PR grads: What to say (and avoid) to ace an interview

Saying you’re a “people person” isn’t the way to sell yourself to employers. Here’s what they really want to hear.

Now is the time when college students are polishing their resumes and scoping out potential businesses for that perfect entry-level job.

Some have probably done their research and have a list of must-work-for businesses, while others are blasting every company within a 50-mile radius, just hoping that one will bite.

Regardless of what type of job seeker you are, let me give you a piece of advice: Don’t tell me, “I’m a people person.”

Yes, it’s true, to be in public relations you need to have a certain type of personality. You must be well spoken, be able to convince your potential employer that you can sell a story to the toughest reporter in 30 seconds, and be able to learn a series of clients in myriad of industries in a matter of weeks.

If you tell me you’re a multi-tasker, I’m listening. But if you tell me you’re a people person, you’ve lost me.

Just because the word “public” is part of our industry doesn’t mean that being a people person is the selling point for your potential employer. We are communicators who must disseminate clear messages concisely to the right audiences via the most appropriate mediums.

It’s not just about being personable. Granted, it might help you win over a new client in a business meeting, but it is not going to get you your first PR job.

So, dear communications college graduates, other than leaving “I’m a people person” out of your next interview, here are a few tips:

1. Proofread your resume carefully. Your chances of securing a job can end the second a potential employer—in any industry—spots a typo.

2. Save your resume as a PDF file. Sadly, I’ve seen too many resumes with tracking changes. If your resume is a PDF, you can ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

3. Demonstrate your experience concisely. If you take more than five minutes to talk about an experience, your employer may think that’s how long it takes you to get a pitch out. Make sure you’re able to clearly communicate your internship experience or spit out what PR means to you in a concise and timely manner. We’re listening to more than just your answer—we’re seeing how you communicate.

4. Research. Make sure you take the time to research your potential employer. This could serve as a nice ice breaker, and demonstrate that you did your homework. You never know if they’ll ask, “Why do you want to work here?” or “What do you like about us?”

5. Don’t be above a PR internship after graduation. That’s how I got my first job, and it’s a possible way to secure a full-time position—assuming you do a stellar job and demonstrate results.

Public relations or communications positions can be hard to come by. Most companies are still rebounding from the disasters of the economy, so make sure you follow the above tips as you begin your communications career or journey.

Kerry O’Neill is a public relations account director at MGH. She is a frequent contributor to the agency’s blog, where this article originally ran.

Topics: PR

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