1. “Why do you love PR?”
Public Relations is storytelling. And PR pros. We’re the storytellers. We help each client share their story and reveal their true “why.” What drives them? Why did they build their product or launch their service? Finding someone’s “why” can be one of the most difficult things you will do as a publicist. It could be argued that if you haven’t identified your own “why,” how will you help others do the same?
Prior to becoming the Director of PR at Onboardly, I did what any new college grad would do—I took a few jobs that weren’t in PR just to make my student loan payments. When asked why I wanted those jobs, I had a new story every time. It wasn’t until I found myself in the hot seat to land my dream job that I didn’t have to fake an answer: I knew my life was in PR. Before any interview, take the time to think about what led you to this career choice. What inspires you to help others tell their story? Why will all the long hours be worth it? If it’s what you were meant to do, it’ll shine through in your answer.
2. “Why should we hire you?”
Always research the role and know what you can bring to the table. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past unless it can be linked to what you can do in the future in this role. Show why these accomplishments were important and be cautious of vanity wins. “Celebrity X shared my client’s thought-leadership piece” is not relevant if it did nothing for your client’s bottom line. Instead, focus on those that did. “As a result of my media placement in the New York Times, my client secured over 500 new sign-ups—75% of which converted to paid users.” Lastly, while you shouldn’t be hired for the media relationships you have to offer, don’t be afraid to leverage one or two that may benefit your new role in a tasteful manner.
3. “What would you do in situation X?”
Situational interview questions are becoming more common as interviews move away from procedural and more towards conversational. If you’re a PR professional, this is somewhat of a blessing as you should be accustomed to chit chat. That said, if you spend too much time beating around the bush, you run the risk of missing the point and blurring the lines between knowing what you’re talking about and demonstrating that you’re only spouting off fluff. Get to the point, exude confidence, and rely on your experience to provide examples for reference.
4. “How important is routine to you?”
Many interviewers will ask this question to gauge your willingness to be on the job beyond the usual 9 to 5. A PR crisis or interview request can happen at any hour and you may be called upon at inconvenient times to save the day. My biggest media placement was a result of a phone call I received at ten o’clock at night while enjoying a hot bath. Believe me when I say – that was a call worth taking. In these cases, honesty is the best policy. If extra hours in the evenings or on the weekend isn’t your jam, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to elaborate on how much the position may stray away from a set schedule. It’s important to try and find companies that are in line with the pace that is right for you.
5. “What media win are you most proud of?”
Every publicist has several of her greatest wins ready on the tip of her tongue for when she’s asked this question, but before letting them roll off your tongue in your interview, make sure they’re the right wins for the job. It’s OK to name drop your biggest and baddest, but keep in mind those outlets that you think would be most promising for the company you’re interviewing with. If you’re looking to secure a PR Manager role with a fashion startup, you will want to mention that time you scored coverage on Refinery29 and Elle, in lieu of AskMen or Sports Illustrated.
6. “Do you work better individually or as part of a team?”
In any organization or agency, teamwork is a huge part of the overall success of the company. In an interview, take care to focus on how you rock at both. For example, you may say “When it comes to writing a press release or developing a winning pitch, I thrive in a solo environment that allows me to dedicate all of my attention to the task at hand. For ideation and strategy, I firmly believe that team collaboration is key.” This not only demonstrates that you can shine on your own, but it shows you’re a team player too.
7. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Again, be honest. Most companies are not expecting you to say with absolute certainty that you will still be working for them. And that’s OK. Having a realistic plan will speak volumes, so don’t be afraid to let them in on the big picture and be sure to let them know how they will be a part of it in a way that is mutually beneficial. “In five years, I would like to be VP of Public Relations for an agency doing amazing things for socially responsible startups and I am confident that if given the opportunity to fill this role, the experience and skills I will acquire will help me to fulfill that goal while furthering the success of your company too. ”
8. “What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?”
I once trained a college grad who thought her destiny was PR. After several months of hard work and dedication, she wasn’t afraid to admit it wasn’t for her. Despite what she thought, she confessed on her last day: “I discovered that I really don’t like writing or reading.” To succeed in PR, you must love both. No matter what your hobbies include, make sure to mention a love of reading or that you blog or do creative writing in your spare time. This shows the interviewer that you have an existing love of the creative world.
9. “What are your salary expectations?”
I can’t tell you exactly what to say (there are far too many factors at play such as geography, level of experience and media industry) but I can tell you this: know your worth and don’t sell yourself short. While it may seem convenient to take what your college advisors preached as an entry-level salary or to rely on what your parents expect you to make, these are not always fair representations of the real world. Talk to others in your industry, do your research and don’t be afraid to negotiate. If your offer is slightly less than what you were looking for, confidently reply, “To be honest, my expectation was between X and Y—if you don’t mind, I’ll have to think about your offer before I agree.” It shows you’re in control and you know what you want. In many cases, you’d be surprised how many employers will agree to your request if they think they’re about to lose top talent.
10. “Do you have any questions for us?”
Yes, yes you do. Always ensure that you have your own questions to ask. These could include how your role will evolve over time, what opportunities there are for you to grow within the company and what sort of benefits will be available. Things to avoid? Immediately asking about vacation time or just how much flexibility your new company will provide. A career in PR is a lifestyle choice and while most companies offer enticing vacation policies and flexible work environments, focus on your dedication to the job in your interview and not your time away from it.
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