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.

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Skills PR students need to know

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It is becoming more apparent that the future of communication belongs to the Internet. Newspapers are on the way out, and the majority of reporters and journalists alike are moving forward toward the world wide web.

As a student, during this time of innovation and rapid change, it is easy for me to notice the shift. If not, I would be putting myself at risk of being irrelevant and outdated. 

Companies are expecting to work with public relations firms that are relevant and innovative. Agencies expect young PR professionals to know the ins and outs of social media. PR pros need to be able to manipulate the tools to achieve success in social media initiatives.

Adam Singer outlines skills that all PR professionals need to know:

Understand HTML, PHP, CSS, MySQL: These skills are not only necessary for techies, they are simple and when you start to get good they easily allow you to present content exactly how you want.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Placing content on the web and utilizing keywords, tags and external links will help your chances of being placed higher on search engines like google. Have large goals in mind for your company or client website.

Ability to work in WordPress, Durpal, Expression Engine etc.: As a PR professional you need to be able to work with all communications tools. Learning to work with CMS will allow you to easily work on a client’s website, networks and blogs. 

Understanding of what defines successful content: As businesses start to see the benefits of using social media, there will be less of a need from PR professionals to get them into the tools, but the real challenge will be helping them create content that gets shared. 

“A blog needs to be written and kept by a company, not by their PR agency. But, companies will increasingly turn to their PR agency for consulting and creating content, which drives relevant traffic/links and builds a subscriber base.”

Proven ability to build a successful blog: Create a personal blog on content that you are passionate about. It is important to show you embrace the medium, understand it and can be insightful and interesting.

Understanding of RSS and how t use feed creatively: As a PR professional understanding RSS, using it to read content and knowing how to use syndication is vital. Use RSS to your advantage to build a fanbase, spread messages and get content deep within the social web.

Understanding microblogging: Twitter, FriendFeed and other services are a great way to share content and interacting with customers. PR and communications people should be at the forefront of this and closely study the relationships formed and the way people discuss and interact with content.

Ability to process and understand site analytics: Learning to interpret site analytics, see trends and make recommendations is a vital skill for PR people. It is also important to be able to explain to clients how you can measure the success of a social media campaign. 

Understanding of what is possible with web apps: Businesses are looking to their PR firms to help them build creative web apps that attract thousands of users across social media platforms. You need to know what is possible to create with these applications to be able to create and complete a successful strategic social media plan. 

Hopefully these tips will help you in your preparation to become a public relations professional.

Yay I graduated, now what?

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For many college students, graduation is just around the corner, and the thought of entering the workforce is terrifying. Not to mention the constant reminders that we are in one of the worst economic situations. Searching for a job can be exhausting, scary and daunting. I am currently on the hunt for an internship: You know it’s bad when people aren’t looking for free help because they don’t have enough staff to support training and mentoring interns.

Although I am just a junior, I feel the heat and pressures of the job search. I recently went on four informational interviews to figure out where in PR I wanted to start out. Along the way, I learned some valuable tips for students.

Skills:

Every person I talked to emphasized the importance of writing skills. Without hesitation, all four women told me that if there is only one thing that I take away from the University of Oregon it better be the ability to write. Most everything else that you will do in a job can be learned on-site, but writing is something that must be known and continuously worked on to be successful.

Volunteer:

If you haven’t secured a job or internship, offer your free time to a non-profit and ask if you can help with their communications department. Offer to do tasks within your field of “expertise.” Having multiple internships will show employers that you didn’t just sit around waiting for a job to come to you, but rather you were proactive and continued to use your PR skills while searching for a job.

Network:

I emphasized in my first blog the importance of networking: Believe me it’s crucial. Every time you meet with someone ask them if you should get in contact with someone they know. By doing this you can create a large network of potential employers and referrals, the more the better.

Acknowledge:

When a professional meets with you or you talk with someone at a function, write them a thank you note. Instead of thanking a person via e-mail, handwrite them a note. A friend of mine got a job because she hand wrote a thank you note. Since hearing her story I have adopted the practice in the hopes I will be as lucky.  Every time you meet with someone and they provide advice, make sure you acknowledge that you appreciate their time and insight.

Talk:

Let it be known that you are looking for a job or internship. Do this through social media networks. You never know who will read you tweet, blog, status update or Linkedin profile and have a job or know someone who has a job you would be interested in. Word of mouth is not just successful for businesses; everyone can benefit from these tools.

To find more tips check out:

5 Ways to Land Your Next (PR) Job

Tips for young PR Professionals

Tips for finding a first job in PR

Also check out UO Alum Beth Evans she writes about finding a job abroad really interesting check her out!