5 Questions to Ask PR Job Candidates

Hiring in the PR field seems to be picking up, as communications moves closer to the core of marketing strategy and both companies and agencies bring in new blood with competence in measurement, analytics and social media.

And if the economy continues to improve, hiring in PR is likely to accelerate.

With that in mind, here are five questions for PR managers that may help them determine the best job candidates. And more than that—these questions will help guide applicants, and prepare them for the interview process.

  1. Why do you want to get into the PR profession? If the candidate responds in the vein of, “Because I like people,” that might be a red flag. While PR no doubt is a people business, the communications discipline doesn’t call for candidates to be chummy with their clients or media reps but, rather, how PR and communications align with corporate goals and financial objectives.
  1. How do you keep your cool when clients and senior-level executives are simultaneously clamoring for your time and attention? The response will reveal a lot about the candidate and whether he or she has a realistic outlook on what a pressure cooker PR can be and how the candidate approaches time management.
  1. How do you think social media has changed stakeholder relations? The question will produce insight into how a prospect views digital media channels for one of the core elements of PR — media relations. The response should also reveal a good deal about the candidate and how he or she intends to meld Facebook, Twitter et al. with the personalized aspects of building relationships with reporters, editors and producers.
  1. What do you think are the most valuable methods of combining the “art” that’s inherent in PR with the metrics (the “science”) that C-level executives now demand from communicators? This may be the $64,000 question for PR candidates, revealing how much currency they place on deploying measurement tools to gauge the success of campaigns, and whether they have a head for numbers (which is increasingly becoming the price of entry for PR job candidates).
  1. How is the Web changing crisis communications? The response should give PR managers a pretty good idea of how much the candidate appreciates the power of online communications, in which the Web can be a help (responding to a crisis in real-time) or a hindrance (deferring to the Web when the human touch is called for) to managing the crises that most companies will face at one time or another.

What do you think? Are we missing any salient questions?

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1

2 responses to “5 Questions to Ask PR Job Candidates

  1. Great questions, Matthew. Here are a few others:

    “What are your favorite PR groups on LinkedIn?”

    “What’s your favorite PR-related Twitter list that you follow?”

    The answers, and the length of the pause between the question and their answer, should give you a pretty good idea of whether they even aware of social media groups where their peers gather and comment.

  2. Matthew,

    After 35 years of running my own PR firm I have found that the most successful PR account executives and managers are the ones who understand marketing and the value of branding and brand management. Another area of questioning should try to get at an understanding of reputation development and management. Social networking is just a tool or a tactic. The strategy of managing corporate reputation, as well as brand management is what separates the worker bees from the true PR professionals. These are the areas where well-framed interview questions can give you the best insights into who to hire and who not to.

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