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How to find decent PR candidates

No matter what size agency or in-house team you work in,finding and recruiting talent is vital for developing the business. Sometimes a candidate sails through the interview stages and turns out to be a star member of the team. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Cara Hastings, chairwoman for Midlands CIPR Group, suggests to how to make the recruitment process pain-free:

1. Build good relationships with specialist recruitment consultants (if you are using them.) If they are briefed properly, know you personally and understand your company culture, you are more likely to see the right sort of candidates walk through the door. Provide them with a clear brief, and never let them force you into an interview if you’re not convinced by the candidate’s CV.

2. Feedback. Always provide feedback following an interview. If you are interested in taking it to a second stage, arrange this as quickly as possible. If candidates are good they get snapped up.

3. Interviews. Be prepared, never go into an interview having only looked at the CV five minutes before. An interview is a two-way process, it’s just as important for you to sell the role and the company as it is for them to impress you. Put your candidates at ease, the ultimate result is to learn as much about them and their suitability for the role as possible, not to spend time trying to catch them off guard. Don’t try to be too clever or quirky with questioning, but try and go for more criteria-based questions which will help you understand how the candidate is likely to perform in a similar situation and should also help you uncover any potential embellishments in their CV. Avoid closed questions which will only provide you with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers or leading questions which will encourage them to answer in a predictable way.

4. Legalities. As tempting as it might be to ask a candidate how old they are or if they are planning to have children in the near future, don’t! You must avoid any overly personal questions that could be interpreted as discriminatory. For further information on this side of things visit

5. Salary negotiation. Establish what the candidate’s salary expectations are. If there is only a small difference between what they are looking for and what you are in a position to offer, you may be able to balance this with other benefits such as car, pension, holidays and healthcare schemes.

6. Job offer. When you make the job offer, have all the right information to hand to avoid going back and forth and once you have a verbal acceptance, push the official paperwork through as soon as possible. Don’t expect a candidate to resign from a current role until they have an official offer in writing from you.

Case studies

Two agencies discuss their approach to finding and developing new talent:

Tricia Moon, director at Bell Pottinger Group (part of Chime Communications)

“We’ve been doing a graduate scheme since 1993. This year it has spread across the whole Chime group, through our research, advertising and public relations sectors. We are taking on 12 graduates across all three disciplines, each of whom is paid a competitive industry salary. To find the graduates, we have an online application process, followed by a panel selection and half-day workshops. Those selected each do two six-month placements. I then talk to the companies about the success of the placements, as well as talking to the graduates individually. It is then up to me to then place each person in the agency that is the best match.

“Because it is the nature of our business that there is a natural churn, we promote the career advantages of staying, and we do tend to keep people. We have also been nominated in the Graduate 100 Award as the place graduates most want to work in 2010.”

Paul Sutton, head of social communications at Bottle PR:

“As part of my role I’m tasked with ensuring that the agency is ‘skilled-up’ in the areas that we feel are becoming increasingly important; digital marketing, social media and online PR. In order to stay ahead of the game, we want to identify the best young talent in the field of social communications.

“We believe that in order to understand social media you have to be active in social media. And so we’ve devised a recruitment challenge whereby interested people have to communicate to us via the social web why they deserve a shot with us (see here.)

The strategy is completely up to them: what channels they use and what creative mechanisms they employ. We decided that for these positions a traditional CV and interview just doesn’t cut it; we don’t want reams of CVs from graduates telling us what they could do. Instead, we want people to show us what they can do. We want people to get us to notice them on the social web. If they can do that, it proves they understand the field of social communications well enough to be able to make an impact.

“At the end of September, we’ll invite anyone who has impressed us to meet in person, whether that be one or 20 people. Anyone we choose to employ will take on an important role here, reporting to myself to help devise and drive digital media campaigns across our client base. They’ll be an integral part of the team and will receive the same benefits as the rest of the company, including in terms of a competitive salary, holidays and company days.”

Editor's note: If you are recruiting, it's worth checking our PRmoment Jobs. PRmoment is now seen by over 12K unique users a month and this is driving decent traffic to the jobs site.

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