By Colleen Kennedy, Inspire PR Co-Director
So you put your internship search skills to use, and landed an interview at your dream company. What can you expect during the interview process, and how can you be prepared?
• Writing tests are a precursor to most interviews— As we have heard time and time again, writing is the most important skill to have in PR. Before I started interviewing for internships, I had no idea that a writing test is a standard part of every PR interview. Some of the typical parts of a writing test you might see are:
- Editing for AP Style, grammar and typos—Remember that AP Style book you bought for your reporting class? Dust it off; it will become your best friend during the writing test.
- Press release—A large part of any PR internship is writing, and employers want to be sure your writing skills are top-notch. Double, triple, quadruple check your spelling and grammar. Don’t let a simple mistake hold you back from your dream job!
- Tweet—In the age of social media, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to write a tweet or a Facebook post. Your potential employer wants to know you can write concisely for a digital audience in a limited amount of space.
- Recommendation letter — (From Amy Tiffany) To add to Colleen’s list, I was asked to write the first 3-4 paragraphs of a recommendation letter. When I received feedback from the company on this section, they wanted more creativity.
- Marketing Strategies —(From Amy Tiffany) I was also given a fictional situation where I was asked to come up with three marketing strategies or tactics. Again, think creatively and outside of the box!
***On a side note, when applying for jobs and internships in PR, companies will often ask you to include a few writing samples. Have a few on hand that you have been told from professors, bosses and mentors is your strongest writing.
• While there may be no dumb questions, but there are smart questions—At the end of an interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Use this opportunity to make you stand out, and ask smart, insightful questions. Demonstrate you’ve done your research by asking about practices within the company, or about a specific client. Don’t be afraid to get personal and ask your interviewer why he or she likes working for the company. (From Amy Tiffany) I have been told a question that has gotten a positive response was: In what areas would you like to see improvement out of your interns?
• Your professors weren’t lying when they said it’s important to follow media trends—In one interview, I was asked about a recent news story I had been following and why it interested me. Don’t be caught off guard—make sure you read the news and are informed. Additionally, if you’re applying for a job in a specific industry, read the relevant industry publications and be able to discuss news stories. Senior Vice President of Fleishman-Hillard Scott Dietz recommended students read the Wall Street Journal, as well as local news sources and the New York Times.
• It’s okay to brag during your interview—During your interview, don’t be afraid to talk confidently about your experiences and qualifications. Before you enter the interview, take a deep breath and remember you were invited to interview for a reason. Think of your interview as an opportunity to discuss your relevant PR experiences. Be confident, and make sure you smile—the interviewer is also checking to see if you’re someone they would like working with and would fit in the company culture.
• Use LinkedIn to get background information on your interviewers—It can help calm your nerves if you have an idea of how much and what type of experience your interview has. Additionally, it helps to have an idea of what your interviewer looks like. During my initial email contact with a potential employer, the person I was corresponding with had a unisex name, and I assumed it was a male. When I was called for a phone interview, I was caught off guard when a woman spoke. Don’t let a minor slip-up cause you to fumble at the beginning of an interview.
Follow Colleen on Twitter: @colleenrkennedy