PR newbies: 8 uncommon tips for job interviews

This post orginally appeared on Communications Conversation By Arik Hanson

By Arik Hanson

Last week I spoke to a PRSSA chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Really motivated and organized bunch, it seemed. Afterward, one of the young ladies introduced herself and said she’d be following up soon.

Her question: “I have my first interview in a couple weeks for a PR internship–do you have any advice?”

As I thought about that, I considered the obvious tips. Research the company. Know the dress code. You know the tips. We’ve all heard them before (and if you haven’t, be sure to follow our quarterly HAPPO chats for more).

But, what about those tips that fly beneath the radar? Those tips that might be a little outside the norm (and in some cases way outside). Keep in mind, when you’re applying for these internships and jobs, you’re competing with HUNDREDS of other kids. This is not a game. This is a battle. And your future is at stake. How badly do you want it?

If you’re serious about your search, I have eight “off the beaten path” tips for you for that first PR interview:

Be conversational with the receptionist or administrative assistant.

Might not seem like a big deal, but in some ways, the administrative assistant will be the most important person you meet at that interview. Later in the day, the hiring manager will walk by the front desk and ask the assistant what he or she thought of you–make sure what he/she says is overwhelmingly positive.

Follow up…with resources

You’ll be ahead of half the competition if you follow up after the interview. You’ll be ahead of 99.9 percent of the competition if you follow up with resources. What do I mean? As a final piece to your follow-up note, send the hiring manager an interesting article you read in the last week around a topic you discussed. A recent case study that’s relevant to their business. A new social media tool you think might be of interest based on your conversation. That useful information you pass along wil stand out. You’ll position yourself as a resourceful employee–and someone who takes initiative.

Ask your own questions–about the interviewer

Based on another insider tip: Always make a list of questions to ask the interviewer (another thing I’m always surprised more people don’t do in an interview setting). But, I’d take it one step further. You want to develop questions to ask the interviewer about the role and company–sure. But, add a few about the interviewer himself/herself. Personalize them. Research the interviewer online before you meet–and tailor questions to their specific interests. They’ll be surprised how detailed your research obviously was.

Make sure you talk about one client campaign

Especially at an agency, make sure you work one client campaign into the discussion. It will show you know their client roster–and it will demonstrate you can talk intelligently about their work in a pressure-packed environment.

Use interactive media to your advantage

Do you have video editing experience (huge skill for younger pros, by the way)? Why not show your clip in the interview on an iPad or your iPhone. Or, maybe you created your resume in a Prezi? Those look pretty darn cool on an iPad, too (a HAPPO job seeker created a killer presentation using Powerpoint a few years ago). Use technology to your advantage.

Show confidence and humility

Employers definitely want confident, young people. But, they also want people who are humble. And, who know how to work well with others. Be confident–but don’t be afraid to show a little humility.

Write a post for the company blog

Might seem a little aggressive, but if you really want to separate yourself from the competition, consider writing a post for the company blog. Pick a topic. If it’s an agency, maybe it’s a post about a recent social media trend. It it’s a corporate blog, what about a re-tread of a topic they’ve written about in the past–from your perspective. Writing a post for the company blog will demonstrate initiative, creativity and critical thinking. All qualities they’re most likely looking for in an ideal candidate.

Make sure your leave-behind is memorable

Lastly, make sure whatever it is you leave behind after the interview sticks in that hiring manager’s memory. If it’s your resume, make sure it stands out. Maybe it’s a one-pager with screen grabs of clips? Be sure to have it professionally designed. Whatever the case, your leave behind is a big opportunity to you to carve out real estate in that hiring manager’s brain. Take advantage.

What about you? Have any tips for those kids facing their first PR interviews this spring?

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Comments

  1. Thank you for posting such a helpful post, Arik! 🙂 All of the tips you gave were great! I have to say that I’ve never heard of the “Follow up…with resources” tip. That really is a unique way to stand out from your competition. I know that being able to talk about any work the organization has done is also a great idea…it really shows the interviewer that you’ve done your research and are sincerely interested in the company.

  2. Jessica Medearis says:

    These tips are very creative. Usually students just hear about the typical rules of professionalism (e.g. dress code, being on time, etc). When I start interviewing I plan to have a portfolio of writing and design samples for the interviewer to hold on to. I’ve also heard that it’s a good idea to write a handwritten thank you note after the interview because no one really hand writes anything anymore.

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