8 uncommon pieces of advice for that first PR interview

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?

Note: Photo courtesy of sbusoj via FlickR Creative Commons.

19 comments
evoque
evoque

Thanks. Your advice is very universal and can be applied to almost any profession. PR is a very very competitive industry but if you are passionate about it, it will speak for itself. If you manage to 'infect' your interviewer with your energy and professional focus, you will succeed. 

_MayLee_
_MayLee_

@BMJEWELL @ArikHanson always has great advice! He shared some great future-pro-pr tips with UWEC's PRSSA just a couple weeks ago!

Neil9awrsm
Neil9awrsm

@allawler before about look long their doesn't at someone @DepWalmart

SoMeJUNKY
SoMeJUNKY

@RFIPR wow this interesting. It seems a little to aggressive. Hopefully this is going to help me out!

nikki_little
nikki_little

@katelynshelby How did your live stream event go the other day?

arikhanson
arikhanson

@sjplatte Which tip resonated most with you? I threw in some new ones this time...

mjkeliher
mjkeliher

That's great advice. One thing I'd add: Demonstrate that you want to work *there*, not just anywhere. It makes a difference that can be spotted a mile away and speaks volumes to the person who's considering hiring you.

Narciso17
Narciso17

Good Post, Arik!

 

I'm Glad That You Mentioned the Importance of Speaking With the Receptionist - This Aspect is Often Overlooked, Ofentimes b/c of Nerves (Calming Yourself Down, Running Through a Script, Etc.).  HOWEVER, I Belive That, Aside From The Reaons You Listed, There Are Two Other Benefits to Doing This:

 * It Helps You 'Work Though' Some Nerves By 'Talking Stuff Out' Before the Interview ... Even If It's About a Movie You Just Saw

 * The Person You're Interviewing May Very Well Hear You Having This Conversation.  And, If You Are Mixing It Up With One Of Their Team Members, It Shows That You May Very Well May be a Good Fit for Their Culture.

 

Another Thing I'd Add to Your List Would be to Bring In an Idea and/or Question About One of the Company's Clients. This Shows That You're Doing Some Extra Research That Goes Beyond Just Looking Over the Company's Website. This Kind of Preparation Shows That You're Ready to Work and Are Ready to Take Those Extra Steps to Make Things Happen.

 

Narciso Tovar

Big Noise Communications

 @narciso17 

chimoose
chimoose

This is great stuff, Arik.  I just shared it with a young friend who's in this very situation!  I'm curious about the "write a post for their blog" angle.  Have you ever seen/known anyone who actually did that?  I don't, but I'm thinking that if the post was both good and relevant, I'd be willing to post it on WCG's blog ...

sjplatte
sjplatte

@arikhanson Following up w/ resources+writing post for company blog. Showcases initiative & provides example of skills applied to the brand.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @mjkeliher You and Mr. Pierach must be "on point" with messaging ';) I've heard him say the exact same thing before (and I completely agree).

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @Narciso17  @narciso17 Good adds, Narciso. Yeah, lots of reasons to interact with the receptionist. Not the least of which should be that it's just common courtesy, right? 

mjkeliher
mjkeliher

 @chimoose Often, we'll ask people who visit Fast Horse for an informational interview or one of our "intern for a day" programs (http://fasthorseinc.com/blog/2011/01/10/fast-horse-intern-for-a-day-program-round-two/) to write a blog post for our site. We'd certainly be willing to do the same for more traditional job candidates, but the interviewing process is sometimes -- often -- a more sensitive subject. If they're leaving a current job or internship, for example, they usually (reasonably) don't want to advertise they're on the hunt!

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @chimoose I haven't, but I love that idea. Definitely worth the "risk" in my view. Probably more directed at agency gigs, but you just confirmed my suspicion. You'd post it if it were insightful/interesting, right? And, then you'd probably hire the author... ;)