Part II: How to Ace Your Communications Job Interview

If you’re following the Red Fan blog, you may recently have read our observations about the importance of a company’s hiring process and how crucial it is to embrace the right mindset for building a communications team.

This week, we’re shifting our focus to what potential candidates need to know to differentiate themselves from what is becoming an increasingly crowded industry full of communications roles that are simultaneously more diverse and expansive than ever, yet still see an incredible amount of overlap and integration.

As Red Fan’s director of operations, I’ve interviewed about 30 candidates in the past 60 days, each of who possesses unique strengths and weaknesses. The unflinching reality, though, is I can only pick one.

In that context, how do you as a potential employee stand out when an employer is meeting with literally dozens of other candidates?

Two things come immediately to mind, which were reiterated to us by our HR partner in a meeting with Red Fan’s leadership team last week: “There are two key elements to job performance: What you do and how you do it.”

What you do:

The “what you do” is the tactical aspect of the role. Are you well-suited to the tasks you’ll be handling? Can you do them well and on time?

The role we recently filled at Red Fan has been a core position at the Helms House for many years. We know the skillset it takes to be successful in this role, yet we, like other companies, want to train our new employees in our own best practices for accomplishing certain tasks. Find out what these are.

Conversely, there are tasks and aspects of a position that a company will expect you to be fully capable of executing on your own from the beginning. Asking about the differences between those types of expectations during the interview process will help you showcase the right skills during the interview.

There are also instances in which you feel you might be a great fit at a particular organization, but you may be under- or overqualified for the position for which you’re applying. While it may be tempting to go off-road to demonstrate other skills or qualities, stick to showcasing your skills that align specifically with the responsibilities of that role.

How you do it:

The “how you do it” is about how well your personality, goals and values align with those of the company.

Whether it’s a startup with eight employees or a growing company with 800, culture is more important than ever, and it’s being reflected in the hiring process at every turn.

First, remember that your prospective company isn’t looking for automatons (hopefully). Communications teams require diversity and ideation that can only come from minds that aren’t stuck in group think.

Ask, “How has your company culture changed over the past three years?”

This is a great open-ended question that is going to reveal what the culture of the company is today, how it has evolved and, through that dialog, you’ll pick up on cues that will help you know if you’re fit and if so, how best to highlight that.

Second, find out the qualities your employer is looking for in a successful candidate. What intangibles are important for this role? You can do this simply by asking! Remember: "The person interviewing you is actually wanting you to be the one."

He/she is tired (trust me), so make thier job easier—ask awesome questions that tap into what she’s trying to tap into. You’ll set yourself apart for sure.

Lastly, bring a workplace profile like the DISC to the interview table or better yet, send it ahead of time. The DISC Workplace Profile will reveal to you and your potential employer those intangibles and how you work best. No one workplace profile is better than another and can help open up a conversation that will benefit you and your potential employer.

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