PR recruitment – the candidate’s view

While we take pride in the efforts we make to help our candidates, we can’t compare it to the stress of job-hunting, interviewing and – yes – dealing with recruiters.

That’s why we spoke to one of our long-standing candidates, Nik Jeffries, to get his view on the PR job market and get the skinny on the best and worst aspects of finding a new role.

So, Nik, tell us about your career so far!

I suppose I’ve had a fairly unusual trajectory, in that I started off at Gorkana, where I worked for nearly six years before taking my first agency role at Harvard. It was interesting to have that perspective of working for the industry’s number one media database before beginning my career in PR “proper”, but the real learning began at Harvard.

I then moved to Bite as a Senior Account Executive, and in July I got a role with Propeller as Senior Account Manager.

How did you find the process of job-hunting?

There are a lot of recruiters out there who just see you as “fresh meat” to fit into whatever vacancies they’ve got going. I’m a firm believer in only taking the perfect role but, if you need a job badly, it could be tempting to take what’s on offer from such a recruiter, rather than waiting for the role that’s right for you.

A lot of recruiters don’t seem to care about building a relationship with PRs – you get the strong impression that you’re a lot less important to them than their relationship with employers. I have dealt with a lot of spam messages, asking me if I want to take up an “exciting” role in fashion PR, for example. Another bugbear is when recruiters link in so that they can pitch me a speculative job opportunity, or when there’s no follow-up.

What’s that like as a candidate?

To be honest, it’s frustrating. It’s as if I, as a PR, contacted a journalist with an irrelevant story, or failed to follow up with them. PR is all about building relationships – the more effort you put in, the better results you’ll get. I can’t see how it’s any different in recruitment.

The best recruiters are the ones with the courage to say, “We’ve got a vacancy, but we don’t think it’s right for you. Let’s wait for the perfect role.”

So what’s the most important factor for you when considering a new job?

Everyone wants to work with intelligent companies doing interesting work for great clients. For me, it’s about the culture of the agency and its approach to getting the work done. There are some well-known “hot houses” in our industry that are all about churning out the work, but there are lots of firms who do just as good a job (or even better) while managing to cultivate a friendly, relaxed and cooperative atmosphere.

How useful are interviews for deciding whether it’s the right role?

You can learn a lot about a company from how they conduct an interview. There’s the rapport with your interviewer, for one thing, and how they answer your questions about the company. For me, it’s best when the interview process focuses not just on my skills and experience, but on cultural questions. One of my favourite interviews was also one of the oddest. We had a long chat that wandered from where I lived to what kind of music I liked. We ended up talking about Neil Young – and I ended up being offered the job!

Finally, how has PR changed since you started out?

The stereotype of the “Ab-fab” days were gone before I joined the industry. I feel that’s a good thing, and it’s resulted in our day-to-day work becoming more strategic. Teams are getting smaller, but smarter; you’re expected to have a wider portfolio of skills such as digital.

We’re also seeing more former journalists move into the field – and while this is making the job market more competitive, it certainly helps the rest of us hone our media skills, such as creating fully-formed stories rather than just pitching press releases. Ultimately, it makes us better PR people and makes for a more rewarding career, which is why most of us got into PR in the first place.

Thanks Nik!

If you’re looking for your next role in PR and want to avoid the spammers(!), contact Hartigan today – we’ll find the right fit for you.

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