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The summer months are around the corner and college seniors will start their journey to post-graduate life. The first step on that journey is nailing down a job out of college. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive PR job market, it is easier said than done.
Overall, two-thirds of college graduates struggle to land a job – spending one-half or even most of their 20s attempting to start their careers, according to research from Jeffrey J. Selingo, founding director of the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership and author of There Is Life After College. It’s difficult to sweep employers off their feet when they’re interviewing numerous, highly qualified candidates on a daily basis. In the PR industry specifically, candidates must possess certain qualifications if they want to “wow” the interviewer.
As a former, recent graduate, I’ve identified the following PR interview tips and key traits that students fresh out of college should convey to set themselves apart within an over-saturated and extremely competitive talent pool:
Communications capabilities. Ask questions. Show interest in the PR job you are applying for, and the company that is interviewing you. Speak up about your experiences and show you can take on the work you want to do. Discuss your interests and areas of expertise to demonstrate your drive and determination to excel if hired. In order to communicate intelligently during the interview, research the company or agency and its clients, stakeholders, products and services ahead of the meeting. It’s easier to have an engaging conversation if you know about the company’s mission, history, market, etc.
Confidence. A career in PR requires confidence. You must exude resiliency to prove you are prepared to take on the demanding career. PR pros work hard and are tested with defeating situations daily. You can’t let setbacks – like a reporter rejecting your pitch or an idea getting shot down during an internal team meeting – keep you from achieving success. Thick skin comes with time. But for employers to believe you can handle the pressure, you need to show that you’ve started to develop one.
Initiative. There are many ways to demonstrate your willingness to do that “extra something.” Tell interviewers how you’ve volunteered for tasks during, say, an internship. Indicate that you’ll learn everything there is to know about clients, i.e., who are their competitors, and what messages and platforms are they passionate about? Let them know that you’ll take ownership of your role by learning new industry-related terms and reading about the newest trends and technologies. As a result, you’ll emerge as a prime asset for your clients, and everyone will want you on their team.
With these three traits, you’ll distinguish yourself and hopefully land that first PR job with ease. At our high-tech PR firm, we’re always looking for great candidates who are good communicators with confidence and initiative to join our team. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, please contact us.
Hannah Aboulhosn is a Senior Account Coordinator for W2 Communications.