How to Prepare for a Job Interview at a PR Firm
Congratulations! After hours of perfecting your resume, scouring the web for job opportunities, writing cover letters, taking AP Style assessments and talking to people on the...
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After hours of perfecting your resume, scouring the web for job opportunities, writing cover letters, taking AP Style assessments and talking to people on the phone, you’ve finally made it to an interview with a PR firm.
If you’re still in the beginning stages of the hiring process then still stick around! You’ll get to the interview (eventually) and you’ll be glad you already know your stuff.
The most important thing you can do pre-PR job interview is research. Not all research you do on a company is created equal, though. If you consider yourself a qualified applicant, then there are a few things that you must know about a PR firm before you walk into their office.
Arriving with anything less, you might as well just be a random person off the street. In some ways, this is true for almost every job in almost every industry.
Here are the must-know topics about preparing for your PR job interview:
What work is the company most famous for? This is not the same as asking who their most famous client is. It’s more about what work they’ve done that accomplished or exceeded all of the associated goals.
Sometimes, this happens to be their biggest-name client. Other times, it’s a smaller brand that they helped put on the map. You can usually find this information right on the company’s website, usually under case studies or success stories.
It helps to know about their successful past work because it is often the work they are most proud of –- and therefore the work about which they will be most likely to have an engaging conversation. And, in my experience, the better the conversation, the more likely it is that you’ll be hired. After all, a conversation about what the PR firm is good at shows off your soft skills in addition to your ability to go the extra distance when researching a company.
One way to show that you know about their greatest successes is by working it into an answer to one of their questions they ask you. For example, if they want to know how your experience applies to the job description, draw parallels between some past work you have done and past work they have done. Don’t assume they will connect the dots on their own. Do it for them with a great answer!
Related to this is which industries they primarily serve. Unless they are a very large PR firm, then most agencies usually serve only a few industries. For example, B2B tech, real estate, beauty brands, restaurants, etc.
Similar to their most successful work, you can often find this information right on the company’s website.
Heck, I’ve even seen a mid-size PR agency that puts the name and contact info of every single employee on their website. I have found that companies with an open and transparent culture do this.
If the firm has some less-senior team members on its site with bios, try to see if any of them mention how long they have been at the firm and what kind of experience they’ve gotten while there. You can weave that into your answer on what you hope to gain by working at the firm or what you can contribute to the team.
If there are any bios that say something like “Ashley started here as an intern in 2017 but quickly earned her current role as an Assistant Account Executive,” then you know that they usually hire from within. If you’re looking for a place where you can grow professionally, then this is usually a good sign.
At a minimum, a firm should at least let you know who is running the show. The bigger the company, the larger you can expect the list of leaders tobe. For example, these are just a few of the positions that Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s largest PR agencies, has listed on its website:
That’s quite a few leadership positions and this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Fact is, most PR firms aren’t big enough to warrant this many leadership positions. The most important leaders that you should try to find, depending on the size of the company, are:
Why these two?
Well, the CEO usually makes and approves all the important, big picture decisions in a company. Therefore, a CEO’s “vision,” or at least their past experience in the industry, coupled with the fact that they are the face of a company, usually tells you a lot about what you’re getting into. If the company’s website doesn’t spell out their vision specifically, you can probably find an interview where the CEO talks about it.
The chief communications officer tells you how a company communicates both with the publics outside and the employees inside the organization, which is important for gauging a company’s culture. How a company communicates with its employees (frequently or rarely; transparently or secretly, etc.) can tell you a lot about it.
This information is often a little tricky to find. If you come up with nothing about their current clients as you research, you can always ask during your interview.
While this might seem odd, asking a company about their current clients is perfectly reasonable. It gives you a better idea of what you might be working on if you are hired there, and gives you additional insight on how to respond to interview questions. And, when you make it this far into the hiring process, they often are more than willing to let you know about their current clients.
This was quite a bit of information, I know. But don’t worry. Now that you have the knowledge to become the most prepared job candidate in their pool, you’re gonna rock the interview.
About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a top tech PR agency in Houston, Austin, Denver, and Antwerp that provides PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, website design, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.