Recently a call came into the APEX office from a student who was looking to interview a PR professional for a school assignment. I immediately recognized this task as one that I had completed while doing my post-grad degree in PR and offered to give said student a call back to chat. I wanted to help.
The student thanked me for calling her back and proceeded to set up an in-person interview time. I explained that while I wasn’t available to meet her for three hours on a Friday afternoon, I thought we could probably do an effective interview over the phone. She panicked: the interview had to be in person, and the assignment was due on Monday. I apologized that I couldn’t help her and went back to my work, but I couldn’t help think of all of the things that were wrong with her approach.
Here’s some tips on how to request an interview with a mentor, prospective employer, or for a school assignment:
Don’t leave it to the last minute
In any company, but especially in a profession where your day is accounted for in six-minute increments, it can be difficult to drop everything for something non-billable. If you’re looking to set up an interview, give it a good two to three weeks to come to fruition so proper plans can be made.
You don’t know the position of the person on the other end of the line, so every point of contact should be respectful and pleasant. Large companies get requests for informational interviews all of the time, and it’s easy to drop a call from someone who is rude and disrespectful.
Keep your reputation in mind
If you’re a student with an internship program, or you’re doing an informational interview with a prospective employer, you want to put your best foot forward. If people remember you as the rude person with poor time management skills, you’re not getting hired. Period.
Something is better than nothing
If what you want is a three-hour sit-down meeting with someone in your desired field, keep in mind that they most likely do not have that kind of time. Three hours is nearly $500 in billable hours that that individual will have to make up on their own time. If they can spare 20 minutes over the phone, take it. If they suggest sending an email over with your questions, do it. And if they can’t accommodate your request, thank them for their time anyway.
It’s on you
Remember that this is your request, benefiting you. It’s not really anyone else’s problem if your assignment is due the next day, if you’re desperate for information, or if you can’t plan far enough ahead to make it happen.
Here’s the thing. The assignment isn’t just about the interview, it’s about the whole process: networking, making connections, and learning something about your desired field. The ultimate goal of a post-grad degree in PR is to get a job in PR…so be nice. It goes a long way.
Robyn Hunt is a Consultant at APEX Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter.
(Photo by THEfunkyman/Flickr)
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