4 PR interview tips to stand out to recruiters
March 1, 2018 • 4 minute read
Navigating the process of starting your career in public relations can be nerve-wracking. As you craft your resume and cover letter, and prepare for your interviews, you likely have a million questions running through your head. What skills and attributes will the agency be looking for? How will my past work experience help me in this role? What about my personality and career makes me an ideal candidate for this position? How can I stand out from the other applicants?
To help provide some guidance on the topic, I spoke with Associate Vice President Sophie Cikovsky who has been leading Infinite Global’s US recruiting and training program for the past six years. The good news for people right out of school? Sophie said prior experience at a PR agency isn’t the strongest predictor of success. Instead, she gave the following four PR interview tips for candidates looking to set themselves apart during the application process.
1. Pay very close attention to detail
There’s a reason most PR agencies’ job descriptions list attention to detail as a necessary qualification for the job. As PR professionals, we’re hired to give our clients advice on the best strategies and tactics for communicating their most important business goals. Making typos or grammatical errors, providing incorrect information or sending through half-baked ideas undermines our credibility as thoughtful communicators.
Successful PR professionals pay extremely close attention to detail in all correspondence, from pitches and press releases to client emails and strategy documents. This involves asking colleagues to review content, closely proofreading and leaving enough time to complete projects in a timely manner so you are not rushing. Yes, agency life moves quickly and having a sense of urgency is important, but as the saying goes, “haste makes waste.”
So how can you convey your high attention to detail during the application process? First, it should go without saying that your resume should be thoroughly proofed and cleanly formatted. (“Stating you have a high attention to detail in your cover letter while having a typo in your resume won’t take you very far,” Sophie says.) It’s also important to take the application questions seriously; follow instructions, proofread your responses and pull out your AP Stylebook if necessary. And when communicating with the recruiter and interviewers, make sure you understand the format for each interview (phone, video, in-person) and prepare accordingly.
2. Be curious
Curiosity is one of the most fundamental traits of successful PR professionals. We’re not afraid to ask questions, and want to invest our time and energy in learning new things. This trait is particularly important when working in complex, constantly changing sectors such as the legal profession and financial services. Our clients have a deep understanding of the topics and issues most pertinent to their respective industries. As their representatives in media outreach, it is important for us to also understand and speak knowledgeably about these issues — a skill that requires a strong desire to research, learn and push beyond what’s readily available on a Wikipedia page.
So how do you show someone how curious you are during an interview? Ask smart questions that show you did your research.
“Some of the best interviews are with applicants who really want to have a conversation about our company,” Sophie says. “They’ve read about us and our clients, and want to learn more about their potential role in building upon our successes.” But, she cautions, don’t just repeat facts from a potential employer’s website. “Read our blog posts, see where we’ve been quoted and check out the company’s social media accounts to learn more about our company culture. Armed with that information your questions are bound to lead to a more substantial conversation.”
3. Demonstrate your passion for the news process
A strong PR program is driven by the news. As PR professionals, it is our job to closely follow the news cycle and to find angles for our clients to comment on timely topics and issues that are of most interest to the media. Successful PR professionals not only have a passion for the news, they also have a keen understanding of the mechanics of the news process. This involves understanding a reporter’s beat and editorial mandates, knowing how to craft a successful pitch, coordinating interviews to meet deadlines and closely tracking for resulting coverage.
When applying to work at a PR agency, Sophie says you’re well-served talking as much as you can about your understanding of the media landscape. Demonstrate your understanding of how people consume news — online, social media and traditional outlets — and talk about what outlets and reporters you follow.
4. Follow up
Successful PR professionals are tenacious and have a strong sense of urgency. At a PR agency, you will be working with multiple clients, each with their own projects, priorities and deadlines. It is essential to possess the ability to multitask while staying mindful of various deadlines.
After your interview, it is important to show that you possess this tenacity by following up with the person (or people) who interviewed you. Sophie says that not sending a thank you note within a few days of the interview is “without exception an application killer.” She continues that a good thank-you note can bump an application to the top of the pile if it shows the candidate proactively following up on something discussed during the interview.
Infinite Global is hiring! Work at the agency National Law Journal has named No. 1 Overall PR firm for six consecutive years. Want to join one of the best places to work in PR?