3 Questions to Always Ask Your Candidate in an Interview

As the old saying goes: "Never judge a book by its cover." There’s always more to a candidate than their resume, and the interview process can unearth personalities, opinions and nuances simply not addressed on one sheet of paper.

An interview showcases the possible potential of a candidate in other ways, allowing them to think on their feet through conversation and analysis. We spoke to some experts and landed on three questions to always ask in a public relations job interview. They may appear simple, but every candidate may handle these questions differently, providing more insight into what kind of employee they would be.

What is your definition of “public relations?”

The realm of “public relations” takes on so many more avenues than it used to, and the candidate’s answer can tell a lot about their understanding of the field, as well as where their interests lie.

“While public relations isn't an easy profession to define, it’s interesting to hear from candidates what PR means to them and how they define it in relation to their prior experiences,” said Christina Vega, director of corporate communications at Forbes. This can reveal how a candidate adapts and grows within a constantly changing industry.

The answer can also help your team find a better fit for the goals they are trying to achieve. Are you looking for someone well-versed in all types of media? Do you want someone laser-focused on media relations or crisis communications? Do they seem more inclined to creative, social, digital? How do they acknowledge messaging strategy between different platforms?

The more creative and all- encompassing employee could be a better fit, as PR is no longer just about crisis or promotional events. This can demonstrate their willingness to learn or jump in and be a team player.

Describe a PR campaign you worked on from start to finish. What worked, and what did you learn?

A question like this can showcase how a person works, regardless of experience level. Are they detail oriented, or a big ideas person? Can they roll their sleeves up and do the dirty work, or do they play more of the leader/moderator?

Learning the skills and process tactics a candidate values most can help figure to where they may fit in. It’s also helpful to see an acknowledgement of success, and if they are humble enough to learn from and improve on mistakes as well.

“I’ve found that one of the most telling PR interview questions is asking a candidate to walk me through a recent campaign or program that they worked on and are particularly proud of, and specifically, to describe their role in its success,” said Brett Cummings, senior vice president at FleishmanHillard. “In an industry where teams are so important, I want to better understand where and how the candidate has added value on a team. What is also great about this question is that it’s applicable across levels, so it helps me gauge proficiency from junior to more senior candidates.”

How do you determine a PR win?

They say all PR is good PR. Is it, though? This question can provide insight into a candidate's experience with data—and if they can develop goals and read takeaways through measurement, or just how they measure a campaign in general.

“A (good) question would be ‘what are some examples of work that you most admire within the PR industry and why,’ because it helps me understand what they define as great work.” said Cummings.

This can also provide insight into an interviewee’s own philosophies on public relations and ethics. Do they honor an infamous celebrity for always being in the news, even if for the wrong reasons? Would they knowingly engage in disinformation campaigns to protect a client? Depending on what you want your employees to achieve, and what values you want them to bring to the company, this is another essential question.