With colleges ready to release a wave of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new graduates onto the job market and more seasoned pros ready to make moves to increase their income and overall happiness, it’s a good time to talk about hiring.
Obviously what any given organization and hiring manager wants is individual. But there are some broad trends we can look at. So we at PR Daily took to LinkedIn to ask PR pros to share the one thing they most look for while they’re hiring.
Almost across the board, managers did not speak to specific skills. It wasn’t an ability to use a media database or a fat rolodex that got them excited. No, these hiring managers want intangible personality traits that can’t be taught — but can be encouraged to blossom.
Here are some responses, lightly edited for style and clarity.
Cross-departmental relationship skills. The razzle and dazzle of the final product is great, but people are at the center of our kind of work. The messaging, marketing, even the metrics: all tie back to people across the entire organization.
—Sheila Fortson, director of Corporate & ESG Communications and INSIGHTS Video Edition host, NCCI
The ability to believe that something can be better, including themselves. I am interested in working with people that can be with the company for more than the job we are filling today. In our business, you cannot just hire superstars. You also need to create and develop them.
—Katie Huang Shin, president of Big Valley Marketing
Energy. Everything else can be taught and learnt but when you find someone with bucket loads of energy, they’re the ones to go for. It powers how hard they work, how much they will be able to deliver and also radiates to clients, so is a must for PR.
—Julia Linehan, founder and CEO of The Digital Voice
Polished writing. Not just in your cover letter and clips, but also in your everyday emails — to your recruiter, to your hiring manager, to anyone else you interviewed with. If you haven’t mastered the art and science of email etiquette, then you haven’t thought hard enough about what PR means.
—Jonathan Rick, ghostwriter
I look for problem solvers — people who can think creatively to get a message across or run a campaign, no matter what hurdles pop up. That includes putting in the work to find and pitch the right journalist for each story, or figuring out how to run a successful event on a shoestring budget when a speaker drops out last minute.
—Mandy Menaker, member of PR Daily Advisory Board
PR candidates at every level should be able to speak to their influences. Not influenc_ers_. We’re talking about influenc_es_. And not the obvious Apple/Nike/Google ones, but specific campaigns from challenger brands that continually open their eyes to the power of the profession and reveal how passionately they pay attention.
—Adam Ritchie, principal, Adam Ritchie Brand Direction
Adaptability, self-awareness, empathy, initiative-taking, strong writing ability (or at least strong potential for it), moral compass, sense of humor.
Bonus for prior political campaign or newsroom experience because it shows versatility, ambition, love of fast pace and “winning” but also the importance of being humble.
—Jeremy Tunis, senior advisor, Public Affairs, Community Relations, Communications at Miramont Behavioral Health
Tenacity. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where employees are always striving to do better. Plus, it enables people to take initiative and be proactive in identifying client challenges.
—Carrie Jones, CEO at JPA Health
Curiosity is always at the top of my list. In order to be successful in comms, you need to be deeply motivated to wrap your head around the company from every angle, every vantage point, every nook and cranny. And to be driven enough to ask all the questions, especially the tough ones.
—Allison Hoffman, head of communications at Wheel
I look for candidates who have equal parts ambition/drive as well as low ego. PR hiring managers are always looking for folks who have the basic skill set (strong writing skills, time management, strategic thinking). Those are table stakes. What’s more important, in my view, is to know the person you’re hiring has the drive to want to be successful in their career but also the humility to have a learner’s mindset and to approach the role as if no task is too small. In the fast-paced world of comms and social media, we wear lots of different hats and you need to ensure the people you hire are willing to jump in at any level.
Caty Bleyleben, communications advisor at CMAND
I’m really insistent on hiring people of integrity who will make ethical decisions. I can teach you nearly everything else you need to know to be successful in this work, but I don’t think I can teach you how to act with integrity. I can’t teach you to behave ethically. But I promise you, when you find yourself working with someone who lacks integrity or acts unethically, eventually they will make a decision that damages your reputation or that of your clients.
—John Taylor, founder & principal, White Oak Communications
If I’m interviewing someone for a PR or external comms or social media role and they can’t list the news sites they follow or read each day that is a deal breaker for me. There are other qualifications I look for, but if they are genuinely interested in news and trends, their other attributes don’t matter.
—Sarah Kisko Hersh, executive vice president, Percepture
Initiative. I have no interest in micromanaging anyone, so people who can think are a real bonus. I believe you can teach the skills of PR but that ability to think widely off your own back is a tricky one to educate.
—Francesca Baker, senior public relations consultant, Your Story PR
What would you add to the list?