Ace That PR Interview
Disclaimer: I am not by any means writing this thinking I am some kind of interview wizz. I have only had a few interviews in my life, but collating information from past experiences and those experiences of my friends, I have come up with a few solid tips to ace that exciting interview!
1. Know the company
This sounds obvious, but before the all important day, make sure you research the PR company thoroughly. Know who their clients are, who they’ve represented in the past and what their general ethos is. What sectors are they specialising in: food and drink, fashion, travel? What are they doing that other companies aren’t? If you get your head around these questions, then you can start to build your knowledge of the company and when they ask you “Why PR?” or “Why do you want to work for this company?” you have some great answers to come back with. You want to be able to show off that you know this company inside and out, to say that you were “drawn to the company because they have a young, fresh approach and have a client list to match such as…”…or something along those lines. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe in the interview you could bring up an article that they tweeted about which you really enjoyed. It’s little things like this that set you apart from everyone else.
2. Dress the part
Again, this depends on which company in particular you are interviewing with. Are they very corporate or is it a boutique PR company that has a more relaxed atmosphere about it? Whichever it may be, dress accordingly. Recently I interviewed with a small, young PR company who were as stylish as they were social-media-savvy and so I donned my vintage Moschino Cheap & Chic black jacket, Zara green silk shirt, black jeans and riding-style boots. Smart-casual, with the ruffles on my jacket adding a nice touch.
3. Know yourself
This may sound odd, but my friend advised me that I should know myself before going for my interview. Actually, she said that one of my ‘good qualities’ is that I know what I like and what I don’t like. In an interview, the interviewer wants to know what sort of person you are and you need to prove to them that they should choose you for the internship over many other candidates. For your personality to really shine, you need to realise your strong points because you are your greatest supporter. No-one else is there to say “Pick her pick her she’s a fabulous blogger/writer/party-organiser/etc” – you have to make sure your strengths radiate! (Also remember to check over the CV you sent them, and be ready to elaborate on what you have included on there)
4. Think outside the box
I’ve heard many horror stories about PR companies asking interviewees terrifying questions or making them do ridiculous tasks on the street to advertise a certain brand/company and prove they could attract attention. I’ve never had such experiences, luckily, but you will most likely be asked a couple of questions such as “If you were a new restaurant, how would you attract people to your business via Twitter only?”. Obviously this is a very specific question, but it wouldn’t do any harm to research both well established and new businesses and see how they are gathering new followers/raising awareness both online (social media) and in advertising campaigns. By seeing their strategies, you will start to get an idea of what techniques you might employ working in a PR company representing different brands. ALSO – I read somewhere that so frequently people are asked why they want to go into PR, and they say it is because they are ‘a people person’…DON’T SAY THIS! A lecturer for a PR/Advertising course in an American university said that they wanted people on their course who realised the importance of other attributes such as being an excellent writer (for press releases, articles, blog posts) and that if you thought it was just about being good with people you were doing the wrong course. Moral of the story: don’t be predictable.
5. Prepare for generic questions
To feel less nervous, make sure you have the answers to generic questions sorted. Practise answers to questions such as: “what are your strengths/weaknesses/Tell me about your past work experience/Tell me about yourself/What do you want to get out of working here?”
6. Think before you speak
It’s totally okay to have a brief pause before you answer. If you are feeling extra nervous, sometimes a couple of seconds before you start speaking is necessary to make sure you answer eloquently and get out everything you wanted to say. You don’t want to be waffling on for hours and thinking before you speak allows you to gather your thoughts for a moment and proves that you don’t just spill out everything that is in your head at that moment!
7. Ask questions
You want to build a rapport with your interviewer, so be smiley, exude positiveness and ask your interviewer about themselves. If you’ve followed them on twitter or researched them on Linkdin then you could ask questions due to the research you’ve done, or you can ask them something like: “How did you get into PR? What do you enjoy most about working here?” Actually engaging with the person you talk to, will make you memorable and will make the experience far more enjoyable and relaxed for both parties involved. If you ask questions, you will look like you are actually interested in working for the company – not just doing the rounds of interviews in a desperate rush for an internship. Ask what a typical day looks like at the company or what your tasks will be working as an intern. You may also want to ask about pay/travel expenses.
8. Bring along your work
So often, people who go to an interview don’t bother to bring any solid evidence of work they’ve produced. It’s a major achievement having something printed in the university newspaper or a blog post published on an extremely popular website so bring it along! At the end of your interview, make sure you say to your interviewer that you’d love to leave them with a piece of your written work so that they can see for themselves what you have to offer. Again, you stick in their mind and they have something solid with your name printed across it. Perfect.