Facing the interview beast

Facing the interview beast

One of the elements of our job as PR recruiters that we enjoy doing more than most, is meeting each and every candidate in order to prepare them for their upcoming interview. For one, it’s a chance to catch up face to face, but equally it’s a good opportunity for us to impart our wisdom and knowledge about how to handle yourself in an interview, and to go into more detail about what (and who) to expect on the day!

Facing the interview beast

We’ve put together a list outlining our top interview tips, which should help any PR professional make a real impact and blow away their potential employer:

  1. Try to get on with your interviewers – this might seem really obvious, but I very rarely see it included on any similar such lists! The key to any job is cultural and personality fit, so it’s important to try and be yourself, relax and come across as genuinely as you can. Building up a rapport and making an authentic connection with the people you’re meeting is of the utmost importance! No one we know has ever hired the candidate who had 5 years under his or her belt at a top PR agency, but came across as disingenuous or unfriendly.
  2. Do your research – again, an obvious one, but immediately noticeable to the interviewer if you haven’t. Scour the website (twice!), look at the blog & social channels, research their clients (including what they do) and keep a few things in mind which have stuck out as setting them apart from the other agencies out there. It’s always a good idea to ask your interviewers about a particular client or campaign they have been involved in – it opens up the conversation and will give you a little more insight as to the way your potential future teammates work.
  3. Go through your own CV & experience before the interview – it’s all very well saying on your CV that you’ve had scores of experience “devising PR plans & strategies” but if you don’t have the examples to back it up, you’re doomed. Have a think about specific examples from your career, which show your ability to deliver in the role. Make sure you’re able to talk through the process from start to finish and explain the part you played. Demonstrating your own successes and achievements is a great way of showcasing your own abilities. If you have a job spec or a detailed advert, bear in mind the most important skills and make sure you’re armed with excellent examples, which illustrate your prowess in each of these areas.
  4. Ask questions – there’s nothing less enthusiastic than an interviewer asking, “do you have any questions?” at the end of the interview and a candidate saying “no”. In order to make sure you can show your interest in the job, you need to ask questions! Key questions, from the culture of the agency to the team structure and likely client portfolio are good ones to start with. We’ve had people ask everything from “what’s your favourite client” to “what are your financial projections for this year”, as long as your questions aren’t accusatory, go ahead and ask. Your questions show a genuine interest and passion for the opportunity on the table, which is vital for any potential employer to see. Equally, how are you as the job seeker going to know whether the position is right for you, if you don’t know anything about the way the team works, training opportunities available, or the social aspects of the business?
  5. Arrive on time – “On time” is a foreign concept for many, and it’s quite specific for an interview. 10 minutes early is good, 5 minutes early is good, 3 minutes early is ok. 30 minutes early, however, is not. This puts your potential employer off for numerous reasons. Firstly, you’re pressuring them into finishing up whatever they’re in the middle of to meet you and secondly, it shows you have no regard for their schedule. If you’re that early, go and have a coffee around the corner and do some last minute prep. But for god’s sake, do not take your takeaway coffee into the interview! On the flip side, turning up even a few minutes late without having at least got in touch with the people you’re meeting with (or us, so that we can call and let them know) is a major no-no. Your tube got delayed or you may have been unable to escape the office on time, but PR’s are notoriously busy so show some respect for the people you’re hoping might employ you, allow yourself 15 minutes more than you’ll need and make the effort to get to your pre-arranged interview “on time”.

Whilst the above might seem obvious, it’s often the simplest tricks that work the best and it’s always good to have a reminder of the fundamentals of interviewing. We take preparing our candidates for an interview very seriously and are always on hand for any advice that our candidates (or indeed clients) ask for! If you need some extra tips or want any additional interview coaching, get in touch – we’d love to help!

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