So you’ve seen the job spec, researched the company and had your CV put forward. Great news – they like you too and have invited you in for an interview. This means you’re in with a good chance of securing that new job… but what are the common mistakes that lead to this opportunity being lost?
1) Giving short or one word answers
PR and Comms professionals are in general bubbly, outgoing, enthusiastic people that are full of life and energy. It comes as part of the job; having to be able to stay late when needed and keep positive despite the disruptive change around them. If the hiring manager is a PR professional, they know this and will be looking for these characteristics in you. Depending on the situation, if you give short answers, this can suggest a lack of passion.
2) Saying you don’t get on well with people
Believe it is or not, this is more common than you would think and an instant black mark against any interviewee. In an agency you’ll be dealing with a mixture of clients and face to face interaction is inevitable. Mention your love for that connection, not hate.
Contradictory to point number 1’s one word answer – don’t drag your answers on and on. Keep them concise and to the point, answer the question and be careful not to go off topic.
4) Asking no questions
Questioning shows interest. If you are interested but aren’t asking any questions, the interviewer is unlikely to know this. Make it very clear by asking well researched, smart and relevant questions throughout the interview.
5) Saying you just like one area of PR and Comms, nothing else
If you’re interviewing for a specific role, e.g. Social Media Specialist, then it is absolutely fine to show your interest in a niche field, but more often than not, agency roles are mixed bags requiring you to have a varied skillset and interest in a range of areas. Discuss everything you’ve done, and ensure you highlight a willingness to learn, even if you’re interviewing for a specialist role that you know everything about. It’s rare that will be your sole responsibility (and you probably don’t want it to be long-term).
6) Coming unprepared
The busy life of a PR professional can make finding spare time a difficulty, but nevertheless, your interviewer will expect you to come as prepared as possible. For agency roles, find out what clients they work with and research them, when the question comes “what do you know about us?” there is nothing more awkward than silence.
7) Showing up late
This can be applied to any interview, but it’s so common that it belongs in this list. Set off with plenty of time, remember that if you get there early, 9 times out of 10 there will be a coffee shop next door for you to sit in and go over your interview preparation. Late arrivals are rarely turned around into successful interviews.
8) Mentioning you’re not good at multitasking
Communications agencies are busy, ever changing environments, and any employee needs to be able to juggle a plethora of tasks at any one time in order to survive. Make sure the manager knows you aren’t afraid of this by giving examples of doing it in the past, and showcase your ability to take on multiple projects and clients.
9) Being too reserved with information
There is no denying that lots of information on your previous or existing clients is confidential , but this doesn’t mean you can avoid saying anything at all. If you are worried about giving away confidential information, during your interview prep, come up with a list of examples that you can give and think of ways you can word other info. You should be able to give extensive answers to competency based interview questions without naming your clients or their campaigns.
10) Misrepresenting your previous company
People leave jobs for a number of reasons, the most common of which is – they don’t like their boss. Although it is easy to sit in an interview and go through all the things you don’t like about where you work, this rarely comes across constructive. Far better for you to focus on you, what are your skills and abilities, rather than your bosses inability to recognise these talents.
11) Avoiding the question
This is common when someone is asked “why did you leave this job after such a short time?” The defensive response can be to talk around it and deflect. This won’t impress your interviewer and may lead to them actually not trusting you. Be honest; your chances of losing trust on a first meeting are far higher than in a long term relationship, don’t give them any reason not to trust you.