Job Interview Do’s and Don’ts for Recent PR Grads

Did you just graduate with a degree in communications and a concentration in public relations? As you may have learned, competition for PR jobs is fierce. All those people who sat with you in research methods or public opinion classes are seeing the same job listings that you're seeing.

In a March 19 article, “PR Résumé Do’s and Don’ts: How to Keep Your Résumé From Going ‘On File,” PR News offers guidelines for writing an effective resume. Perhaps that article will help you get your foot in the door. This list of interview do’s and don’ts may help you secure the job––or at least get a second interview.

Interview Do’s:

Practice Makes Perfect:
The only way to get better at something is practice. Ask a family member to conduct a mock interview. Have them challenge you, critiquing everything from the grammar in your resume to your answers to the most difficult questions. “Better that someone who loves you makes it challenging than someone who doesn’t care about you but has the power to hire you,” says Dr. Daniel Cochece Davis, assistant professor at Marist College.

Devote Yourself to Intensive Research:
Familiarize yourself with the company’s Web site, its history and its business sector. It is also a good idea to research the person who will be interviewing you through LinkedIn. You never know––you may just have something in common with that person.

Energy, Energy, Energy:
Show that you are enthusiastic and passionate about the position you are interviewing for. Steve Seeman, senior VP and director of human resources at Makovsky + Company, says all too often he sees a lack of energy in people trying to break into PR. “In our business, we operate at an incredibly fast pace, and if you don’t demonstrate the energy you are going to need when your doing this work in an interview, well, then, we wonder if you’re ever going to have it,” he says.

Be Clear About Why You’re the Best Candidate for the Job:
Communicate to the interviewer how your education, experience and personality relate to the position you are seeking. “[For example,] if you studied internationally, think about how that relates to your career path,” says Dr. Davis. If you are able to clearly state the connection and interrelationship, it will set you apart from others who may have the same experience but are not able to articulate it as well.

Think Before You Speak:
Make sure you’re really listening to the questions asked and think about your answer before you speak. This will ensure a complete response that is both organized and concise.

Follow Up:
Mindy Gikas, senior VP of human resources and recruiting at Ruder Finn, says you should always follow up on an interview with a personalized thank you. “Follow up on something that was discussed in the interview or another point that you didn’t have a chance to bring up in the interview,” says Gikas.

Interview Don’ts:

Act Ambivalent:
Seeman notes that candidates sometimes express ambivalence toward PR in interviews. “[Some] don’t know if they are even interested in following this career path,” he says. Coming off as uncertain or indecisive will never help you land a job in PR.

Flaunt It:
Don’t come off as a know-it-all. There is a fine line between demonstrating that you’ve done your research and appearing as if you’ve got all the answers. As Seeman says, “We’re about learning and developing, and arrogance doesn’t work.”

Take All the Credit:
Do not take credit for things that you have not done. Assume that your interviewer knows exactly what people do at each level. They will know if what you are saying is realistic.

Ask Stupid Questions:
Unless it is brought up by the interviewer, do not ask about salary, benefits, time out, work hours or perks. “If you’re here to make sure you get Columbus Day off, then we’ve got a problem,” Seeman says.

Follow Danielle Aveta: @DanielleAveta