What makes a great PR/Comms candidate?
There are many ways you can increase your job prospects: from the obvious spell-checking of your CV to the more dedicated undertaking of unpaid work experience. However, if you are trying to get into a profession which is popular, like PR and Communications, you need to demonstrate more than just an ability to spell correctly.
According to the CIPR 2018/2019 State of the Profession Report , the industry employs over 71,000 people in the UK and is growing. 59% of PR Agencies and Consultancies and 31% of In House teams said that they were growing. Little wonder that the demand for PR candidates is increasing and the option available remains fierce. If you’re thinking about your next move in PR, we thought it would be helpful for you to have some information at your fingertips. Insider information perhaps, from people in the know; information that could help you present yourself as a great PR/Comms candidate.
Your wish is our command. We asked our clients for some tips to help you on your way.
Are there any specific characteristics a candidate needs?
Read any blog on the subject, including our own insightful guide on How to get into PR, and you’ll spot a common theme: confidence and great communication skills are a must.
In both of these exciting professions, you’ll need to liaise with stakeholders of various seniority and use those powers of persuasion to get buy-in or assistance for your endeavours. For that, you need to be able to communicate eloquently, succinctly and without getting flustered. However, that’s not the full picture:
Really strong communication skills are of course a pre-requisite, but an ability to go beyond the sound-bite and provide evidence of advisory skills is what we look for. We want to be viewed as trusted advisors by our clients, so candidates need to show they can become one.
For an entry level or junior candidate our clients will be looking out for curiosity and energy. They are the best indicators of passion and that’s really important in PR.
When it comes to more senior candidates, such as Senior Account Executive or Account Manager, our clients might take for granted that they will be excellent at the day job. More important is attitude…Are you willing to get stuck in? Do you still get excited about doing great work for clients? Do you still enjoy the thrill of the chase when it comes to new business and pitching stories to the media? Do you want to play a part in growing the business? Does the culture suit your expectations? For example, if you come from a big corporate background and are applying to a small boutique, but want to stay comfortable in a big corporate structure, then the company you are looking at might not be suitable for you.
Is previous experience or a related qualification necessary?
One of the most common questions we’re asked by our candidates is about experience and qualifications. Where it used to be almost imperative to possess both attributes, is this still the case?
We asked our clients what their thoughts were :
Previous experience is important, but it has to be relevant experience. For me, recruitment is about establishing the right fit for a candidate.
While I look out for qualifications, they are not the be all and end all. Some of the best PR people I’ve worked with haven’t had degrees. Similarly we’re not necessarily convinced of the value of vocational qualifications, but I do find journalism training can be very helpful.
What makes a candidate stand out?
With competition for any vacancy rife, it’s more important than ever for candidates to take action that helps them stand out among the crowd.
For PR and Comms hopefuls, this means demonstrating (as mentioned above) relevant experience and skills. A good idea is to offer your chosen company some assistance – perhaps write a blog or simply help out with some admin at a busy period. This will not only get your face known, but might mean you’re on site (and within sight) when a vacancy arises. Keeping up to date with industry trends and news is similarly essential, as it shows that you’re serious about the profession. Don’t forget to use social media to make contacts and participate in discussions, too. Of course, that’s not all you can do:
The best candidates really think about the company they are applying to and prepare themselves accordingly.
We tend to look for people who’ve done something out of the ordinary or have side lines that demonstrate that all-important curiosity, be it creative or intellectual. They might, for example, run their own music websites, have lived and worked in China, write poetry in their spare time… the list goes on.
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