How to ace a PR job interview

By Matter

Here at Matter we’ve been hiring. We’ve been fortunate to bring in some cool new accounts and grow some existing accounts. The hiring process and interviews have gotten me thinking about traits that impress me in PR candidates. Here’s what I look for:

1 – Be talkative: Can you tell a story? Doesn’t matter what it’s about. If you can tell a good story about your apartment search or fantasy football league, you can tell a good story about our clients that’ll lead to coverage.

2 – But not too talkative: Know when to zip it. Make your point and stop yakking. (Also an important trait once you’ve been hired. In internal meetings. On client calls. In phone pitches.)

3 – Listen: I’m amazed how often candidates don’t listen. Maybe they’re nervously preparing their next answer. Or thinking about the answer they just gave. Doesn’t matter. If you can’t hold an engaging two-way conversation during a job interview, how well will you listen in a meeting with the client?

4 – Do your homework: I know, I know. This is Interview 101. But if a candidate knows the industry award that Matter just won, it tells me they’ll do their homework before sending that pitch to the New York Times. I don’t think a candidate who researched which accounts I work on and where I used to work will spam reporters once we hire them. I just don’t.

5 – Be assertive. Stand up for yourself. If you’re a strong advocate for yourself, you’ll be a strong advocate for our clients. Believe in your skills.

6 – No fragile flowers: If you’re flustered and timid in the job interview, what are you going to do after a reporter hangs up on you?

7 – Think on your feet: An employer once asked me what ducks and refrigerators have in common. I think that type of question is contrived and silly. But if you can tell me how to respond to the reporter who declined to cover our apparel client’s event because of a NASCAR race the same weekend, I’m listening.

8 – Reporter rapport: Be interested in reporters and what they do. Think about their jobs. Care about the news business. Treat them as people, not tools. OK, as a former reporter, this is personal. But I’ve got little use for PR people who view reporters as foes. If you do, it tells me you’ve pissed off enough reporters to have lousy relationships with them. So I’m wondering, “What’d you do to screw up that relationship?”

9 – Show some personality: One reason Matter’s a great place to work is because of the interesting people who work here. One colleague went to clown school. I’m not making this up. Another sips Russian vodka and reads Tolstoy – but only in the winter. Another fronts a grindcore band. What makes you different? All of us work a lot. Why not surround ourselves with interesting personalities?

10 – How’s your jump shot? After-work basketball is a favorite pastime at Matter. So hoop skillz are a key asset in landing a job here. Note to HR department: JUST KIDDING. All our hiring decisions are made solely on the basis of PR skills and experience. (But seriously, how’s your crossover dribble?)

Everyone’s interview checklist is different. What did I leave out? What do you look for in a PR candidate?

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