PR Insider: The Do’s and Don’ts of Securing a PR Internship

Victoria Gestner
Victoria Gestner

Four years ago, I was on the hunt for a PR internship that might lead to a full-time position. I labored over my portfolio and writing samples, eager to make a good impression. It was stressful, not knowing what the agency was looking for. Was my resume ordered correctly? Were my school activities the “right ones”? Did I reflect my personality during the interview? Would I stand out from the pack?

Flash forward to today. Now I sit on the other side of the internship interviewing table, fielding the many inquiries we receive for our agency’s internship program and narrowing down the applicants to the most promising candidates. It wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes. I remember exactly what it felt like to be a fresh graduate with pressure to find something (anything!), but also with a desire to find the right kind of something. Merging these two perspectives (recent-grad-turned-intern-coordinator), I now offer a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to chatting with your next potential employer:

  • Do tell me your passions. I often ask candidates why they are passionate about working in the PR field, and one of the most common responses I hear is, “Because I’m a people person.” I generally assume this means the applicant likes interacting with people. However, being able to talk to others does not necessarily translate into a career in PR. Do you enjoy storytelling? Listening? Writing? Interviewing? Researching? One of these descriptors might offer more insight into your communications passions and help others better understand where your strengths lie.
  • Don’t send me a 3-page resume. That summer you spent as a camp counselor in high school? Remove it. Narrow your resume to one-page and include your relevant experience, so that when a potential employer glances at your resume, he or she will quickly see all of the skills that you have obtained related to this field. Even if it’s not tied to a particular job you’ve had, create a section for a project you are proud of that reaped significant results.
  • Do tell me why you want to work here. No, not “here” as in Chicago, New York, LA, etc., but here as in the specific agency for which you are interviewing. There are plenty of PR shops out there, so make sure you do your research and have a good answer to “Why do you want to work at our firm?” or “What drew you to our agency?” Whether it’s because someone on the team has a similar background as you (major, college, upbringing) and that caught your eye, or you have a real passion for one of our clients (and be prepared to talk about that passion!), make that agency feel like they are #1 on your list.
  • Don’t have typos or errors on your resume or in your email. This cannot be overstated. Double, triple, quadruple check everything – and then have others you trust check it, as well. I often see typos or even incorrect contact information, which immediately raises a red flag. Mistakes happen (i.e. forgetting to show off a portfolio you worked hard putting together), but your resume and outreach email make the first impression, so make them count!
  • Do make a connection. It’s the end of the interview, and all of your questions have been answered. (Note: Always ask questions, when given the opportunity.) So is the conversation over? Well, now is probably a good time to find some common ground that will make you memorable and stand out from a pile of resumes. Demonstrating your relationship-building skills will make employers feel more confident about how you’ll work with other team members and support the agency, and eventually even help build relationships with future clients and media contacts. After all, relationships are the currency of our business.

Above all, be passionate, be articulate and be yourself.

In addition to managing Henson Consulting’s internship program, Victoria Gestner oversees and supports several food- and housewares-related clients including the International Housewares Association, The Pampered Chef, Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Kraft’s Velveeta. Follow her on Twitter: @VictoriaGestner