The team here at Prohibition HQ has grown quite significantly over the past 12 months – and that has meant holding lots of interviews with some fab PR candidates looking to secure a PR executive role. We also work closely with the PR degree at Leeds Beckett University – our MD, Chris, regularly lectures on the course and we have lots of students joining us in the office for short term work experience placements – so with this in mind, we thought it might be worth offering some tips and advice for those of you looking for a job after graduation.
When it comes to interview prep, those old-school interview favourites such as identifying your ‘biggest strengths and weakness’ are still 99% likely to make an appearance. Love them or hate them – they do offer your interviewer a real insight into how you perceive yourself. When it comes to identifying your strengths, it’s often best to pick three attributes and, where possible, give strong examples of how you have used these in ‘real life’ work situations. The weaknesses are harder! Avoid the typical ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or I ‘tend to work too hard’ and instead, try and highlight specific areas that you have already worked hard to try and rectify – whether it’s a gap in knowledge or practical experience of skills such as pitching or networking.
The general consensus at Prohibition is for candidates to remember to cover off the three Ps – ‘Punctuality’, ‘Preparation’ and ‘Politeness.’ Manners really are so important and being on time, being well presented and well prepared, as well as not talking over people and maintaining strong eye contact, are all really important when it comes to make a good first impression. It’s also worth thinking through your day before planning pre-interview activities – it’s never good to turn up to an interview dripping with sweat after an hour-long gym sesh!
Having some pre-planned answers for those common interview questions is always a good idea. Here’s a list of 10 questions that often crop up and that you should consider before arriving at an interview:
- Tell us about yourself and your PR experience.
- What experience do you have in securing media coverage?
- What would you see as the biggest challenge in a PR executive role?
- What PR campaign have you admired recently and why?
- What would you do in ‘X’ scenario
- Why do you want to work with us?
- What do you know about our company?
- What recent social media trend has caught your attention and why?
- Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
- Do you have any questions for us?
It’s also worth being prepared for those tricky curve ball questions such as:
- Tell me about the worst boss you’ve had?
- What’s the most embarrassing situation you have found yourself in and how did you get out of it?
- If you were a kitchen utensil – what would you be?
Don’t worry if you don’t have much experience in terms of journo contacts and PR campaign execution – an enthusiastic, willing to learn attitude goes a long way when starting out in PR.
In order to give you the best possible advice, we thought we would asked our friend Helen Salt, Founding Director at leading PR & Public Affairs recruitment firm, Black Cherry Recruitment Ltd, for her top tips to interview success.
Helen comments: “Preparation is always key! We always tell our candidates that their interview prep should include researching the company – have an opinion on their recent campaigns and why you would make a good addition to their company. Name dropping journos you have a good relationship with and having a list of media that you enjoy reading/listing to, is also a good bet. We also always recommend taking a portfolio with you – being able to showcase your experience and offer examples of your work is invaluable. Try and include a variety of work including examples of your writing and coverage you’ve achieved where possible.”
So there’s a few of our top tips for those of you heading out into the world of employment this summer… you’ll probably also really thank us for these last few ‘nuggets’ of wisdom:
- Whatever you do, don’t go in for the double cheek ‘PR Kiss’ at interview stage
- One of the biggest bug bears from an interviewer’s perspective is bad grammar in your CV – triple check it before you send it to any perspective employer!
- If you’re going to ‘inflate’ your experience, make sure it’s believable…
- Good hygiene is vital, but don’t overdo the aftershave… you want to leave a lasting impression, not a lasting smell.
- Finally, practice really does make perfect… rope in a friend to talk through some of your answers and ask them to throw in some curve balls to keep you on your toes.