PR Insight

When you should refuse that PR job offer

Date: 15 February 2012 13:45

If you have never had a job you have regretted taking, you are leading a charmed life. Taking the wrong job in PR can be a useful lesson, but it is also a painful one.

One PR manager, who prefers to remain anonymous, describes the mistake he made after a gruelling interview for a FTSE 250 company: “My future boss, who stood to the right of the Daily Mail, accused me of being a communist. I replied that I wasn’t, so she suggested instead that I was a socialist and that I was trying to bring down capitalism. It took the head of HR to point out to her that discussion of political views was verboten in the job interview and couldn’t affect the decision. I ended up receiving a job offer but, for desperate financial reasons, I ignored the bright-red alarm bells that this boss was unhinged. It was the start of a very difficult job that I regretted taking every single day I was there.”

For Pamela Lyddon, CEO of digital agency Bright Star Digital, the problem was that the boss she met in her interview, didn‘t end up being her boss after all: “The day I turned up the lovely boss who hired me had left, I then had a succession of bosses within six months who all came and went. Many of them suing the paper for wrongful dismissal. It was just awful.”

You might be impressed by swish offices, and a matching swanky salary, but Andy Turner, founder of PR agency Six Sigma, learnt from experience that these are superficial signs that a company is good to work for: “I accepted a job in an ad agency with a PR department, that had great offices and was initially impressive; only later did I realise the mistake. The agency was focused on advertising solutions, with PR tacked on as an afterthought. The MD was an utter control freak with a personality disorder. Every single piece of correspondence that left the building was subjected to his pedantic scrutiny. Instead of being able to make my own company car choice, as had been originally promised, I inherited a white MG Montego. One of the MD’s countless rules was that all company cars had to be spotlessly clean at all times. Given the colour of my car and the daily, 50-mile cross-country commute, that was never going to happen. Despite explaining this, and that a white car was something of a handicap, he still expected me to pay for daily car washes. After this and multiple other run-ins, my revenge was to find a better job. I resigned the week after his full search agency commission became payable.”

Here are seven warning signs that the job you’ve been offered isn’t the job of your dreams:

1. When you mention you have holiday booked, the interviewer is sniffy and suggests that you should take it before you leave your current role.

2. Questions about work/life balance are brushed off or met with a hostile question about commitment.

3. You have to field questions that make you feel uncomfortable (or might not even be legal, such being asked whether you are planning on having kids soon).

4. Everyone working in the new company looks miserable.

5. You can’t imagine yourself working in the company for more than a year.

6. You don’t think you’ll get on with your new boss.

7. The salary is so great, you feel you must take the job for financial reasons, but your heart sinks at the prospect.

Thanks to Lee Blackwell, senior account director at PR agency Wriglesworth, for suggesting many of the warning signs above.

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