How to nail that PR interview

Walk the walk and talk the talk, here are 16 top tips for nailing that PR interview.

1. Do your research.

Ruby Kite, talent acquisition manager at PR agency The PHA group: “Interviews are like new business pitches for yourself, so prepare accordingly. Research the company culture, as well as clients and campaigns, through a variety of resources, e.g. their website and social channels, Google News, and trade magazines such as PRmoment. You could even check out your interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles beforehand to discover their career path and passions.”

Victoria Ruffy, co-partner of PR agency Little Red Rooster: ““It may seem simple but I am always impressed by those that take the time to find out more about the clients we represent, our ethos and the agency by taking a look through our website. It tells me that you have done your research because you are genuinely interested in a job. One of the worst things that can possibly happen is not being able to say which client interests them the most – regardless of what level of position you are interviewing for.”

2. Make eye contact

Ruby Kite: “Eye contact is key so ensure you engage everyone in the room throughout, not just whoever asked the question. Talk about your own achievements, rather than your team’s, and focus on the value you can tangibly add. Think before answering more complex questions, as pausing is better than panicking, and don’t forget to personalise your questions to the role and team you’re applying for.

3. Be prepared to show off  

Sam Hamrebtan, European talent lead at PR firm Hotwire: “If you have pieces of content you’re proud of, projects that had interesting/leading outcomes or an example of where you were really able to support a client in an innovative way, then bring collateral that helps you show what you did; a visual often helps with the story you craft!

“A PR agency’s scope in businesses is broader than ever - if you can show how you came up with something that genuinely helped solve a client’s business issue that was keeping them up at night, this is much more impressive than a campaign that got coverage but didn’t affect the bottom line.”

4. Don’t use buzz words

Sam Hamrebtan: “Saying you are prepared, confident and good at being flexible in situations doesn’t prove this to hiring managers. Think about the examples you can use to back up the buzz”

5. Follow up

Sam Hamrebtan: “If you really enjoyed the meeting, do send a note afterwards to say thank you. It allows you to crIate one more touchpoint so you are remembered, post the hour you are there.”

6. Provide proper examples  

Sarah Whittle, HR director at communications consultancy Freshwater: “In the interview, a candidate should provide evidence and competency-based examples that match the job description. These examples should be succinct but with clear messages on the candidate’s ability to do the job. Candidates should also avoid vague or unnecessary questions – the panel may be interviewing numerous people that day so would appreciate one or two well-thought through and genuine queries, instead of those that could have been answered with a quick Google search.”

7. Don’t read this article!

Sophie Raine, deputy managing director at agency W Communications: “A curveball in an article on nailing the job interview, but don’t over-consume articles on interview tips! Be natural and crucially be yourself. I recently met someone who answered single question I posed with “good question” which was contrived and irritating in equal measure. A lot of the skills developed in one PR role will be transferable to the next so its the person that the interviewer is often buying into and no one wants to buy an interview technique robot. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever conducted an interview where someone hasn’t said “can you tell me a bit more about the culture?”. Stand out by linking questions to your skill set. For example “at my current agency I am a part of the cultural committee and help determine its output, what’s the set up like

at W?” Would be much a more impressive and memorable answer.”  

8. Be five minutes early

Shalon Roth, co-author of How to Succeed in a PR Agency: Real Talk to Grow Your Career & Become Indispensable and founder of comms collective, PR-it notes: “Be five minutes early. Being extremely early is just as bad as being late.

9. Plan for tough questions

Shalon Roth: “Such as “how did you handle a project / personnel challenge?” and “what are your top three weaknesses?” to make sure you answer honestly, but still come out shining.

10. Don’t ask about the salary

Shalon Roth: “Leave compensation and holiday questions to HR or your recruiter.”

11. Don’t fill a silence 

Shalon Roth: “Interviewers leave awkward pauses for candidates to ramble nervously and reveal more than intended. Once you’ve provided an answer, wait for the next question – don’t fill the silence.”

12. Be passionate  

Jennifer Chapman, sector lead, communications/PR and influencer at f1 Recruitment: “In my experience working with agencies, brands and in house teams at f1 Recruitment, it’s always the enthusiasm, passion and commitment of a candidate that nails it.

“Show them what you can bring to the party and demonstrate what you achieved so far. Be dynamic and listen and give examples of your work. Consider going that extra mile by giving a short presentation with a testimonial at the end – “don’t just take my word for it…”

13. Speak the lingo

Alexandra Sedgemore, senior account director at PR agency Bottle: “Do If you’re going to see a business with an increased digital focus (like Bottle, for example) make sure you know your DA (domain authority) from your GA (Google analytics) and can talk direct vs. organic traffic. Being able to speak the lingo suggests you understand them, are following the current trends, understand the key metrics and measures and will be able to understand the client brief.”

14. Be yourself

Poppy Lewis, creative eirector at agency Aduro Communications: “By the time you get to interview stage, we’ll have read all about your experience on paper, so what we are looking for is a sense of who you are and what makes you tick. At Aduro we love how everyone’s different passions and interests add to our culture so don’t be afraid to sh

ow your individuality and be yourself – it’s what we’re looking for!”

15. Show off your creative side

Poppy Lewis: “Share examples of your creativity both for clients and in your personal life too, no matter how big or small. They’re all examples of the way you approach challenges and think outside the box, which is what we love to see.“

16. Don’t feel obliged to take the job

Kirsty Reid, development coach and PR consultant at women’s comms network Bloom: “Don’t be afraid to be you and to find out if the company fits you, rather than you fitting to the company. I’ve seen a lot of amazing, clever and skilled PR women go for their next big role at a company that doesn’t align with their values, and they end up losing confidence, feeling stuck and inevitably being unhappy. An interview is as much about a company finding out about you as you finding out about them. Be confident in yourself and what you want and a good employer will respect you for that. Employers should be future proofing women in comms careers and that means breaking down the barriers they face in job interviews. Build a genuine rapport and feel confident in asking about flexible-working, work/life balance, progression and a great question to finish on - what five words would an ex-employee use to describe working here?”

Interviews may be a two-way process, but it is important to shine as bright as you can. That way, the worst that can happen is that you have to turn down the job because it’s not right for you.

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