Getting your first (or even second) job in PR can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. Those completely new to the world of work, or trying to second guess the warm words of a recruitment agency really mean, can find themselves flummoxed by contradictory advice, limited detail or information overload.
Asking questions can feel awkward, so here two seasoned recruiters, from global PR firm Ketchum, share their advice on what not to do during the recruitment process:
1. Don’t look lazy - If you are too busy to do your research, or you simply don’t know how to find out about a company it can be tempting to send a simple homogenised message, one you’ve may have cut and paste to 20 other employers. The recruiter’s advice is don’t bother. “I think some candidates forget how competitive it is to get into PR and how people like us get hundreds of applications every week. Bland, zero-effort emails scream ‘complacency’ and are quickly rejected, potentially wasting years of hard work and education on the part of the candidate. I’d be more likely to put forward a candidate who had clearly done their research on what our firm stands for, its history, campaigns, clients, awards and culture, than someone who is relying on their grades. Good employers recognise, you can teach PR skills, but it’s harder to teach attitude”, explained Charlotte Stubbington.
2. Don’t be the strong silent type – When you get to an interview it can feel quite intimidating, you may be worried about saying the wrong thing or revealing a weakness – but being silent brings its own risks. “When we’re interviewing people, one of the things we’re looking at, is how candidates connect with others, how they would fit into our existing team and how they respond to a little pressure. So, silent types are leaving a huge amount to our imagination. If you ask your family how to behave in an interview they’ll usually say ‘be yourself’, and this is actually very good advice. Recruiters want to see how conversational people are, understand their interests and get into a dialogue about what the candidate is looking for. The best applicants are the ones who can establish a rapport, make others feel comfortable and create an interesting conversation.” Explained Rachael O’Connor
3. Don’t wear the wrong thing – In the olden days, a suit was the no brainer choice of anyone going for an interview, but now it’s more complex and it needs a little research. “We’re not here to judge how people look, but a huge amount of effective face to face communication is non-verbal, and a good PR will recognise that. We want people who can be ambassadors for our brand so their ability to dress appropriately is a component of our recruitment calculation. The days of suits for every interview are over, but we don’t want people to look like they’re going to a stag party either. My advice is to take a look at who is coming out a potential employers building and see who features on their corporate website – then emulate that, if a little smarter. If you understand the culture of where you’re applying then you should have a pretty good idea of what to wear”, explained Charlotte.
4. Don’t have a rubbish CV – The classic mistake of claiming your strength is ‘attention to detail’ and then loading up a CV sprinkled with grammatical errors is surprisingly common. “The people who work in HR and recruitment are usually detail orientated, and that means we spot spelling errors every day. It creates a very poor impression, when you know so little about a person’s abilities, so the simplest thing to do is to eliminate errors by reading through every application with a trusted friend. CVs should express your career and education to date over two sides, in a regular sized font, without any photographs, drawing attention to things you know we’ll be interested in. If you’re not sure what that means, do your research or ask. So long your queries demonstrate you’ve made an effort to understand a company, and they aren’t too numerous, HR people are there to help and we never mark a person down for asking questions.”
5. Don’t forget you have a social media footprint – If you want to work in an industry heavily involved in presenting brands and organisations via social and digital, you need to start by showing you can present yourself positively. “These days its common practice to check every CV to see how savvy the candidate is in social and digital. So of course we’re going to Google people, scan Twitter, Facebook and the other major platforms. Seeing someone chundering into their lap would be a big red flag on any candidate, but so would no social footprint at all. A candidate’s social media life is their private life, but we’re looking for judgement and positive characteristics. Someone who has let (or encouraged) deeply embarrassing content into their feed, or who looks utterly boring is demonstrating a simple lack of judgement”, explained Charlotte.
Find out more about Ketchum here