Transparency is a must…Even in Interviews?

Honesty, transparency, truth—Three words that we ingrain in our minds when it comes to business ethics and relationships. I have decided to relate this topic of transparency to the interviewing process as it pertains to my life right now.

This whole idea of selling and marketing yourself to a company has me questioning my personal level of transparency. I am continuously instructed to turn any negative into a positive. You never want to show a potential employer a weakness, which I don’t necessarily see as being a transparency issues. What I disagree with is this concept of contrived responses to generic interview questions:

Interviewer: “What is your greatest weakness?”

Interviewee: “ Well I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. When working on a project it might take me a little longer to finish because I have to make sure it is perfect before handing it over.”

If I was interviewing a person and that was their response, I would assume that they turned their negative, which could be procrastination, into a more positive response: perfectionism. To me, a formulated response is not transparent and to be honest, shows a lack of confidence in that person’s capabilities.

I was thinking of what my “ideal” response to the weakness question would be and I came up with something nontraditional that, in all reality, might get me into trouble but would be 100 percent truthful.

Interviewer: “So Mariah, what would you say is your biggest weakness?”

Me: Hmm…Well that would have to be my left hand lay-in! (hopefully get a laugh or I might be screwed.) As a PR professional I find that question interesting because I probably have a contrived response: We, as PR pros, should always be prepared with our own personal crisis communication responses. However, I can tell you that I know I am not perfect but I am a dedicated and determined individual. Whatever it is that I might lack superior skills in I make sure to seek out a mentor to improve on them.”

I, if you don’t know me, tend to be a very upfront and honest person: I tell it like I see it. I like people to know, when appropriate, what I am thinking. I also feed off of other peoples thoughts and ideas, which often times leads me to ask the question why: the slightest bit of healthy cynicism. I ask the question, why do we feel the need to make our selves sound even better than we already are? As a society, we tend to discredit ourselves when we feel inferior.  I have learned that my talents combined with an approachable personality can speak a lot for my work ethic and I (as well as you) should have confidence in those abilities and skills.

To me, giving a potential boss an elaborated response seems to be the opposite of transparent in an ever-evolving transparent industry. I certainly don’t want to revert to the “spin doctor” days. I want a company to hire me because of my creativity, personality and talent, which I do have, not because I was able to give perfectly contrived responses to a set of standardized interview questions.

Pay Me for My Work, Please

798745_33936431As the end to spring term of my junior year draws near, I am faced with the realization that the beginning of my professional life is upon me. I have one year left to repeatedly sing the phrase “I love college” until I am released into the “real world.” In preparation for this transition, I decided to get an internship with a public relations agency for the summer. I assumed that finding a position would be easy enough: I couldn’t have been more wrong. People are resorting to internships because of the horrific job market. I decided that I would write about turning an internship into a full-time position for all of the soon-to-be graduates.

MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION

As an intern, it is your responsibility to show your supervisor that you deserve to be there and you have what it takes, both personally and professionally, to fit in with the fast-paced environment.

SET GOALS

I was asked by my soon-to-be supervisor to identify goals that I want to accomplish during my summer internship. I think this is a great way to improve skills and gain experience in a variety of areas. Also, it lets your co-workers know what projects to include you in on to help you achieve your goals. Internships are designed to prepare students for future jobs and careers.

MAKE CONNECTIONS

Once you have identified your responsibilities and you understand what is expected, demonstrate your initiatives and your ability to work both independently and as part of a team. Developing connections while you are still in school will give you a jump start in developing a professional network.  Once you develop a strong networking group, you can develop a better sense of what it takes to thrive in the industry.

BUILD A STRONG WORK ETHIC

Let the office know that you can get the work done at all costs. Remaining positive will give your employer assurance that you will become a valuable member of the team if hired as an employee. Not every aspect of your dream job is going to be glamorous, especially in the first few years after college, but hang in there.

ASK QUESTIONS

Talking with employers about your performance opens opportunities for improvement. Feedback and input can be crucial in helping you to improve your job performance. It also lets the company know that you care about your performance and that you value their opinion.

DEAL WITH THE GRUNT WORK

When you first start, your employer will confront you with tedious tasks: deal with it. Once your employer trusts that you can handle more responsibility, you will be able to work on more challenging projects. Make sure you demonstrate that you can handle the small stuff first, or you might not receive the more challenging projects.

SHOW INITIATIVE

Illustrating your interest in developing new knowledge and skills relevant to the position will boost your employer’s confidence in your willingness and initiative to do a good job. Attend field-related seminars offered in or around your city; it will improve your knowledge of the business and show your coworkers you are serious about your professional life. Also, join a professional association if possible. They provide an excellent opportunity to meet people currently working in the field.

GO ABOVE AND BEYOND

If you do not have enough work to do be sure to check with your supervisor to see if there is something you can do. There will always be more work, so don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t wait around for projects, be proactive and ask if anyone needs help or has an extra project you can work on.

FIND A MENTOR

Having a mentor will help to make the internship experience less stressful. A mentor can provide you with someone to learn from and a place to get your questions answered. Seek out someone you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions on ways you can improve your performance.

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

The first few years after college are going to be tough. Stay positive. Employers know that this is a difficult time, so prove yourself and don’t get discouraged. People are more willing to help than you think; ask for help when needed. If you show initiative and interest in the company, you have a better chance of turning the internship into a career.

Good luck, and congratulations to the graduating class of 2009.