Every time we place job opening ads on our website, LinkedIn, CPRS and other related sites we are amazed how many applicants possess very few of the required qualifications for the posted job. We understand times are tough, especially for recent university grads. It’s hard to find a break. And sometimes we do interview people who may not have the credentials but their application has caught our eye.
Here are some tips on how to get a job at a PR agency:
Applying for the Job
Include a Cover Letter
If we request a covering letter it’s because we want to validate that you follow direction. We want to see how you compose your thoughts and describe yourself and why you feel you should be considered for the job. Show some resourcefulness. Find out who the hiring manager is. If we ask for a salary range, please provide it and be honest. We know everyone wants to improve their position and increase their income but we want to understand where you fit in the industry, as agency and corporate titles are often misleading and vary from company to company. A good rule of thumb is to provide a range that starts at 10%-15% more than you’re currently earning to what your realistic top end salary would be, given your years of experience.
If you really don’t possess any of the required qualifications then don’t apply for the posted job but enquire about other positions by including a cover letter highlighting your achievements and skills.
We don’t care about the format of your resume but please be sure it’s easy to read and provides all the usual information, including your skills, responsibilities and very importantly, results and achievements. Your resume should not exceed two pages. If you have PR agency experience, indicate the clients you have worked on. Typos in your resume or missing chunks of time are immediate red flags for us.
Do Your Homework
We often receive hundreds of responses, some from highly-qualified candidates. Surprisingly, candidates are often unprepared when they arrive for an interview. One of the things we look for is people who demonstrate they want to work at our company. We ask questions to see what you know about us, our clients, the work we do, our awards, recent accomplishments and wins, et cetera. If you don’t know about us, why would we believe you want to work here?
It’s okay to ask a few questions before the interview such as:
- Who will I be meeting with? What is their title? Is this the person the position reports to?
- Are you able to share what clients the person in this position would be working on so I may do some preparation before the interview?
- Any other questions you think might help you prepare to beat out your competition and make a lasting impression.
It’s not okay to ask what the salary is, what the benefits are, or how much vacation time you’ll get.
Finally, we look at your social media presence and persona and we also look to see if you follow us on Twitter or have looked up any of us on LinkedIn. We’ll ask if you’ve read our blog too.
If we’ve shared who the client is that you may be working on, we will ask you lots of questions to see how much research and analysis you have done about their business as a gauge of your interest in the client, the type of work you’d be doing and to assess your resourcefulness. If we haven’t told you who the client is, then be sure to do some homework to see if we’ve announced any recent wins and at the very least know who our current clients are and be able to speak intelligently about recent work we have done for them. Know who their key executives are and their key media.
It may seem obvious, but be on time, or ideally a little early for the interview so you can feel the energy in the office and take a few deep breaths. Dress appropriately. Bring samples of your work – only what’s in the public domain. Have references typed up. Bring a list of questions you’d like answered if you’re given the opportunity. Bring a notepad and a pen.
Don’t Bend the Truth
We know everyone wants to sell themselves and appear competent and skilled. However, we’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years, and can tell when you’re exaggerating about your credentials or accomplishments, or stretching the truth. Integrity is in our top three requirements when we assess a candidate. Be honest!
Know Your Weaknesses and Address Them
You’re a bright person. You know where your weaknesses lie and where the holes are in your resume. We’re going to ask you about them (why do you move around so much? Why have you been in the same position for 5 years without a promotion?). Please don’t say it was a lay off if you’re the only one who was let go. Be up front with us.
Relax. We’re not out to trap you. We want to get to know you. Everyone wants to be liked. You’re probably a very nice person. Show us who you are beyond what’s on the resume. Let your guard down. Engage in conversation. Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. It won’t serve either of us any good in the end. We have to be a fit for each other. We will ask you some personal, seemingly unrelated questions (though entirely legal!) to try to get to know you a bit. Go with the flow. Be real!
We will never ask you questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. We want to understand how you think, problem solve, listen and assess a situation. Wherever possible, it’s very helpful if you can provide examples as an illustration of a skill or in answer to a particular question.
The Follow Up
Send a Thank You Email
Always send a thank you email on the same day as the interview. Often after an interview, candidates think of something they wish they’d said or had been asked. The thank you email is the perfect vehicle to add a few words. It’s also a good opportunity to inject some thoughts about something you heard or were asked but perhaps didn’t feel you fully answered, and demonstrates your listening skills and enthusiasm.
You’ve been through all the interviews and we still like each other and want to proceed together. We’re going to ask you for references. We want to talk to your most recent supervisor. If you’re currently employed and your employer doesn’t know you’re considering a move, then we’d like to speak to the last supervisor or manager you had prior to your previous employer. We want to talk to a client you’ve done work for. We don’t want to speak to a friend, co-worker, HR or your boss from 10 years ago.
You should also know that we do some digging of our own. And if you’ve been in the industry awhile, we may discreetly check you out with our media contacts, colleagues and on social media.
We hope you found this information helpful as you seek out new career opportunities. If you think you’d be a fit with our organization, check out our open positions and send us your resume with a cover letter and let’s see if there is a match.