How to Interview for a PR Job During the Pandemic

zoom video interview

The economic conditions in the wake of coronavirus have caused a reduction in PR employment. An overwhelming majority of PR pros (70 percent) report that their employer has reduced staff, issued furloughs or cut salaries, in a PRNEWS survey last week.

That’s not an excuse for newly furloughed or terminated PR pros or soon-to-graduate PR students to wait until the curve is flattened before applying for a job. Many businesses are hiring or are searching for candidates to employ at a later date.

In fact, the coronavirus provides an opportunity. Volunteer your PR services to not-for-profit organizations that are helping the elderly and others. With employees ill or furloughed as donations dry up, social service and other organizations need PR. Now is the time to consider getting on-the-job training through volunteering. In addition to being a good thing to do, it will help your resumé stand out and could lead to a paid position.

Should you choose the volunteer route, treat the position and interview as practice for a paying job.

Regardless of what you choose, the tactics below will impress the individual interviewing you.

In this article I’m using the word client in a generic sense. The tactics apply whether you are interviewing for an agency, corporate, brand, in-house or non-profit PR position.

Research is Key

Prior to the interview, research the entity where you are seeking a position. Seems obvious. You'd be surprised how many candidates walk into an interview without doing this. Spend several hours researching the company's history and let the interviewer know you did. Research competitors and let the interviewer know that, based on your research, this is where you want to work.

Related to this, chances are you will be asked why you want to work at this company. Have several reasons.

Make copies of marketing and articles written about competitors. Ask if the interviewer wants to see them.

Be knowledgeable about trade publications that cover the entity and the sector. Having read them for your research, you should be able to work the names of them into the conversation.

Offer the interviewer your weekend and after-hours contacts. This will impresses most interviewers.

If you are invited for a second interview ask beforehand if it is possible to see previous PR and advertising programs so you can have a better understanding of how the company’s communication strategies have evolved.

Your appearance can influence the interviewer’s perception of you. Always dress professionally, even if your meeting is on a dress-down Friday or if it's a virtual meeting during the pandemic. In addition, try to have a clean, neat, well-lit background behind you if it's a virtual interview.

Always send a thank-you note.

You're on Probation

Should you get the position, you will be on probation, whether you are told or not. So it is important that you continue your initial perception campaign. Here are several ways to do that:

Monitor publications that cover your field. Keep your supervisor informed that you are aware of what competitors are doing

Go the extra mile: Before leaving at the end of the work day, always ask your supervisor if there is other work to be done. Offer to come into the office on weekends during crunch time and volunteer to help others.

Little things can result in big benefits. If your supervisor is working late, ask if you can bring in food or help with the work before leaving.

And don’t act as if you’re the smartest person in the office, even if you are.

Arthur Solomon was SVP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller and a journalist. He is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. Contact him: arthursolomon4pr@juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.com