As CEO of our mid-sized PR agency, one role I really enjoyed was interviewing entry-level staff. I was always impressed by the smart, energetic young people I met and usually learned lots too.
What did we look for in entry-level staff for our busy PR agency? In priority:
- Literacy – literate in the broadest ways; a reader too
- Writing skill – clearly a foundation skill that goes together with literacy
- Education – yes, good marks and fundamentals count
- Media & news savvy – essential; you don’t know media, you don’t make it in PR
- Internet knowledge – important; usually not an issue, though some online personae, personal bios and home pages were negatives
- Intellectual curiosity – highly valued; able to go from financials to Slurpees and still find fascinating angles
- Determination – if you were pitching, presenting or getting edited rigorously you had to have it
- Street smarts – character, confidence, sometimes based on instinct.
We were always thrilled when candidates had many of these skills and qualities in abundance. In our experience, we knew they’d be successful.
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During interviews, it was easy to cover off many of the basics. But the five questions that helped me the most were:
- What are you reading now?
- What news did you watch in the past three days?
- What’s the most difficult situation you ever faced at school, at work or personally and how did you resolve it?
- What do you know about our PR agency?
- Where do you want to be in five years?
After all the interview chat, these were the questions that counted most to me because they flagged the true PR talent we were looking for.
We’d enjoy hearing from you. What questions help you uncover real talent? What were the toughest questions you faced in your interviews?
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