ELGL Co-founder Kent Wyatt poses a question and a guest columnist answers it. This week, Emma Klues, Great Rivers Greenway Vice-President of Communications & Outreach, gets you prepared for your next interview.
I love the process of hiring. From a communications professional who hires communication professionals and who nerds out about helping people with their resumes and cover letters for fun, welcome to my two cents on this topic. In fact, I am so into it, there’s basically four and a half things I want to share in this “Top Three” article.
The top things I look for, in no particular order, are:
- Be outcome driven.
One fantastic distinction is when candidates showcase that they are outcome driven. Whether that’s pointing out metrics on a resume or telling a story to explain how they arrived at success, a strong candidate will show how they were able to bring their skills or problem solving to a challenge and how that ultimately played out. If someone shows off their portfolio of design pieces and talks about their style or technique, that is a very different answer than how this piece performed or resonated or worked (or, maybe better yet, didn’t and what that taught them!). A good communicator shouldn’t be focused on their own style, but rather serving their customers or constituents, and the goal at hand. Outputs are just a tool to ultimately achieve an outcome. By all means, explain how youutilized a new technology, just don’t get caught up in the coolness of it, make sure to specify how it enabled you to innovate or cut costs or save time or reach your audience more effectively. Make sure any answer you give explains to the audience “why does this matter?” and furthermore, make sure that answer mattered to your employer or community or team or plan, not just to you.
- Bring big picture and detail.
This is a two-fer. I try to ask questions to get the candidate to share how they both possess and enjoy the ability to think both in a big picture, strategic and systematic way for long-term successandthe patience and persistence to have strong attention to detail. Some people are stronger in one area than others, which is fine! In the public sector, there aren’t typically enough positions to divide and conquer. People need to be able to think in multiple ways and should consider sharing examples and stories to show that. As an example, tell about when you’ve managed the strategic planning process or budget AND how you personally compiled the customer service FAQ database or double checked all contest entries for brand consistency.
- Show that you’ve done your research and this is what you want.
This last one is general and not about communications explicitly, but I see it missing so often that I think it’s worth mentioning – why do you want to be here? I want to hear you articulate why you want to bring your skills and interests to advance the mission ofthisagency and in this role. I want to hear that you’ve done a modicum of research (at least looked at the website) and have thought of a few questions to ask. Remember that an interview is an opportunity for both parties to see if this is a good fit. You don’t have to be an extrovert or do a showy gesture, but be prepared to talk about what drew you to that organization and job description. I want you to show that have thought about what you’ll get out of it and what you can contribute. You want to leave people thinking you’d be excited to get an offer and that you’d bring energy to the team.
Bonus: Demonstrate both an immediate and a long-term fit. I always think it’s a bonus when people can balance explaining how they’re both ready to tackle the role but also wanting to learn and grow into it, perhaps on some level or within some aspects. Very few people hiring want a know-it-all who could do this in their sleep and will be resistant to new ways of operating, nor do they want a newbie who won’t have any idea what’s going on. Make sure your tone and content communicate how you’ll be a fit both immediately and long-term.
While these may not apply to all positions or interviewers, I hope they are helpful in getting you into the job search mindset. Remember, both parties want a good fit and are taking a risk! The more you can show AND tell how you think and work and what you value, the better both sides feel about taking that leap of faith. So do a little research, think about good examples and stories to choose, and go get ’em!