Interviews are interviews, and to be honest, unless you have a wonderfully creative potential employer (which hopefully you will), they are likely to be fairly similar no matter who you’re talking to. That being said, some might throw you a curve ball, whereas others might just have a jolly chat with you. So in my humble opinion it’s always best to be prepared for the worst.
Here are my top questions to ensure you’re prepared to answer:
1. Tell me about yourself
The classic opener – and often puts people on their toes. The key here is to give a succinct and short overview of your career so far, depending on how senior you are you may not need to go back to the start. It’s worth mentioning why you got into PR, what you love about it, where the majority of your client experience lies and what your interests are.
They may also ask about your personal life – this is usually just to spark a conversation, so tell them about your fave hobby, that amazing restaurant you went to last week, or your favourite new album (or playlist, nowadays!)
2. Why do you want to work here?
Super important – this is your potential employers’ discovery question to see how much research you’ve done. BE SPECIFIC. There’s no point in saying “I want to work at a Consumer PR agency”, as that’s just what you’re looking for and has nothing to do with this specific employer. Take a look at their case studies, their blogs, their socials and pull out the parts that interest you – whether it be their client base, the vibe you get from what they show of their office culture or even what you’ve heard from other people. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “you work with some really cool clients and it looks like a great place to work. I saw the campaign you did with…” This is also your chance to get them excited and enthusiastic about the work they do – ask about a particular campaign that appealed to you, or a client that stood out.
Whenever I meet anyone ahead of an interview, I always mention this question and follow it quickly with “I’m not sure why anyone asks this”. But they do…and as I found out recently in my first foray into interviewing for Hartigan, so do I!
This is a bit of a panic question in my experience, but a simple one to prepare for. Ultimately for strengths – show off – have some achievements ready and use them to illustrate what you’re good at. When it comes to weaknesses, please don’t say perfectionism…it’s very transparent. The best thing to do is to think of a negative that you’re working on – not something so negative that it raises flags (e.g. I’m always late!), but something along the lines of “I have a tendency to be a bit of a “yes” (wo)man and can take on too many tasks.” Then explain how you’re working to solve said weakness.
4. Tell us 5 relevant media contacts you hold for our clients – quick!
This is another one that I didn’t think people asked anymore, but it’s relatively common! If you’re an expert in the particular sector of PR in which you operate (and are interviewing in), you may be asked to name some of your contacts on the spot. Make sure you’ve checked Gorkana to get those names right, and where they are, because it’s likely your employer will also know them.
5. Why did you leave/do you want to leave your current role?
This can be a tricky one. If you’ve been in your company for a couple of years and are just looking for a change of scenery, by all means tell them that. The reason it can get tricky is if you’ve left your current company because of a culture clash or you’ve been there less than a year. The majority of the reasons that people leave their jobs surround opportunities for progression, working environment and their managers, and sometimes this can be hard to explain. Be honest, but avoid any negative language when it comes to your previous/current employer. Try your answer out on somebody (hopefully us!), and hone it down until you’re comfortable explaining your situation.
Finally – don’t panic if you can’t answer a question. It’s ok to pause, have a think and also ask them to clarify or repeat the question. It’s best to say “I don’t know” if you genuinely don’t know, rather than trying to make something up on the spot, as honesty is always valued. Just remember – even if they’re a CEO of a massive international organisation, they’re still just people, so try to relax and build a rapport!
As a bonus, here are some odd ones, probably not worth preparing an answer for, but amusing all the same:
- What is the biggest animal you would be able to kill with your bare hands?
- A friend of mine was once asked if she had any hobbies and she said singing in the shower and they asked her to sing a song…she ended up with “Memories” from Cats.
- Jaffa Cake – cake or biscuit? Discuss!