Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
Your cover letter and résumé have gotten you in the door. Now comes the dreaded interview.
Some hiring managers and potential bosses might want to throw you a curveball; others might opt for a jolly chat.
Just in case, it’s best to come well prepared. Here are five common questions and directives that form the foundation of most PR job interviews:
1. Tell me about yourself. Give a succinct and short overview of your career, focusing on your more recent positions. Discuss why and how you got into PR, what you love about it, where most of your client experience lies and what your interests are. They might also ask about your personal life—often to spark a conversation—so tell them about your top hobby, that amazing restaurant you went to last week or your favorite music genre.
2. Why do you want to work here? This is your potential employer’s discovery question to see how much research you’ve done. That means doing your homework beforehand. Be specific. Look at their case studies, their blogs and their social media feeds. Key on the parts that interest you, whether it’s their client base, the vibe you get from their office culture or even what you’ve heard from other people. It’s perfectly acceptable to say: “You work with some really cool clients, and it looks like a great place to work. I saw the campaign you did with X.” Ask about it, so you can feed off each other’s excitement and enthusiasm.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses? This is a bit of a panic question, but a simple one to prepare for. Have some achievements ready to illustrate what you’re good at. When it comes to weaknesses, please don’t say, “Perfectionism.” That’s a transparent dodge. Instead, think of a negative you’re addressing—not something that raises flags (e.g., chronic lateness), but something along the lines of “I tend to be a bit of a ‘yes’ (wo)man and can take on too many tasks.” Then explain how you’re working to resolve that weakness.
4. Tell us five relevant media contacts you hold for our clients—quickly. If you’re an expert in a particular PR sector, you might be asked to name some of your contacts. Make sure you’ve checked Gorkana to get those names right, as well as their affiliations, because it’s likely your interviewer will also know them.
5. Why did you leave? Why do you want to leave your current role? If you’ve been in your company awhile and are looking for a change of scenery, tell them that. It can get tricky, though, if you’ve left a company or agency because of a culture clash or if you’ve been there less than a year. Most people leave their jobs because of opportunities for progression (or a lack thereof), the working environment or their manager, and that can be hard to explain. Be candid, but avoid negative language about your previous/current employer. Try your answer out on somebody, and hone it until you’re comfortable explaining your situation.
Finally, don’t panic if you can’t answer a question right away—or at all. It’s OK to pause, think a moment and even ask them to clarify or repeat the question. It’s fine to say, “I don’t know,” rather than making something up on the spot. Honesty is always valued.
Just remember: Even if they’re the CEO of a massive international organization, they’re still just people, so try to relax and build a rapport.
A version of this post first appeared on the Hartigan Recruitment blog.