Thursday, 30 June 2011

Graduates: How to get a Job in PR

It's that time of year again when my inbox starts filling up with emails from students who want a job in PR. I've been pretty vitriolic about some of these emails in the past (I have a particular hatred of emails that begin by enquiring after my well. You know the stuff - I hope your well and all that nonsense. I don't actually have a well. I have a sink with taps and find it much better than a hole in the ground, a bucket and a rope).

Anyway, I thought I would be much better all round if I spared the youth of today from my rants and shared some tips that might actually be of use.

So, you want to work in PR? My tips (for what they are worth)

1. Get everyone you have ever met to proof read your CV and covering letter. And then ask some random strangers too. If I can't sell you as a professional copywriter that can string a sentence together, I can't actually hire you. I reckon 3/4 of people that email me fall at the first hurdle.

2. Get some work experience on your CV. I am sure you were very good behind the counter at the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Slough High Street - but I don't need someone who can count chicken nuggets into buckets, I need someone who can write a press release, draft a blog and sell a story in. I need to be sure that you can do this - and that you actually like doing it too. Trust me, there are days when I would rather be counting chicken nuggets into buckets than doing PR.

You might feel like this most days.

3. Do your homework. You've been doing it for pretty much the past 21 years so why stop now? I am not a man so don't call me Sir. According to my mother (and she knows these things), I wasn't christened "To whom it may concern", I was christened "Jane" and have replied to that name ever since. It works for me and will work for you too.

4. Be creative. Now, this is a tricky one as I have been sent some CVs that have made me cringe and go all clammy over the years (never pleasant) but I have also seen some that have made me call the applicant right back. You need to stand out - but for all the right reasons - so be creative, not wacky. Wacky was perhaps funny when you were a fresher but is interpreted as annoying and generally weird in the professional environment. Not good.

5. Use a telephone. Everyone has a telephone. It's the small thing that you use for texting and updating Facebook. If you really, really want a job - call the company before you send in your CV. No one does it these days so it should give you a shoe-in.

So, that's the CV stuff. Now, what to do if you get an interview for your dream PR job?

1. Get a portfolio ready. Very few people come to see me and announce that they can't write for toffee and couldn't spell sausage if their life depended on it. As a result, I need to see some actual copy to check out the claims of candidates. If you don't have a portfolio, the job will just go to some clever cloggs who has.

2. Find out what PR is. Sounds obvious but you'd be surprised. It isn't the same as advertising and marketing. If you vaguely say that you want a job in anything from marketing to advertising to PR, the interviewer will just start reading out their set "they're no good are they" questions and writing their things to do list - not their reasons for hiring you as you may think.

3. Decide what you are going to say when asked, "why do you want to work in PR?" "Being good with people" isn't going cut it. The other 11 people before you will have already said that - and the interviewer will have already decided whether you are good with people or not anyway.

4. Dress for the occasion. When you start work, you will probably wear jeans and the like but an interviewer wants to see you at your best so they can establish if you know how to dress for the most important client meeting in the history of client meetings. (These happen a couple of times a week at least in PR).

5. Know what it is going on in the news. And news isn't Cheryl Cole's new hair colour (though it's blond, apparently).

6. Get yourself on social media. Not Facebook. I mean Twitter, Quora, blogger etc. Be up to speed with the latest developments and you will be shown your desk and given a laptop before you have even finished answering the question (not strictly true but that is pretty much how important social is in PR these days).

7. Email to say thank you after the interview. Always a nice touch.

So there. I hope this helps. Happy job hunting.


  1. Great advice - I've passed along to our current and ex (and therefore job hunting) interns.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I hope they take the advice in the spirit it was intended.

  3. Thanks for the advice! I blogged about my use of Social Media to get interviews here: though I'll be sure to use the telephone a lot more in future!