So, your CV has excited and engaged and got you through the door! What do you need to do in preparation before you get there since, as the song says, ‘You only get one shot’? Basically, it’s all about research:
- Research the company
- Research its people
- Research its clients
- Research its clients’ recent marketing activity
- Research the position you are applying for
On the day of the interview, know where you are going! If I had £1 for every call I have received from someone saying ‘I am on Princess Street, where are you exactly?’ I would be a very wealthy man! Get there early, but no more than 15 minutes. Think carefully about what you wear – clothes ‘maketh the man…and woman. And remember, the interview starts the moment you walk through the door. Receptionists have the power and are often asked what they thought of the candidates!
So, to the interview and some simple tips:
- Turn your phone off!
- Make sure your hand shake is firm, not sticky or wimpy
- Eye to eye contact is important
- You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that %
- Nerves are natural so don’t let them get the better of you
- Plan what you are going to say
- Be conscious of non-verbal cues i.e. body language
- Make sure your portfolio is professionally presented
- And you may be asked to do a writing test, so be warned!
Inevitably you will be asked questions and invited to ask questions so have some ready in advance:
- ‘What is a typical day like?’
- ‘What training programmes are in place?’
- ‘What opportunities are there for career development?’
- ‘What is the company structure?’
- ‘What are the key challenges/priorities/key factors for success?’
Don’t ask, as some have (!?*), questions like these:
- ‘What time do you finish on a Friday?’
- ‘How many holidays a year will I get?’
- ‘Do we travel first class to client meetings?’
- ‘Do I get an expense account?’
- ‘Are there any single men here?’
Meanwhile, there are standard questions you will get asked, such as:
- ‘What is your biggest strength?’
- ‘What is your biggest weakness?’
- ‘What motivates you to get up in a morning?’
- ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’
- ‘What do you see as the challenges facing the PR industry today?’
- ‘Tell me about your goals/accomplishments/interests outside work’
And then the questions I ask:
- ‘What do you think is a recent example of good PR?’
- ‘What do you think is a recent example of bad PR?’
- ‘What do you think about the domestic violence story line in Corrie..?’
- What was the last book you read/film you saw?
- ‘What is the water cooler conversation of the day?’
- ‘How would your best friend describe you?
- ‘Why would I want to have a beer with you?’
Hopefully after all this you are hired but remember to always follow up an interview with a thank you note. If you don’t get the job then ask for feedback so you can do better next time. It is a very competitive marketplace but persistence will pay off, trust me.
And when it is your turn to interview and appoint people, as inevitably it will be, remember as David Ogilvy said: ‘“You should hire people who are better than you, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable and will not settle for the routine.” I know I do…