What to Say and What Not to Say During an Interview for a PR Job

Unfortunately, as many people in our business know, one of the things that PR is known for is the short duration people stay at their job.

I hope you never need it, but the below advice, which you probably didn't learn in college, might come in useful during a job interview for a PR position. It is advice that applies whether you were asked to leave or decided to depart on your own. Much of this article is directed at PR agency personnel, but nonprofit and in-house communicators may find it useful too.

Never bad mouth your former employer

Doing so will have the interviewer think you’ll do it again.

Never say that you left your former PR job because of a personality conflict with the boss

Doing so raises the question of who’s to blame.

Ask former clients if you can use them as references

This is important, since chances are your former agency will only confirm that you worked there.

Again, for agency personnel, if asked whether you can bring accounts with you, even if you can, reply in the negative

Answering in the affirmative might raise a flag that you would do the same to a prospective employer.

Do You Really Want a New Challenge?

If your employer asks why you’re job hunting never say, “I want a new challenge”

Employers would rather dictate when you leave.

If asked what you liked least about accounts, never say they were boring

As you probably know, PR isn’t as glamorous as it is portrayed in books and the movies. (Only a fortunate few get to work on glamorous accounts.) The reality is that unless you have a specific expertise that is needed, you might be assigned to another hum drum boring account at your new agency.

If asked, “How can you help our company if we hire you?” never say, “I’m willing do any job you want me to do”

Give examples how you helped accounts in the past. Be specific. If you’re creative and can think-out-of-box, tell the interviewer what you did.

Be Choosey About Your Next Position

If you’re asked what you’re seeking, never say, “Anything

Say that you’re willing to start at the same level as your last job because you know you have the skills to advance. Also acknowledge that you understand titles mean different things at different agencies.

If you’re asked about salary requirements, avoid giving a dollar figure unless pressed

Instead, disclose what your salary was at your last PR job and say you’d like to start at least at the same salary. If you’ve been out of work for a long time, add that you’re willing to start at a lower salary and willing to work your way up. Saying so might be a job clincher. Employers love to keep budgets as tight as possible.

You’re employed, are offered a job, and asked when you can start, never say “immediately”

Tell the interviewer that you’d like to give your current employer sufficient notice, three weeks, two if pressed. This will give your current employer time to reassign your duties.  That should impress a prospective employer. Remember, employers like loyalty, but you shouldn’t expect any in return.

If, however, your prospective employer says you must start tomorrow, don’t take the job. It might be an indication of how you will be treated if you are dismissed.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There also are rules to consider using when your current employer makes promises in an attempt to keep you from leaving.

If you have a job offer and your current employer is promising you riches in the future, remember talk is cheap.

The employer says, “We’d give you a raise immediately...but our compensation committee doesn’t meet again for six months."?  You should reply, “Show me the money now,” or some version of it.

More Money or Bigger Office?

They're persistent. The employer offers you a higher title and a bigger office instead of a raise, because the compensation committee won’t meet for months. Remember, no matter how many tiles there are on the ceiling of your big, new office, you can’t use them in place of money.

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