10 things to remember when applying for a PR job
As college grads dig deep into fall job hunting, it’s a good time to think of how you’re going to differentiate yourself to land that great PR job at the agency or company.
I went through this process a few years ago and have attended quite a few career fairs. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I’ve compiled some tips on how you can best land that PR plum.
1. Check yourself.
It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to ensure their cover letter and résumé are addressed to the right company, the right industry (i.e. “I am looking for a job in human relations”), and the right contact at the company. At my company (a PR agency), we get many résumés saying the candidate is looking for a position in advertising, in which case he or she should—surprise—contact an ad agency.
2. Welcome to 2013.
The PR industry changes constantly, and it’s imperative you stay up with it. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have became tools of our trade. There are strategies to engaging in social media. Be knowledgeable about companies who employ strong social media strategies and content marketing. Be able to refer to them.
Note: If you’re on social networks, think twice about your profiles and what you post. They’re the first places your potential employer searches.
3. Networking is key.
You severely limit yourself by relying solely on job posts to find positions. Networking events, Public Relations Society of America meetings, and social media will all get your name out. Be active in the PR and business community and opportunities will come your way. Follow PR industry influencers and people from companies you’re interested in, and then write comments on their posts to get your name in front of them. We’ve interviewed many people who were referred by a friend we met at an event or online, and we’ve hired several that way.
4. Informational interviews.
Informational interviews are a great underused way to learn not only about a job or career, but also about the company you’re interested in. Narrow down the list of interesting companies or agencies and set up interviews. CareerBuilder.com editor Kate Lorenz has some great insights on how an informational interview works.
5. Always Be Selling (yourself).
Anyone you meet daily could become your next job lead. It’s important to always dress appropriately, keep a positive attitude and let people know you’re in the market. Author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy says, “Network continually—85 percent of all jobs are filled through contacts and personal references.”
6. Don’t be afraid to take an internship.
You’re looking to land that dream job right out of college, but sometimes you’ll have to take an internship. We all feel we’re overqualified for yet another internship, but it can be the best route to a company you think is ideal. Taking an internship may be your best choice, especially if it’s in an interesting company or industry. That’s how I got into my first company.
7. Do your homework.
You got an interview with a PR agency or company. Now what? Take time and research them before the interview. It sounds obvious, but we often get the deer-in-headlights look when we ask, “What do you know about BLASTmedia and what attracts you to our agency?” Duh, right? Scan the company’s website, check out the clients they represent and read the company blog.
If, in the interview, you ask the employer what they do, you might as well put your résumé in the paper shredder as you walk out the door.
8.Show your personality.
In your cover letter and at the interview, don’t be afraid to show your true colors. This doesn’t mean go overboard or be your Saturday-night self. It means companies and PR agencies want to see your personality. We are in a business in which everything hinges on personality. We know all the canned interview responses; we expect you to be sincere and your real self.
9. Send a thank-you after each interview.
There are many reasons why you’d want to write an interviewer a letter of thanks. Here a few:
• To show your appreciation for their interest in you;
• To reiterate your interest in the job and the company;
• To remind the employer of your experience or qualifications;
• To show you have good manners and know to write a thank-you.
10. Be persistent.
Persistence is a prerequisite in PR, so why not show off yours before you’re hired? Yes, it’s easy to take this too far, but if you really like a company, keep trying to get your foot in the door, secure an interview and move your résumé to the top of the stack with great interview follow-ups.
I’ve told clients and potential clients hundreds of times: No amount of messaging, marketing or networking hides a bad product. Hard work, desire and a willingness to add value to an agency and its clients is, and always will be, a must.
Ryan Greives is a senior public relations specialist at global e-commerce provider cleverbridge. He is also the author of PR Spin, a technology PR industry focused blog. A version of this article also appears on the Business2Community blog.