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Getting the PR Gig: Part 1
By: Mike Bush
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You, dear reader, have obviously stumbled on to a marketing and PR blog hosted on a career site for PR and Marketing. As such, there’s a chance you’re looking to find a gig (could be entry level, could be senior…we here at Talent Zoo like to offer an awful lot of each). So, it seemed to make sense to ask professionals in the space about their hiring experiences.

This is the first of a five-part series that looks at how to survive the interview process, and actually get the gig.

Almost every interview process starts with the phone screening. We all know the awkward moments that lead to a phone screening. We hide from our current boss, finding a somewhat quiet location where we can take the call, stare nervously at the phone’s touch screen, wavering back and forth between questions like “Is it quiet enough here?” “Why hasn’t the phone rung yet?" "Is my signal strong enough?” and “Why the &@#^% does that taxi driver keep hitting the horn?!?”

My personal piece of advice for getting through the phone screening is actually pretty simple. Don’t take the call sitting down. It’s actually something I learned in Comm 148 at George Mason University (that’s Intro to Radio, for all you non-Masonites). When you stand up, you are able to breathe better, and because you’re not scrunching your midsection, your voice will automatically sound more authoritative. Go ahead, try it.

Note to PR folks who have a smart but boring client…ask them to stand for media interviews. It works for the same reason.

Here are tips from three other professionals:
  • Cory Cart, Division Manager, PR for  HUB, an integrated communications agency, shares the following: I seek personality over education when looking for a PR practitioner. I can mentor someone on PR theory and how to pitch stories and help them improve their writing. But I can’t school them on how to sound friendly over the phone or how to build meaningful relationships with clients and journalists. It’s an immediate deal breaker when a PR or marketing professional has the personality of an IT professional.

  • Maggie Thill, Director of Marketing Communications for Fonality, adds: Candidates who wow me in the phone screening treat it like the real interview it is. They answer with examples that make it clear they read the job description, have the right skills, and are interested in the role. The ones who instantly lock an in-person also seize the opportunity to show off their research with great questions of their own. Bonus points for overcoming the lack of body language and facial expressions by using great phone skills like smiling while they talk about something they’re clearly interested in. I value genuine enthusiasm that shines through the phone or videoconferences even more now that I work and manage remotely.

  • Ninh Tran, CMO and Cofounder of Hiretual, a browser extension that makes it easier to connect with available talent, asks for actual examples: Tell me where you got published. Any world-known outlets like Inc., Forbes, Bloom Bergs, WSJ, Reuters, AP and have a link to back up your claim. Tell me also about any top niche publishers like Recruiter.com, ERE.com, etc. if relevant to my industry. Tell me about your top article, by top I mean the article that has the most engagement. Tell me what your accomplished and achieved in your own words. Did you kill user acquisition and reached #.# million MAU (monthly active users) or increase the retention or engagement rate by ##% over one month or created a sustainable B2B channel that funnels $#,###,### in sales? Tell me how you achieved the feat. Tell me something of value and why you would be a good team member.
In general, acing the phoner comes down to doing your homework on the company you’re interviewing with, making sure you can provide examples of how you’d be effective in the role, and just being personable. These may seem like common sense, but these exact suggestions came through in a lot of the responses I received when asking around…so maybe “common” is a relative term? Either way, it’s a good reminder that a little bit of homework can go a long way.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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