PR Job Tips for the Graduating Class of 2014
By Stephen Burkhart
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing. It’s almost Easter time, and that means the volume of resumes hitting my inbox is peaking as graduating PR, marketing and journalism students hit the job market.
This annual rite of springing into the job market is an exciting time for all — for the graduates and for the agencies who want to hire the best and brightest. But I realize how amazingly hard this is for most prospects. Many are a little flat-footed when it comes to kicking down the door to a first job. I see confusion, a little desperation, but the biggest faux pas is a type of “sameness” that settles into the applications.
So how does the graduating class of 2014 stand out? I offer the following Q&A to share some best practices for landing that first PR job. The questions are a composite of those I have received from job applicants. The answers are real.
Q. So, how can I break through and win the day when I hear you get hundreds of resumes per week?
Rule No. 1: Stand out with your cover letter.
Most cover letters are horrible. They sound exactly the same. “Hi Hiring Manager, My name is XXX. I am graduating in June of 2014 and I am interested in your account coordinator position.”
These standard cover letters do not win the day.
Dare to be different in your cover letter. Dare to appeal to my selfish need as the GM to hire go-getters who can make an immediate contribution. Be persuasive. Be relevant. Don’t tell me about your theater experience if you want to be a tech PR person. The prospect who wrote a cover letter about the “7 reasons you should hire me,” got an immediate interview followed by an offer letter.
Q. OK, so I wrote a killer cover letter. What else can I do stand out?
Have your professor recommend you. Letters, calls, email recommendations from unbiased sources definitely advance your cause. We listen and are influenced.
Q. What else, what else? These are so obvious?
OK, sometimes going through the front door isn’t always the best answer. Sometimes candidates email me — or even the CEO — directly.
One intern candidate directly emailed the CEO Lou Hoffman and he replied. They had several rounds of back and forth to determine her suitability for the job. Her father thought the CEO couldn’t possibly be writing to an intern candidate. “Is The Hoffman Agency real?” he questioned from Toronto. Suffice it to say, we are very intent on hiring the best, so we (the senior management) take a very active role in the hiring process. Spoils go to the brave. The candidate was hired and is one of our fast-rising stars.
Q. Well, I did email the CEO, and he didn’t email me back.
Well our CEO has global responsibilities, so he’s not always on email. Look up our staff on LinkedIn and find someone who went to your school. Email that person and ask for 15 minutes of insight about how to get a job here.
When someone on our current staff comes to me with a prospect they like, I definitely listen. Look for many ways in the door, not just here but anywhere else you may want to work.
Any other advice?
Yes, get an internship. Write well. Show with your passion. Demonstrate how you can be our next superstar, and I will hire you.
To find out more about the jobs we have available, take a peek at our careers page.