How to nail that PR job interview

Congratulations, you’ve landed an interview for your dream PR job, now all you’ve got to do is nail it. First up, don’t be scared. As Colette Brown, co-founder of recruitment consultancy Prospect Resourcing says: “When you say ‘interview’, people often think ‘interrogation’. In conjures up nightmares of tough questions, panels of people and certain behavior’s you’re supposed to demonstrate.”

Brown believes you have to think about the interview completely differently: “The PR interview should very much be a two-way street. Consider this ‘interview’ an amalgam of a date and a client meeting. It’s a mutual dialogue where you both get to know each other a little better and it’s as much about the candidate asking the questions as the potential employer. It shouldn’t be they ask you about you, then tell you about them and then give you two minutes as they see you out of the door to ask any questions, which they have probably answered throughout the time they did most of the talking any way. Questions aren’t just for the end. You will of course have researched, so talk about the campaigns they work on, what you perhaps liked or weren’t sure about. Don’t be afraid to challenge as you would expect to be challenged, all politely of course. It’s not always about there being a right answer, it’s more about how you respond or defend it.”

Once you remember that you are in the judging seat as well as the hot seat, the rest is all in the preparation. Below are ten top tips for putting yourself ahead of other candidates.

Ten ways to shine

From Jill Coomber, co-founder of communications agency OneChocolate:

  1. Do background research. “This sounds an obvious one but it’s amazing how many people fall at this hurdle – research, research, research! And research isn’t just limited to understanding what the company you’re interviewing has worked on and specialises in, although of course that’s an essential box to tick for any interviewee. It’s about knowing what campaigns have recently got people talking, being able to comment on issues facing PR and how the industry is responding to them, and discussing shifts in the media landscape. It’s also important this is tailored to the level you are interviewing at. For example, I wouldn’t expect a junior account executive to be able to confidently discuss the importance of agencies offering an integrated service and clients opinions on this, but I would certainly expect an account director to.”

From Colette Brown:

  1. Show what you bring to the table. “What the employer is looking for is an insight into the type of practitioner you may be. Of course it depends on the level you are at, but the more senior you get, the more there is an assumption that you possess the specifics the job needs. You can hopefully write, understand the media and know what it takes to be a nifty client handler so now it’s about where you can really add value.”

From Katie Gallop, HR director at PR consultancy Cirkle:

  1. Demonstrate your hunger. “Not what you want for lunch, but your ongoing mission to soak up the latest industry news, views, trends and initiatives – and weave them into the interview.”
  1. Don’t tell, show. “Regurgitating facts you’ve seen on our website and social media about us, back to us, isn’t enough  add your own commentary and explain why you liked what you saw.”
  1. Embody digital. “Swipe your iPad to bring your work examples to life (and while you’re at it, make notes during the meeting – we’re amazed at how many candidates don’t even bring a pad). One CV that really stood out was designed in the style of a Facebook page with ‘Cirkle Dream Job’ in the search bar.”
  1. Read the room: “Be concise, authoritative and enthusiastic, but also hone in on body language and adapt your style to suit the audience – it may just prevent you waffling your way out the door.”
  1. Leave a lasting, not a final, impression. “Use your initiative, a senior digital candidate followed up his interview by offering our teams a free training session – we took him up on this and also offered him the job.”

From Rebecca Oatley, managing director of consultancy Cherish PR:

  1. Match the company’s values. “To nail a job interview with us, you need to match our three key business values – passion, intelligence and commitment. If you’re passionate about what you do that enthusiasm will come out naturally during the interview. I look for a friendly, open and most importantly a positive personality. Positivity is really important when working alongside our team and clients. Finally, commitment is key. We’re committed to being the best, so to show us your level of commitment, I would expect the candidate to have committed to preparing properly, turning up at the right time and showing us that they really want to work here.”
  1. Stand out from the crowd. “Show us something creative that you’ve worked on. One of our employees got the job simply because she emailed an extremely funny and creative video of her applying for a PR job, without any previous experience.  We all fell in love with her creativity and commitment to finding a job that we hired her on the spot, and she’s now a brilliant account director!”

From Emma Streets, head of social media at marketing agency CreativeRace:

  1. Have a genuine social media presence. “It’s easy to sit in an interview and come across as passionate about social media, but if you say that you’re a big social media user when you’re actually not, that’s kind of hard to come back from. You need to use social media personally to truly understand each channel and its nuances, to be able to advise clients and team members on this – so if your Twitter account was last updated 12 months ago and has 15 followers for example, that’s not going to instil confidence if you’re going for a social media role. That’s not to say that you expect every candidate to come with a vlogger-level following, but truly, actions speak louder than words so demonstrate your passion, excitement and knowledge of social on your own channels. Be yourself and share your personality online – just be aware that this is painting a picture that potential employers will see.”

If you follow all the above advice, you have a good chance of landing the job. The only question that remains is: do you actually want the position? After putting in so much hard work to get the offer, it can be hard to turn it down, but never rush into saying “yes” straight away. As Brown states at the beginning of this feature, the interview is a two-way street, so make sure any potential employer passes your tests too.