twitter users – This statistic gives you a HUGE reason to be on Twitter. Your chances for networking with the right people go way up when you use Twitter effectively. Interact with future employers by using hashtags and retweeting their posts. Have a complete profile so employers can visit your blog and see your bio.

Success story: A Cronkite School student saw a retweet from Cronkite Student Life about USA Today looking for college life writers. She told them she would like to write for them and pitched her idea to them. The editor accepted it. She got published because of Twitter.

Overcome shyness – Being shy will only hold you back. Think of networking like dating. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never meet your match.

Never feel like you have to apologize for asking for help. According to a CIO article, don’t see networking as imposing. See it as building relationships. You can learn a lot from a person just by having a conversation.  And one day, you might be able to return the favor.

Go to events – Besides Twitter, the best way to find professionals all in one place is to go to a conference. ONA is both a conference and online journalism awards. It takes place in Washington, D.C., in October. If online is your field, everybody who’s somebody will be at this event. You’ll be guaranteed to meet people who have contacts in high places.

Organize yourself – Get into a routine when you meet someone new. Write his or her contact information down. Terry Lynn Johnson of PRSA suggests writing on the back of the person’s business card 1 – what you talked about and 2 – how to follow up with that person. Attach his or her business card to an index card and write more details about the person. File it away somewhere important.

Watch this informative video from Howcast about the basics of networking. It may be simple, but it refreshes principle ideas that everyone should know.

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