I feel that throughout my time at university, and especially now that I have graduated, I’ve become a seasoned pro at going to job interviews and handling the questions you know that are coming, but also those that you aren’t expecting!
1) Tell me about yourself…
This question is usually the opening question of the interview, and it does not mean tell them that you love going for a few drinks on the weekend and you enjoy going the cinema! You should start by telling the interviewer your highest level of qualification, how you felt during your course (how did you feel you coped with the pressures of deadlines and working with different people that you are not used to). I would aim to talk for just a few moments about this topic, as the interviewer will ask more questions regarding a particular statement if they wish to know more. Remember that this is your first impression, and they really do count, you need to work on creating a rapport with the interviewer – these are your future employers and co-workers!
2) Explain why you want to work in PR?
PR agencies look for a confident, people person with great communication skills who’s an all round media junkie. You really need to know your stuff, and not just say ‘PR is my life, I have always wanted to work in PR’, because lets face it, you haven’t. I will be the first one to admit that I haven’t always wanted to work in PR, I have spent a hell of a lot of money and time learning about PR and realising that my personality and my ability compliments the role a PR practitioner takes on board. I wanted to be a vet or a princess when I was younger, not a PR practitioner, got to take what you can though!
You need to talk about your passion for multimedia such as newspapers (remember to only say this if you actually know the difference between newspapers, tabloids to broadsheets etc), magazines, TV, radio, websites, social media and blogs. As somebody looking for a job in PR, you should be spending your time creating an online presence for yourself. You won’t get very far if you don’t practice what you preach!
3) What are your strengths?
You need to ensure that you don’t come across as overly confident at this point. It is very easy to go over the top and say that you are the best person for this company and that they won’t find anybody more clued up than you. That’s a very naive thing to say, there is always going to be somebody better than you (understanding this keeps you grounded) but what you need to remember is that you know more than other people, and you have made it through to interview stages so be sure of yourself! Pick three strengths and explain how they can be a good addition to the company in question and how they can help you grow. You need to show them why they should employ you and how it would be a big mistake letting you go.
4) What are your weaknesses?
Many people dread this question, as they think this is confessional time and they need to confess their sins against PR. It’s not. This question is asked purely to show the interviewer that you want to learn and you are aware that you are not the most experienced PR practitioner out there! Don’t sit there and say that you’re cranky and you love a good argument, show how you have constructively made positive steps to rectify something you’re not very good at. For instance, you could say that your IT skills aren’t the strongest but you have spent your own time doing courses to improve your skills and that you’re willing to learn.
The worst thing you could do in this situation is say ‘oh I don’t know!’ or ‘I don’t have any weaknesses!’ … You may as well shake their hand there and then and say thanks for your time, sorry to have wasted it! Also, don’t say that you have a tendency to work too hard as this is seen to be avoiding the question!
5) What salary are you looking for?
Don’t be afraid of this question, in the past I have been a bit daunted by being underprepared and not really sure what to say! For a graduate PR practitioner going in at graduate entry level in Leeds (or anywhere up north really), you’re looking at about £16,000 – £19,000 depending on experience. Don’t feel like you’re being cheeky stating your salary, at the end of the day you’re there to be employed and they’re there to pay you!
6) Ensure you ask your own questions!
Time and time again I have gone in for an interview and got to this question and panicked and said ‘everything has been answered thank you!’ Make sure you prepare around 5 questions that you can ask your interviewer, so you have the chance to find out more about the role you will be taking on and what the goals of the company are. You need to ensure you will fit in working at the company you are being interviewed for, at the end of the day, you want to be happy and so do they!