It is an achievement to get to the interview stage for a dream PR job, so it is a shame to waste this opportunity by failing to do enough research beforehand. Yet Nancy Prendergast, managing director of PR consultancy Tannissan Mae, is dismayed at how few candidates go to enough trouble: “I feel I shouldn’t have to say this, but I am impressed by someone who takes the time to find out more about our agency than what’s on our website.“
Ideal candidates, says Prendergast, find out about the clients and might even have ideas for campaigns: “Unfortunately this is pretty rare. Some candidates, I’m sorry to say, can’t even say which client most interests them – they don’t know who they are.“
As well as finding out about clients, David Alexander, managing director of agency Calacus Public Relations, says that you need to find out about the person interviewing you and follow them on social media. He adds: “I’ve had so many interviewees who turn up not knowing much and are either not a good fit or decide the company’s roster is not for them.”
Doing your homework is key, but this needs to be combined with enthusiasm. Alexander advises candidates to prove their passion for PR and show that they are ready to roll their sleeves up: “It’s tough out there, but if you can’t show how much you really would be an asset, you haven’t got a chance.”
Nick Murray-Leslie, CEO of agency Chatsworth Communications, agrees that having an extra spark gives candidates an edge: “The one common factor we look for is a bit of 'voom'. We are all about people with get up and go, who can demonstrate initiative and think on their feet to meet whatever challenges the day throws our way.”
This doesn’t mean to say you should be shouting and jumping around to get noticed, being false is never a good idea, but demonstrating your range of knowledge is. Murray-Leslie explains: “Always be yourself when you are asked broader questions about a particular aspect of current affairs or what journalists or companies you admire. Think about your answers and be measured and articulate. Keep up with current affairs and be prepared to talk about the news events of the week in question to provide informed commentary.”
The interview isn’t just a chance for you to impress, it is also a time to find out whether the company is really for you. You don’t want to accept a job that you end up hating, so take time to get a feel for the company and be confident you are a good fit for its culture.
Paul Stallard, director at Berkeley PR, says that the skills you need to pitch to journalists are very similar to those you need to win over interview boards: “Due to the nature of the job, recruiting PROs are always going to be critical – we’re not going to trust you with our clients’ needs if you’ve not done a good job on PR-ing yourself!”
Here are Stallard’s tips to help you to stand out:
1. Do your research – having a good understanding of the company and the work it does is key so that you don’t break under questioning.
2. Demonstrate the benefits – by proving you would provide a high return on investment, you are more likely to get the job. You can do this by demonstrating your skills through a portfolio, having a good working knowledge of the sector you will be working in, proving you are confident in pitching yourself and showing what you could bring to the table.
3. Make yourself a catchy character – by brimming with enthusiasm and positivity, you will make sure you are a memorable candidate. PR is all about confidence and appearing trustworthy. Always go smart if you’re in doubt, as PR can be very corporate.
4. Practice – run through common interview questions with a friend or family member in advance so you do not feel so nervous. Dropping in some buzzwords such as “proactive” and “reactive” may help! If the interviewer uses PR catch phrases, try and use the same language, but otherwise avoid jargon.
Written by Daney Parker