I’ve just been through a week of grad interviews and am now out the other side… feeling a mixture of pride, excitement and bewilderment.
You hear every day how hard it is for graduates to get jobs and you see it too when you’re interviewing… grads from three years ago, desperate to get off the paid internship schemes and get cracking with their careers.
So why are we still seeing intelligent young graduates come to an interview with a top ten PR agency totally unprepared (apart from well stocked supply of cockiness that they have a degree?)
As grad recruitment 2012 draws into its final stages, I though it may help to share some feedback from this round so future grads can learn from the mistakes and successes of others:
1. Sounds obvious but research the company you are interviewing at so you can intelligently answer the question ‘why do you want to work for us’? Listing three of their clients doesn’t count… you need to know more… what awards have they won, what news have they put out in the industry recently, what makes them different? We like to feel special too!
2. Be prepared to talk about why you picked your degree and what you have learned from it. If it’s not a PR qualification it’s not redundant… in fact there’s a high chance your interviewer didn’t do a PR degree either. Instead look at what we’re trying to learn about you when we ask the question…
- ‘Why did you pick that degree?’ can mean ‘what interests you / what makes you tick?’
- ‘What’s your dissertation on?’ can lead to questions about what your opinions on a certain subject are and test whether you can analyse research and form your own ideas from that
- ‘What skills have you learned that are transferable’ isn’t about the literal modules you have studied but are about teamwork, research & analysis,writing skills, communication skills and being a self-starter
3. Show why you want to work in PR… show a passion for it… help us believe that if we were to hire you that you would be dedicated to the career choice you have made and not change your mind in 6 months because ‘it’s not your thing’. No one wants to invest time and training on someone who’s not completely sure it’s the right career for them but wants to test it out.
4. Don’t be afraid to get conversational! We’re looking for natural communicators. The best interviews I can recall are the ones where it feels like you’ve had a good chat… maybe even veered away from standard interview questions… because that’s where we get to know the real you. See what you can do to encourage that to happen in your interviews and don’t rely on the interviewer to lead the conversation for the whole meeting.
5. Be different… be yourself. You need to stand out. Your interviewer has seen so many other CVs and people that he/she needs to differentiate you when short-listing. He was the one that talked about xx / that asked me xx / that surprised me by suggesting xx / that brought xx with them (no I’m not talking bribes, I mean examples of work!)
I’m not having a moan – interviewing is hard, scary and takes practice but hopefully these small steps will help bring out the best in you rather than make you fade into background.
I look forward to this time of year as there are always one or two people that surprise me and I get a look at the potential PR directors and clients of the future. Hopefully these steps will help your next interviewer think of you in those terms.
.. oh and have an intelligible answer to ‘what is PR?’. Please.