Do This, Not That: Interviewing for an Internship
So I’m 22 years old, I’ve just finished my first agency internship and (thank you PR gods) was hired as a PR account coordinator, when my boss tasks me with hiring the next intern. Oh the power; oh the pressure! Her theory was I had just done the job myself, so who better to find that perfect little jewel in a giant stack of resumes?
That was nearly 10 years and two agencies ago, and somehow the job of hiring the next intern stuck to me. I haven’t minded. I love meeting fresh faces, seeing what the next generation of PR pros looks, sounds, and acts like. I’ve hired 8 interns and interviewed dozens of candidates over the years, not to mention provided countless informational interviews, and even though the job itself has changed dramatically over the years, the basics have not.
At the end of each interview cycle, I find myself itching to impart some wisdom to the next batch of candidates. The things to do, the things definitely, most certainly, not to do. And I’m finally doing it for you, here, right now. Here goes:
Do → If it’s asked for in the requirements, include it!
We make a point of putting job application requirements in our job descriptions. Usually those requirements include providing a certain number of writing samples, a resume, and a cover letter. If any of that is missing, your email goes in the garbage. No joke. I’m not even going to consider it. Because either a) you didn’t read through the description thoroughly (which is the biggest red flag out there), or b) you don’t have the experience we’re looking for. Both are deal breakers.
I actually had someone ask me to “let them know what they needed to send” to be considered, even though it was already in the job description they emailed about. Hmmmm...not scoring a lot of points there.
Do → Show your personality
Take a minute to review our recent client work, and you’ll see we’re a creative bunch. Spend a few minutes on our Facebook page and you’ll see our beer tasting competitions and mini golf tournaments. We have a lot of heart, and a lot of fun. So while your cover letter should be professional, don’t neglect to show us your personality. If it reads like the same cover letter you sent to every other agency, I won’t have any idea if you’re a good fit for our agency. Make me see you! You should even consider sending me links to your blog and your Twitter account so I can see what you’re passionate about.
Don't → Show up to an interview without a portfolio
I’m not sure what’s happened in recent years, but several candidates have shown up to interviews with absolutely no work to share. Several have told me they “sent me a link to their work online.” Ladies and gents, I’m a little busy. I didn’t have time to read that gigantic PR plan you did. More importantly, I want to hear you present your own work. I want to hear you explain how you were presented with a PR problem, and how you decided to tackle it. And don’t worry, I know most of you will only have written a plan in school - and that’s okay. Hearing how you think strategically through a problem, and how you solved it within a group, is awesome no matter what the circumstance. Don’t neglect this opportunity to shine.
Don't → Come without any questions
Asking me questions about the agency, the internship, and the industry shows you take your career seriously. Ask me about the type of work you’ll do, what clients you’ll work on, more about some of the work the agency has done, etc. I’m looking for someone who cares about where they work, and someone who has done their homework about the agency.
Don't → Show up more than 5 minutes early. Or late without calling.
It’s okay if you got lost and are running late - just pull over and call to let me know. But maybe less obvious? Don’t show up more than 5 minutes early! While you think it shows your eagerness, it just means I get pulled away from something else - including a quick bathroom break before you arrive - so I don’t leave you hanging out in the lobby. Just hang out in your car for a second, make sure you have a pen, and then come in. It’s weird, I know, but it’s a big pet peeve of mine.
Do → Send a thank you note
Whether in email form or a handwritten card (the latter is always awesome, btw), make sure you thank your interviewer for the opportunity. It shows you’re considerate and that you value the time the person took to talk with you.
I could go on - and share some hilarious stories of interviews gone horribly wrong - but we’ll save that for another post. Until then, I hope this advice gets you one step closer to an agency internship, and ultimately to your career in public relations.