Interviewing for a new job role can be daunting, no matter what level you are, be it your first interviews at the start of your career, or after being at a company for a number of years. We’ve asked Marilyn to share her advice on the best way to prepare for an interview for a PR job role.
Do your Research
This point comes at the top of most how to prepare for an interview lists. Researching the company is of utmost importance when preparing for an interview in PR. It is essential that you have an understanding of the company, its history, the client base they work with, the sectors they cover and the campaigns they have worked on. Company websites, LinkedIn pages, social channels and search engines can provide information on the employees that work there, clients they have worked with and campaigns they have worked on, along with a plethora of other information. This will help you answer the inevitable interview question – why do you want to work there?
You can also use the information you have gathered to raise relevant points in the interview that directly relate to the company and what it has achieved. In a broader sense, it is also important to research Public Relations in general; it’s about knowing what campaigns have recently got people talking, being able to comment on issues facing PR and how the industry is responding to them, and discussing shifts in the media landscape, where do you see PR going in the future?
The General Questions
During any interview for a PR job, you can expect to be asked a number of common questions. These allow interviewers to learn about your skills and experience, along with getting a sense of how you’ll fit in with the company’s culture.
You will most likely be asked a number of behavioural interview questions about how you’ve handled certain work situations in the past; the idea behind this form of questioning is to give the interviewer an insight into how you responded and tackled different situations in order to predict how you might behave in a new role. An example of this type of question includes “Describe a PR crisis you had. How did you handle it?”
Another form of questioning is situational. Similar to behavioural interview questions, these are questions about work experiences; however, situational interview questions are about how you would handle future situations rather than past situations. For example, an interviewer might ask “What would you do if you disagreed with a client about strategy”.
As well as the more straightforward questions about the day to day activities you carry out in your role, it is important to provide specific, concrete and tangible examples when discussing your work. Interviewees do not want to hear generic examples of work; they want detailed campaign examples of results you are proud of. Make sure you have prepared a few examples to discuss in detail that you feel are most relevant to the PR agency you are interviewing with. It is also vital to outline relationships you have formed with the press, mentions actual titles your work has been publishes in.
The Writing Test
If you’re applying for a job at a traditional PR agency, be prepared to not only answer questions about your writing skills, but to partake in a writing test. At a more junior level, this might be a basic press release, whereas at a more senior level, this could be compiling strategy and campaign ideas. Writing tests usually take place at 2nd or 3rd stage interviews, either in the company’s offices under a time limit or sent to complete to a deadline over email depending on the complexity of the task. Brushing up on your writing skills before the test is administered is always a good idea. You could practice by writing a paragraph or two on a topic of your choice, with emphasis on clarity, brisk and precise language, and correct grammar.
What Else to Remember…
Interviewing isn’t just about ensuring you are competent at doing or learning to do the job at hand, it is also about fit. Culture fit is extremely significant; at Boyce, we work with a number of small to mid-size PR agencies where teams work together closely on a day to day basis. Make sure you get your personality across in an interview and emphasise the type of work environment you feel you would thrive in, so you and the interviewer can assess whether it would be a good match. Engage with your interviewer, make eye contact and get your passion across. And remember, no matter how bad you feel an interview has gone, it can always be used as an opportunity to learn and better yourself for the next one!