Social media job interview prep (Plus a printable thank you card!)
I love my social media job.
I love it for a lot of reasons. What I do keeps me busy, and even though “social media coordinator” sounds kind of like a joke to some people, (You get paid to sit on Facebook all day? Really?) social media is an incredibly important career today.
When I interviewed for my job at the Chicago Tribune, I was a nervous wreck. I spent a minimum of eight hours preparing, filling more than a dozen notebook pages — front and back — with notes I could use in my phone (and later, Skype) interview with my now-boss, Scott Kleinberg.
You know that feeling when you want something so badly with every fiber of your being, you practically make yourself sick? That was me preparing for my interview at the Tribune.
But all the stress and preparation was entirely worth it when I got an email with my job offer shortly after the process.
(I think this super cute self-designed social media-themed thank you card I sent out after my interview might have helped as well. Maybe.)
Thankfully, working as a journalist in a university town, I had a large arsenal of resources with which to prepare myself. One of those most valuable resources was Rachel Esterline Perkins, who does social media management and public relations for my alma mater, Central Michigan University.
Rachel and I met for coffee at my favorite Mount Pleasant coffee shop, Kaya, and talked about how to prepare for social media job interviews. She gave me tons of amazing tips which I refined to use and pass along to other friends who have been interviewing for careers in social media.
So, here are some tips to help you ace that social media interview.
- Do your background research on the company. This is a given for any job interview, regardless of the position. You should know — at the bare minimum — where the company is located, when it was founded, what its mission statement is, the name (and spelling) of your potential boss, the position requirements and how you can fulfill those requirements.
- Scrub your social media accounts. You would think this is obvious, but it can’t be stated enough. This is especially important if you’re going into social media! No lewd photos, no F-bombs, no misspellings.
- Analyze your prospective employer’s current social media presence. I made a list of all the Tribune’s social media platforms I could find as well as their followings.
- …and then compare them to current social media trends. For example — the Tribune’s Twitter has more followers than its Facebook has likes. Facebook has a larger number of users, so this would be a great area to improve in.
- …also, don’t be afraid to bring up the competition. I was able to bring up the Tribune’s statistics compared with those of its competitors, and talked about some of the strategies competitors employed that the Tribune did not.
- Know what’s going on in social media at that very moment. This goes hand-in-hand with point No. 4. Social media is far from static. Did you know 71 percent of adults use Facebook, and 23 percent use Twitter? And in the last year, Instagram grew by 9 percent, making it the fastest-growing mainstream social media site around? Know these statistics. The day before my interview, Google+ announced it was splitting into two services — photos and streams. I brought this up during my interview, and my now-boss was impressed that I was that on top of my game.
- Draft some potential ideas. This was another great idea from Rachel. Bring some ideas for social media projects or campaigns to the table, but keep them simple. You don’t want to give away your ideas for free. The idea behind this concept is to give a small taste of what you’re capable of. If the prospective employer wants all of your genius, he or she will have to hire you.
- Be prepared to talk about what you’re doing at your current job. What projects or initiatives have you worked on? If they’ve failed, don’t be afraid to mention how you turned a failed hashtag experiment into a learning lesson.
- Crisis situation? Know how to handle it. A lot of job interviews will ask “What would you do if” questions. Be prepared to answer them.
Tip: The easiest — and most truthful — answer to this question?
A. Prevent mishaps by clicking on shorthand links before posting and thoroughly proofreading posts. And,
B. Address a crisis right away- don’t delay. Apologize quickly and sincerely.
- Make the necessary social media connections. You should already “like” your prospective employer on Facebook and “follow” it on Twitter. You should also check out the LinkedIn pages of your interviewers. As a bonus, they’ll get notifications saying you glanced at their profiles, which will make you look very prepared.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your personal use of social media tools! Learning is learning, even if it’s in a different capacity than one might expect. My boss complimented me on my blog during my interview — serving as a reminder that companies are always interested in more than just an extensive work history when it comes to a candidate.
- You know how I said to have stats on hand? General stats about social media usage, like PEW research findings, are crucial. But so are your professional social media accomplishments. I made a social media proficiency spreadsheet that I attached to my resume when I sent it in along with my application. It listed out several accounts I’d had a hand in managing, as well as the followings of those accounts and examples of post reaches. It also included links to my personal social media sites as well as a quick bio, a screenshot of my Klout score and a quick Q&A section.
- And finally, why do you love social media? This is a personal question that I can’t give you a cookie-cutter answer to. For me, it’s because I love working in a fast-paced environment. You can’t get much more fast-paced than social media in a newsroom! I love being able to see a measurable trail of content. Looking at stats and seeing the direct impact links and shares have on social media users and readers is so rewarding to me. And finally, I love being the face of a company. I love interacting with readers and reminding them that, hey, we’re human too.
There you go! Those are my top tips for acing a social media interview. Don’t forget to dress professionally, make eye contact, use a firm grip during your handshake and send a follow-up thank you note. Feel free to download the one above and use it!
What tips would you give prospective candidates in your career field? Leave them in the comments! I love knowing how different career fields operate and conduct interviews.