How to get ahead in PR: top ten tips

I hope you’re reading this because you’ve noticed we’re recruiting, and you’re considering applying to work with us. If so, good for you because, as far as we can tell, not many of your fellow applicants have bothered. And do keep reading because, alongside the rant, we hope you’ll find some useful information.

We’ve been pretty vocal about our new vacancies, advertising them via PR Week’s jobs board,  a wide number of LinkedIn alumnae groups, Facebook, Twitter, recruitment agencies and good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. After a slow start, in fact so slow that Victoria felt compelled to issue a press release about the apparent dearth of young people actively looking for work, we have now received more than 200 applications in just two days. Which ought to be good news, but sadly isn’t. We don’t apologise for being picky. We’re a young, thriving communications company with some wonderful clients and it’s vital that we employ the right people. And to help attract the right people we offer well-structured personal and professional development plans, which include master classes, spotlight sessions, access to PRCA courses, one-to-one coaching, image consultations and Outside Salix (a cultural engagement programme). We’re a cohesive, happy team with a shared vision and strong commitment to delivering the very best for our clients. We find and keep good people because we look after them well and provide them with the opportunity to develop quickly and, once they reach account manager level, to own a share of the company.

Why then, if you are thinking of applying to work for us, would you (apparently) not bother to look at our website first? Of the very significant number of applications received to date, hardly any have outlined how they think their skills and experience might benefit Salix, nor have they given any evidence that they’ve visited our website. Imagine you were the recruiter. Would: “I think this would be a very useful job to me to start me on my career in PR and would give me some of what I am looking for” honestly persuade you to take things to the next stage?

We’ve skimmed long, and often self-congratulatory, essays on the applicants’ myriad achievements: “sending out press releases during a one week internship!”, “sorting through media cuts!”, “I look forward to hearing from you so I can tell you even more about me!” – but virtually nothing to demonstrate that they’ve taken the time and trouble to find out some more about us.

So we thought it might be useful to give you a helping hand. Here are some of the things that will help you stand out.  I’m afraid a degree on its own won’t, even if you have a first – at least 30% of your fellow applicants do too – so you’re going to have to make the effort to be different.

1. Firstly, and most importantly, make your application about us not you. We’re going to be investing a lot of time, energy and money in you, so we want to know what return we’re likely to get on our investment. Are you looking for a stepping stone move or a long-term role where your loyalty will be appropriately rewarded? Please take the time and trouble to research our site before you submit your application – and I mean  properly research. Salix is an unusual name. What does it mean? You’ll find the answer if you spend enough time on our site. What do we do? How do we do it? What kind of people do you think work for and with us? Bring those findings to life. Telling us that you are interested in media isn’t enough – so you should be, you’re applying for a job in PR – instead, how about telling us that you think it would be really exciting to have access to someone like our chairman, Trevor Morris, who is one of the UK’s most respected figures in the PR sector.

2. We specialise in the health, education and social sectors. Our website tells you that, and our job specs tell you that, so please don’t start your application by saying you’ve always dreamt of working in financial PR or how well you organised a catwalk show during an internship. Instead, tell us why you’re interested in what we specialise in and what you’ve done that would add value to us.

3.  If you have a degree in life sciences and a masters in international public relations, it’s probably not adviseable to  start your application: “i am applying for this job because i am very qualified and i have a ma in pr. i think it would be very useful for my career to work for your company.” We provide content for the media and expect you to be able to write, and to know that the first person singular uses a capital letter. And by the way, we will always take ‘John Smith’ more seriously than ‘john smith’.

4. If you are applying from India, Australia or America you may like to let us know why you are applying for a role with a London-based company, and how you plan to make yourself available for interviews.

5.  If you are going to cut and paste the essay on your life to date, please take the trouble to tailor it and make it relevant to us.  A fresh approach will always stand you in better stead but we understand that you are probably sending out a high number of applications to different companies, most of which will  never bother to contact you back,  so do try and at least make your first sentence relevant.

6. If you follow point 1, you won’t need to address your application ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ because you will have found out that Kate and Victoria are looking for assistants and are therefore the people to address. They have also taken the trouble to let you know personally exactly what they are looking for so you may like to return the courtesy. For instance, Victoria is looking for someone who is quick to pick up complicated concepts in the ever changing health world so consider starting your sentence, ” I note you’re looking for someone who can grasp new information quickly. Let me give you an example of something I did when I was…”. We like specific examples and will take you much more seriously as a result.

7. Your CV should be clearly laid out. Providing your cover note is relevant, we’re very happy to look through as many CVs as come our way but if yours doesn’t tell us what we need to know quickly and in an easy-to-read format, we’re probably not going to bother navigating to the end.

8. We’re looking for a real person, one who is excited at the prospect of working for us. A covering note that clearly shows you’ve taken the trouble to find out about us and our clients, and how you can apply your life and work experience to date, will definitely have us more engaged than a first class degree or a string of A stars. In fact, one of our favourite applications so far is from someone who doesn’t have a degree at all – just great experience and the common sense to have done enough research to know we have an apprenticeship scheme.

9. We’re a boutique consultancy in south London, not a West End agency. Saying you’ve always wanted to work in Soho will make you look rather stupid. Especially if you’ve got a first.

10. If you don’t demonstrate you’ve read this post in the first line of your covering note, we will disregard your application immediately.

However, if you have bothered reading this far, then hurrah, you’re definitely the kind of person we’d be interested in. Please apply and good luck!

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