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.

Feature image: http://wishtraining.com/helpful-stuff/interview-questions/

“Are you lost from your ball pit?” – 3 PR industry health and safety tips

Are you lost from your ball pit?” I was asked this question by a PR professional (I won’t name and shame) after they pointed out how young I am. It didn’t really affect me at the time but it got me thinking about how young PR pros can stand out when entering the industry. Here’s my advice when breaking into the world of working in PR:

found: http://pixgood.com/path-cartoon.html

1. Know what sector you want to work in: Having completed two PR placements in two different sectors last summer I have noticed a considerable difference between how day-to-day PR processes are handled. My first placement, being a creative digital marketing agency, was very laid back and the office was often filled with jokes and banter. In contrast, my second placement, being a corporate and financial consultancy, was more formal and conversations about the news or business scandals were the topic of choice over lunch break. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but to highlight the importance of knowing what sector you want to enter as a PR junior as each is suited for different types of people.

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2. Plan and plan and plan again: Planning your career path is the easiest way to work out what your PR dream really is. I created one for my Employability and Work Placement unit last year and what I have realised is that nothing is set. Your plan is yours. It can change at anytime to coincide with your ever-changing dreams. I also realised that even though your plan will most likely change as you grow within the PR industry it is still important to write down your career aims. By doing this you can position yourself within a certain sector or even with a specific organisation and you can prepare yourself for working within that environment.

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3. Dress for the job you want: This may sound a bit obvious but looking presentable is so important when making first impression in the industry. You won’t be taken seriously as a PR professional if you turn up to an interview or networking event in jeans and trainers. I recommend finding out what the dress code is before attending as digital agencies are often laid back have a more smart casual dress code compared to corporate where a suit is necessary.

 

If you’re a student trying to break into the industry then I’m sure you’ve already been told to do these things but I hope I can highlight how important they really are.

Key thing to remember: It might be intimidating to begin with but PR juniors are the future of the industry. Shake off negativity, learn from rejections and make your career the one you want it to be.