Land Your Dream Job with These PR Interview Tips

No matter if you are applying for your very first PR job or a veteran in the field when it comes time to find a new job, you most likely wish you had a checklist of PR interview tips.

You know, those things you should remember and do, but don’t.

Either because you just don’t think about it, or our nerves get in the way.

You might even turn to Google to see what tidbits you could scrape from the web

(And if you found this article through a Google search for “PR interview tips”….HEEEEYYYY, welcome friend! You are going to ace that sucker! We believe in you.)

So settle in and let’s start.

Know Who You Are

People always make fun of the classic interview questions:

  • What’s your greatest strength?
  • What’s your greatest weakness?

But as cliche as they are, those questions are valuable because they provide the interviewer insight, not just on who you are, but also who you THINK you are.

And that’s equally as important.

The perfect answer to these questions is one that is authentic to you.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, knowing yours and how to leverage them is what’s important.

Strengths and Weaknesses: The Double Edged Sword

My philosophy is our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. And so if you feel uncomfortable outlining your weaknesses, start to think of them from that perspective.

Here are how that works for me, for example:

I’m extremely extroverted.

  • The pros: I’m social, a people person, tend to get along well with people, put relationships first, and am comfortable in almost any social setting.
  • The cons: I’m an external processor, I need to vocalize things to others to think through them properly, I can become depressed if I spend too long without interaction, I am affected by external circumstances.

Here’s another one:

I have an (ahem) strong and engaged personality.

  • The pros: I’ll quickly own projects and situations, I’m not afraid to lead a group, I’m not afraid to share my opinions (and I have them, on everything).
  • The cons: I have opinions on everything and I’m not afraid to share them. I can be “bossy.” I struggle with delegation. I have issues with control (as in, I want it and I don’t like to give it up).

See how that works?

I’m sure if you look at your pros and cons you’ll see similar patterns.

Think about how that interaction between pro and con, strength and weakness, affects your work life.

That will help you answer these questions in a thoughtful and useful way.

The only wrong answer is one that shows a lack of self-awareness.

Be Prepared with Examples

This PR interview tip is one of the most important, yet one of the most neglected.

While you might have grand, theoretical ideas about how the PR industry should work and how you *should* do your job; theory doesn’t pay the bills.

We want to know what you’ve done.

We want to know what you’ve actually done.

  • How successfully worked on or led projects?
  • How have you dealt with obstacles?
  • What do you do when put in a position to lead a team?
  • How do you react when pushed out of your comfort zone?
  • What campaign are you most proud of?

The more specific, the better.

Try to add numbers and data.

While you may not know what type of situational questions your interviewer might ask, you should come prepared with three to four stories.

How Do You Choose Them?

Try to find ones that serve as examples for the following:

  • Your strengths
  • Your weaknesses
  • How you overcome obstacles
  • Successes you are most proud of
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • How you manage a difficult client or team member

You can choose three to four stories that speak to multiple points simultaneously.

Be prepared with data, numbers, and lessons learned.

Not all interviewers ask situational questions (although I always do), but that’s OK. You can still use the stories to tie into your responses.

Think about the power of case studies in communications and sales when you think about this PR interview tip.

When you use stories to answer questions, it provides the same benefit to the interviewer and allows them a better look at how you operate in vivo vs. in vitro.

Be Human

Unfortunately, the field of PR isn’t always comfortable. We are put on the spot, placed in challenging situations, and we need to manage.

Long story short, nerves are not an excuse to come to an interview and forget your personality at home.

Most interviewers will try to make you feel as comfortable as possible. It isn’t a war, it’s an interview, and we’ve all been there. That said, you need to take a deep breath and remember that relationships and communication is what we do.

PR interview tip shocker: People want to hire humans they feel they can get along with and fit in the organizational culture.Your personality is important to how you fit with the organization’s culture, as well as how you do your job.

If your personality doesn’t fit with the organization, it will be best for both sides to figure that out in the interview.

“Let Your Personality Shine Through”

Now I know it’s hard to tell someone: “Let your personality shine through,” because you often don’t even know you are a different version of you on the interview.

Here are some PR interview tips of what to focus on instead (that will create the same result).

  • Smile: Smiling instantly connects people. It helps your interviewer better relate to you, and it chemically makes you feel more confident. It’s science. So just smile.
  • Know your tendency: People will follow one or two routes when they get nervous. They’ll either stonewall and become robotic, or they will become manic and over the top. Almost obnoxious. Know which tendency you have so you can be aware of it when you start to go down the slippery slope either way.
  • Accept you are human: You make mistakes. You might say something the wrong way or fumble over your words. You might trip on your way into the office, or have a button pop off of your shirt. Own it, accept your humanness, laugh it off, and move on. The interviewer will probably laugh with you because we’ve all been there.

Stop Talking and Listen

When people get in an interview situation, the first thing to go is almost always their listening skills.

Instead of listening, they spend their time preparing for their next response.

So please take this PR interview tip to heart: You need to stop, take a deep breath, and listen.

You will be able to respond much better if you just wait and listen to what the interviewer has to say.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve asked a question and had the interviewee answer a different question. That’s annoying AND shows me a lack of communications skills.

Which, you know, is sort of necessary for a PR pro.

Practice your listening skills and make sure you use them in your interview. This is the time you want to listen more than any other; it will make or break your interview.

Final of the PR Interview Tips: Do Your Research

You need to prep for a job interview like you used to prepare for a major final in college. Heck, I’ve even used flashcards before to prepare for interviews.

You should know about the company and the people in it:

  • What do they believe?
  • What makes them different?
  • What do they love and hate?
  • How do they view their role in the industry?
  • Who is their ideal client?
  • How do they differentiate themselves in the marketplace?

And let’s be honest: With the rise of the internet, social media, and blogs it is not difficult to do this type of research. You have no excuse.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve interviewed people and when asked about measurement they automatically talk about AVEs, which is just absurd. We write aboutPR measurement multiple times each week; we have an article on our site entitled “Die AVEs Die.”

When you don’t research the organization, you send the message that you don’t care enough to be a valuable addition.

Add a Personal Touch

Beyond just business philosophy, it is also nice to know about your interviewer. Again, easy to do with this crazy thing we call the internet.

It always adds a nice touch (and ego play) when interviewees bring up things I’ve written about, hobbies of mine, such as bodybuilding, or even make fun of my lesser traits (heeey absent minded, much?)

Do your research. Make it personal. Know who you are talking to and why you’d be a good fit.

Add Your PR Interview Tips

Which PR interview tips would you add?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino