My top interview tips for PR grads

Interviews can be scary, especially if you haven’t had practise with many before. I’ve certainly had my fair share of interviews, some fun and some frightening. As a recent graduate fighting my way through the competition to get interviews and eventually a job (fingers crossed) I thought I would try and help some people out with tips I have learnt along the way. I hope that this post will settle the score on some interview myths and give some key tips that I wish I had been told.

From my experience there are three types of interviews that companies like to go for;

  1. Good Cop/Bad Cop,
  2. So laid back you could take a nap and,
  3. You’d think you were on The Apprentice (Complete with that annoying rival candidate)

I must say my preferred interview style is the Good Cop/Bad Cop and I’ll explain why.

The Good Cop/Bad Cop is normally held with two interviewers that go through some questions with you in a formal manner but nothing too strict. One interviewer will constantly smile and nod reassuringly at your responses, whilst the other (probably sprouting horns) grunts or exhales heavily to all answers. The good cop will normally ask you whether the journey to the interview was alright and whether you’re enjoying the weather, whilst the baddy will jump straight in for the kill with ‘so why you?’ My advice for this style of interview is to play their game. Smile and show a fun and friendly side with the Good Cop but you need to be able to switch to suit the Bad Cop. Be serious with your answers and keep eye contact, keeping in mind that they’re probably not trying to catch you out but are looking for a professional person. The first interview myth I want to settle is that you are allowed to enjoy it. This interview style enables you to show off your personality as well as your skills so make the most of it.

I personally have only encountered the second style once and it was… unnerving. I always say it’s better to be overdressed for interviews, however, upon arriving in a suit I was certainly shocked to find an almost beachwear attire in the office. It wasn’t even a Friday so Casual Friday was off the cards. Many digital and creative agencies have adopted a fun and relaxed working environment and normally consider smart casual as suitable attire, but I recommend finding out what they expect before attending any interview. The laid back approach to interviews can make you feel more comfortable but my advice is don’t forget why you’re there. You’re there to make a good impression and to sell your skills. If the conversation is informal and you don’t feel like you’re getting the chance to be serious about the role and your interest in working for them then it’s always good to raise a question about the role to keep the conversation in the right direction. The second myth I want to challenge is that there is such a thing as too nice. A survey by blah revealed that the most desirable personality trait wanted from interviewers was being down-to-earth. It’s good to have a bit of a backbone during interviews especially when discussing your expectations from the role. Interviews are very much about seeing if the company is right for you, not just if you’re right for them.

The final interview approach is possibly the worst. This type of interview is usually a group affair and a very competitive experience. Normally you’re set with a team building exercise (how many cups can you stack before it topples, etc) to show if you’re a team player. Sometimes, if they’re really mean they’ll ask candidates to leave after this first stage (don’t be in the team with the toppling cups) and the final stage will be one on one sessions. My advice for this type of interview is be the biggest show off. You’ll be watched all day during the team sessions and the one to ones so make sure you’re on the ball at all times. This sort of interview is the most frightening as the competition can be off putting but show off your skills and remember that you can only do your best. The final interview myth I believe to be irrelevant these days is that you have every right to ask what the salary is. If the interviewer hasn’t mentioned the contract type or salary bracket then you should have the confidence to ask this. It can be an awkward subject to discuss so I wouldn’t suggest firing it out first thing but if the conversation has gone well and you’re asked if you have any questions then this would be a good time to bring it up.

One final point of advice that may seem like an obvious one, it is to me at least, is that at no point should you be on your phone at an interview. Even if you’re waiting a long time (and you’re nearly onto the next level of Candy Crush). It looks unprofessional and gives the impression that you’re bored.

I hope that this advice is useful and wish all graduates good luck with your interviews.

I would love to hear your interview stories, funny or frightening, so leave a comment and let me know what your top interview tip would be.

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