Part 1 — Intern Talk: A Peek Behind the PR Recruitment Curtain

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Have you ever wondered what was going through the head of a public relations recruiter while searching for an internship or job? Now is your chance to get answers directly from a professional who spends her days recruiting talent for a Chicago public relations agency. Christine Godbey, human resource specialist for Ketchum/Zocalo Group, shared her thoughts on frequently asked questions.

Q: What are the top three hard skills that you look for in entry-level applicants?

A: The top three hard skills my team and I look for when reviewing résumés, and interviewing entry-level candidates are:

  1. Writing skills, specifically public relations writing skills. Writing is the core of what we do in the public relations industry, which makes grammar, spelling, word choice and messaging a top priority when hiring entry-level candidates.
  2. Verbal communication skills. Although an entry-level candidate would not be likely to lead a client call, it’s important for candidates to be articulate.
  3. Social media skills and savviness. Public relations is evolving into the digital space and social media has become a large part of our client offerings.

Q: What makes an intern or entry-level candidate stand out to you?

A: Although hard skills are important, soft skills stand out to me more because many hard skills can be taught and learned. When reviewing a résumé, I look for signs of a candidate who works hard, seeks challenges, and goes above and beyond in both internships and their academics. When screening or interviewing an intern or entry-level candidate, I ask probing questions around how they approach and overcome challenges, how curious and hungry they are to learn more, where they may have added unexpected value in past internships or in classes, and what type of work environment they thrive in. Candidates who are aware of their strengths and can articulate how their strengths bring value to the role and company stand out to me.

Q: How much internship experience should recent graduates have before applying for entry-level jobs?

A: With the public relations job market the way it is, I would say a couple internships should suffice for one to qualify for entry-level jobs. If you are targeting employment at a public relations agency, it is also good to be open-minded to post-graduate internships as a foot-in-the-door position. Most agencies make full-time offers to candidates in their internship programs when positions open within the company.

Q: Is there anything that makes recruiters immediately reject an applicant? If so, what?

A: When reviewing hundreds of résumés that are submitted for an open job, I preliminarily skim each résumé and disqualify candidates with résumés full of spelling, grammar and formatting errors. My thinking behind this is that you have one page to sell yourself, and if you aren’t taking the time to proofread and make your one page flawless, you don’t have the attention to detail we’re looking for in a candidate.

This is Part I of “Intern Talk: A Peek Behind the PR Recruitment Curtain,” a two-part series for Progressions. Look out for Part II coming next week!

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“Intern Talk” is a monthly guest column produced by Ellie Boggs, 2013–2014 vice president of career services (follow her on Twitter @ellieboggs). The column covers various aspects of the public relations industry, giving PRSSA members the tools to secure internships and make the most of their professional experiences. For more career resources, visit the PRSSA Career Manual and Internship Center.

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