Posted by Tom Gable
In reviewing more than 200 resumes in the past month for account coordinator positions at Gable PR, our team struggled mightily at times to determine if a candidate should advance to the next round – a phone interview. Those making it through the phone interview then met with team members. The finalists took timed writing tests.
Our team, including those with experience at other agencies and on the client side, wondered if new entrants to the work force weren’t given much guidance in school or otherwise on solid approaches. As a public service to help future applicants to any PR job, the Gable PR team put together this short guide to things they liked or didn’t during the hiring process.
- On subject lines in email, grab our attention. Do something to stand-out. Be clever. Show personality (most don’t). Let us know why you’re a great candidate rather than simply “responding to AE advertisement.”
- Have a focused, relevant cover letter, including some enthusiasm for the position and evidence you looked at the agency’s website and know something about the business. Highlight what you learned in your PR or news internships and how it applies to the agency.
- Put the cover letter in body of the email to make it easier for the team to read.
- Attach a resume with your name as the file name (more than half of the submissions are just called “resume,” which means we have to give it a new name if we like what’s there. We cover this on our Contact Us page).
- Provide references and writing samples if you have them.
- Include a photo (but not from a bar, the beach, or the group photo from Facebook, etc.)
- During initial phone interviews or in-person interviews, be honest. Let us know about your passions/interests, long/short term goals and areas where you know you need to improve. If you are more interested in other fields such as advertising, HR, web design or other discipline and not PR, please let us know before we go to the next step with an interview.
- Dress neatly and professionally for the in-person interview.
- Bring clip folders of college and internship work to the interview; good writing samples help candidates rise to the top (Gable PR also has a timed writing tests for the finalists).
- Ask questions beyond “what’s a typical day like?” Take an interest in the company you may work for. Do background research on company history, current and past clients, awards, honors, individual achievements and if any team members have LinkedIn recommendations. Our favorite candidates treat an interview like an interactive dialogue and are genuinely excited. They show their personalities, including senses of humor and willingness to debate issues.
- Agency teams hit it off best with candidates who are thinking of PR as a long-term career choice and are excited about the profession.
- PR is a team sport, so think about how you would fit into this team and contribute to its success.
- Fast follow up with a thank you email or card.
- Common shortcomings: misspelled words in the subject line (including the name of the agency!); no copy in the cover email; vague introductory copy (obviously being sent to different categories of potential employers); misuse of words (“I will attribute my skills” to the agency instead of contribute); misspellings in the resume (we get a lot of these from people who list “detail oriented” as one of their key attributes.
- Interviewee showing up in jeans, too casual in attire; for women, chipped fingernails; for men, sloppy clothing, unkempt look, wrinkled clothes (we need to know our future colleague can meet with clients and the media and come across as professional; this doesn’t require an expensive wardrobe; neat, clean, thoughtful in choice of attire).
- Showing up without a resume or samples. No follow-up email or thank you note. The combination shows a lack of interest and demonstrates that you are missing an incredibly valuable trait in PR: preparing diligently for every meeting where you need to make an impression (client, media, potential employer!).
- A disinterest in news, writing and the media.
- Not being able to match your interests, skill sets and preferred career path to the position. Having an interest in human resources or advertising or sales may be fine for another interview. But we are looking for passionate potential PR team members. Tell us how your skill sets and drive are going to get results for our clients and help build our agency.
- On skill sets and experience: no PR or journalism in school; no relevant internships.
- Most common bad answer to why you want to get into PR: “I really like people!”