Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interviewing skills

In an interesting role reversal, I recently had to interview several candidates for an open admin position. Not too long ago, I had been on the other side, acting as interviewee not interviewer.

After screening and interviewing a bunch of people, I learned a host of lessons that I probably should have known but maybe forgotten or didn't take seriously enough. In no particular order, here are those lessons and also some advice my friends who are hiring managers always pass on:

  1. If you have the interview, they mostly think you can do the job. They want to know they can work with you. Well, also they want to make sure you weren't lying on the resume. But mostly, they are looking for fit. Chris Rock once said on a date you don't what to be yourself, you want to be some one people like. I think that applies here too.
  2. Cover letters to tailored the job offering are noticed. Forms letters are too. Which do you think stands out from the pile?
  3. There is an old adage in golf, you can't win a tournament on the first day, but you can lose it. Talking to the screener is a lot like that, you can't win the job talking to the screener, but you can lose it.
  4. Saying you can do anything is not a helpful response. Employers don't need anything done; they have a specific task in mind. They want to know that you can do that thing.
  5. Thank you notes are better than nice. A well written thank you note reminds the interviewer why they plucked your name out of the pile and should remind them why they want to see more of you.
  6. Promptness counts. Given the high volume of resumes for every position out there, most people stop after they get a couple of handfuls of solid candidates. Check the job boards and Craig's List every day. Better yet, set up alerts.
  7. Neatness counts. But you knew that already.
  8. A thank you note from someone who didn't get the job or interview is a very nice touch. Not sure it helps get a job, but it's memorable and if karma counts for anything, people who write those notes should be rewarded.
  9. Research. How can you talk about how you can help a company if you don't know anything about the company? Research.
  10. White space and few important details mean more on a resume than a long list of accomplishments that are too closely packed to read.
  11. Back to the point number one, on an interview think like you are on a date with the person of your dreams. Your goal is to make the interviewer think they want to spend the rest of their life with you.
  12. Putting your salary requirements in a cover letter just isn't a good idea. You may think you are saving time and unnecessary interviews, but in reality you are cutting down the number of interviews you get. Remember, you want the interview. Heck sometimes you may be offered a different position.
  13. Practice your interview skills. Once you have the interview, make sure you shine. Work with an experienced professional to make sure you ace the interview.
  14. Practice your interview skills. It's important enough that I have to mention it twice.


As a PR person, I'd always thought that I was a good candidate and interviewer, that whole positioning thing, but in sitting on the other side of the desk, I'm not so sure anymore. I promise you though, I'll follow my own advice that next time I need it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

He has apologized, what more do you want?

Rarely has a news statement generated as much coverage as Tiger's statement on Friday. You can read good day after summary here of what worked and didn't during Tiger's time behind the podium. Or you could watch ESPN's almost non-stop coverage of the event. Judging by how much time the Worldwide Leader in Sports devoted to the story, Tiger was their lead story on Thursday AND Friday evening, I have to believe three things:

The company doesn't care about the Olympics, a made for television Lifetime channel event broadcast by another network.

They need Tiger to drive ratings in the long summer months when baseball is the only game on.

The Entire Sports Network was trying its best to displace the Golf Channel as the all Tiger Channel.

As PR people we can talk about what Woods should have done and how he should have done it, but the main point is that he needed to apologize and take clear responsibility for his actions. He did that.

Anyone listening to his awkward statement knows that he never could have made it through an interview, hostile or friendly.

From a PR standpoint a better question is what more does he need to do to put this behind him? My answer is going to make a lot of PR people unhappy: nothing, just shut up and play golf. There is nothing to be gained by continuing to apologize or answering any questions about who he slept with and when.

He merely has to start every interview with, "We are going to talk about golf." If the reporter doesn't like it, tough. You can't work in golf and not have access to Tiger. If Woods wins, smiles and returns to his family, the general public will forgive him. And those who don't forgive him now are unlikely to do so just because he takes a turn on Oprah's couch.

As his mother said, he made a mistake, but it wasn't illegal. It's time for all of us to recognize that he strayed and he has paid. Let's move on. There is nothing else to see.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tiger speaks, punishes Accenture in same breathe

Tiger's decision to make a news statement on Friday, day three of the Accenture match play championship, shows that his PR machine is not without malice.

As you may remember, Accenture was the first brand to drop Woods after his Thanksgiving surprise. Tiger is repaying the favor by making sure the golf world and the general public forget about the tournament and focus on Tiger. Clever.

Not only that, but every story about Tiger's Friday statement, and let me digress here by saying he is not holding a press conference. When the press are invited to listen and record, but not ask questions, it's not a press conference.

Anyway, when Woods does speak and the reporters write, every story will link Woods and Accenture, which in the minds of Accenture sullys the brand, again.

If Tiger is as ruthless on the course as his PR handlers are, I don't think he'll lose this year.

One question, does it matter what Woods says at the press conference?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

PR’s model is outdated

Over the past year, I have seen two major trends in PR. Many, too many, good and experienced people have been laid off. We like to think experience is valued, but agencies and corporations are saying experience is too expensive. Looking at who has been laid off in PR, and not been rehired, makes you realize the industry is undergoing a transformation. Part of the transformation involves the PR industry trying stress its value a digital world.

Like it or not, the PR model that has served us for the past 10 years is broken. Thanks to Al Gore and the Internet three things have smashed the model:

  • Companies can get the word out on their products via their own Web sites;
  • There are too few media outlets to pitch;
  • Social Media makes it easy to engage directly with the consumer.

Let's face it, search and company Web sites have reduced the need for advertising. I am not telling you anything new when I say that if you want to buy a new computer, you don't run down to the magazine shop and pick up three or four magazines on computers. Instead, you'd read them online for free, visit CNET or consumer reports online, fish around Amazon, look for discounts on the computer maker's Web sites, and well, you get the picture. You can do an awful lot of research without leaving home or spending a dime on publications.

Companies need PR less if a buyer can pull information about a product when she wants it, as opposed to having information pushed at the consumer when she's just glancing at the headlines looking to find out how many schools closed early even though the predicted blizzard never materialized.

Conclusion: you don't need PR as much as you once did. I am not sure PR people understand that, or more accurately want to admit there is a problem. It's always been hard to measure PR. Now, companies are finding it hard to justify PR. The industry's recent desire for self-promotion is a way to address this conclusion. I'm not sure it will work.

To be honest, PR's image problem and its apparent need for self promotion requires a post of its own where we can explore the issue at length. Look for it on this same Bat Station.

RIP idealistic journalism

In a different professional life, my sports journalism years, a publisher said a magazine is like an envelope filled with ads. The content is only there to make people open the envelope.

Journalists believed the content supported the publication. Anyone who follows TheMediaIsDying and sees all of the publications that have shuttered due to lack of ad revenues knows it was always about the money.

Today's journalist better have a firm grasp of the bottom line or a good exit strategy.

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