Though often underrated by outsiders, PR is crucial for both public and private organizations (and individuals).

You will find countless job openings in the field, ranging from PR Managers to Spokespersons and Social Media Managers.

Big companies often run entire PR determent, since they understand the impact publicity has on their profits. They are eager to pay more than 100K annually to the leaders of their public relations, which makes this job extremely attractive for anyone eligible to apply.

And here come to the bad news: Jobs in PR are attractive, and the educational requirements are rather low. This results in a big competition for each of the better jobs, and you have to count with facing five, ten, or perhaps even more competitors while trying to succeed.

A group of job candidates sit nervously on their chairs before a start of an interview

Just to give you an idea how fierce this competition can be: I was a part of an interviewing team in a big accounting firm which needed a new PR Manager. The salary offer wasn’t superb, but the job description was excellent. We ended up interviewing more than 100 candidates, and had to do four rounds of interviews until we selected the one who got the job…

It wasn’t easy and if I was leading the entire process I would do it differently (in a more efficient way, screening most applicants out even before the first round), but I just wanted to share this experience as an example of how tough it can be for you (and all other applicants)

Let’s have a look at the questions right now. Please bear in mind that in this article I do not make a distinction between first, second or third interview. I simply present questions (and answers to some of them), regardless of the round of the interview. Enjoy!

 

Why do you want to work in PR?

Try to find a good balance between what you want to gain in this job, and what you want to bring to the company (the value the employer will gain by employing you).

You can start with excellent presentation and communication skills, and a good understanding for their market and the position of all stake holders, believing that this knowledge makes from you an excellent candidate for the job.

Then you can refer to your love for the work in PR, citing how you (would) enjoy speaking for the company or working on particular campaigns, and how this job helps you to grow professionally and gain satisfaction in life.

 

What do you think is a main goal of PR in our company?

They can inquire also about the role of a particular PR worker, depending on the job you apply for.

The answer is simple: To help improve the reputation of the company, to ensure that good word spreads out, that the public (and everyone involved) is informed about the news, that people keep the brand in their subconscious mind, and will remember on it when deciding about making a purchase or whatever else action the company wants them to take.

You can also point out dealing with negative publicity, and ensuring that the image of the company stays in tact even in the most difficult times.

 

How do you imagine a typical day in work?

The most important thing is to show proactive approach to work. Great PR workers do not sit in their office, waiting for an email or a report from someone, so they can “produce” some news.

They actively talk to people in the company, they participate in every public activity, they look for opportunities for any positive publicity, and are on a watch for a negative one, so they can counter it rather quickly, or even stop it before it manages to spread out to the world.

Obviously a day of a spokesperson differs to a day of a copywriter or PR director, and you should adjust your answer to the role you try to get. But I hope you got the point.

Small panel of young interviewers put the job candidate under a lot of pressure.

Talk about your most successful and least successful PR campaign.

Clearly explain the goals you had with a particular campaign (whether it was to arouse the interest of the public, to beat negative publicity, or basically to strengthen the brand or introduce new product), and how you achieved to meet them with the campaign.

It’s not awards or media attention that make campaign successful. It’s whether you managed to meet the goals you set, and whether your employer benefited from it.

Everyone of us has a bad experience from work, and we learn the most while failing. Do not hesitate talking about a campaign that failed terribly. Show the interviewers that you can admit making a mistake, and that you also learn from your mistakes.

 

What media do you use in your work, and why would you use such media in our company?

You should do your homework before going to an interview. Check their social media channels, google news about the company, and try to understand their PR strategies, and the prevailing media they use.

Obviously right choice depends mainly on the target customer. If the company tries to impress 18 years old boys and 65 years old ladies makes a huge difference in both the media and the message. Try to explain this while justifying your selection.

Alternatively you can say that you would use each media in your campaigns, that, according to your belief, great PR strategy consists in combining all available means of communication with the public and the options each media presents to you. This is a great answer especially if you apply for a job in PR department of a big corporation.

 

Imagine that a young woman lost her arm in one of our production plants, as a consequence of not respecting the safety rules. What would you say to the media representatives?

Interviewers may confront you with a short case study, typically related to some unpleasant accident (which happens from time to time in every big company).

In my opinion these are some of the best questions they can use in an interview, since your answer clearly demonstrates whether you understand the job, whether you know how to do it.

In this particular case, you should start with expressing the deepest regrets, apologizing to both the affected woman and everyone else involved (physically or emotionally) in the case. Then you should clearly explain what happened, why the accident occurred, and ensure the media representatives that it would not repeat in the future, that the company would take measures to ensure the safety rules are kept in the workplace.

Remember that they do not expect to hear a perfect speech from you in an interview. They know that you are nervous, and have no time to prepare. It’s just about checking your way of thinking, whether you understand the basics, whether you are not afraid of the task…

Woman explains her PR strategy to a senior recruiter

Other questions you may get in your PR job interview

  • If we hire you for this position, what will be the first thing you will do?
  • You probably know something about our business already. In your opinion, what can we improve about our PR strategy?
  • What is your opinion on outscoring PR work to external agencies?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • What is your favorite social media and why?
  • Do you have any connections in the media business?
  • How do you measure the ROI of your campaigns?
  • Do you consider yourself more a team leader, or a follower?
  • Describe a time you had to manage negative media attention.
  • Describe a time your PR communications were misunderstood by your target audience. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work.
  • Describe your latest PR campaign/work. Which problems did you face when trying to achieve your goals?
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the hundred other candidates who try to get this job?

 

Conclusion and next steps

Public Relations in an extremely popular job field. Many people apply for these jobs, and companies have no easy task in designing complex interview processes to choose the best person from the pack.

This results in a difficult interviewing experience. If you want to stand any chance of succeeding in this interview, you have to do the following:

  • Research as much as you can about the company–their existing PR strategy, the campaigns they run, but also their products, goals, vision, etc.
  • Think carefully about each question from this article, and try to prepare a concept for a good answer to each one.

It will not be easy, but you can succeed. At the end of the day someone always succeeds in the interview. Why couldn’t it be you?

I wish you good luck!

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Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Matthew Chulaw

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