Having made it over the transition hump from college graduate to gainfully employed PR and ad agency staffer, I have had my fair share of interviews. It’s fascinating to be “on the inside” and hear what agencies deal with as they search to fill more positions.
Because of this, I’ve decided to provide a few do’s and don’ts of interviewing etiquette that might help you get in the door at a PR firm or ad agency. I know my employers would like it if people took some of this advice to heart. Sometimes, even if you do everything correctly, you still won’t get the job, often because of the sheer number of applications. But if you follow this advice, at least you’ll have a better chance.
- DON’T post questionable pictures from your latest spring break trip, fraternity party, or anything else that employers might frown upon. If you’re questioning whether a picture is appropriate to post, chances are, it isn’t. If you are going to continue posting bikini and beer shots, at least make sure your social channels are visible only to friends.
- DO remember to send a thank-you e-mail after interviewing. Perhaps even mail a written note (old-fashioned, I know, but it’ll make you stand out in this era of rapid-fire digital messages). Conducting interviews takes up time that employers could be spending on billable client projects, so take the time to acknowledge that you understand their time is valuable. If you think little things like this will go unnoticed — they won’t. Even if the job doesn’t work out, remember how many connections your interviewer probably has at every other agency in town.
- DON’T connect on LinkedIn before your interview. When you do connect after, explain how you know the person. Don’t opt for using the standard “Please connect with me” message. Craft a personalized message, or the chances of them “linking” with you won’t be very good.
- DO follow the agency through their social media channels, especially if you’re seeking a social media job! It will give you insight into the agency culture. At smaller agencies, you’d be surprised how closely their social channels are watched.
- DON’T arrive late. Being punctual is crucial to any job and showing up late gives the impression that you are lazy and don’t care about getting the job. Showing up late starts the interview off on the wrong note and will leave a bad taste in the interviewer’s mouth. They might be a casual agency and not be sticklers for when the work day starts, but that doesn’t mean this attitude translates to your interview. You haven’t earned any “credits” toward being late yet because you haven’t pulled any late nights for the agency. Yet.
- DO remember to bring extra copies of your resume and any other information they might want. Being unprepared is one of the biggest mistakes you can make and gives the impression that you simply don’t care about getting the job.
- DO dress to impress. Even if the company you are interviewing with is casual, it is always better to dress respectably than to underdress. Also, remember that if you’re trying to get a job in PR or advertising, you’re meeting with people that, at the least, understand what is on trend, so the ill-fitting suit jacket from five years ago might not make a great first impression. This isn’t your 8:00 a.m. Principles of PR class. Don’t dress like it.
- DO go in with a positive attitude, energy, and having studied the agency’s website and work beforehand. You got the interview, which is a step ahead of the 50 other people who didn’t even get that far. Do your homework. Understand how the agency differentiates themselves. Know the clients. Look at the previous work. Be prepared for questions they may ask about their work and why you want to work for that agency.
Taylor Thompson is a PR Account Coordinator at Seed Factory Marketing in Atlanta. Some of the suggestions in this article were edited and added by her bosses, so don’t blame her if anything comes across snarky for someone new to the business!