By: Roberta King (@CannabisComms)
How to Kill it in Your Intern Interview
You know what the career office has told you. Be on time. Be clean. Be positive. Be prepared. Ask questions. So what else can you do to make sure you’re the best PR intern candidate ever?
Consider these ideas.
Show a Passion for Public Relations.
It’s a rare person who knew as a child they wanted to work in public relations. By high school, after a career exploration day, someone might see that they have a knack for basic PR skills: persuasion, writing, organizing, leading and making things happen with communication tactics. Consider how you came into PR and be able to articulate it in your cover note and interview. It could be you never thought about it or even knew PR existed until a mentor gave you a nudge or you took the first class. Know your personal PR discovery story and share it. Be excited about the genesis of your career, and when you talk about it, you’ll shine with enthusiasm, which goes a long way.
Also Show a Passion for the Company.
One question that every employer asks is why did you choose our company. “Saw the posting and decided to apply” is not a good response. Think about your why. Maybe it’s the brand image of the company or what it makes or does for the community. When you’re doing your research on the company find 2-3 things that are attraction points for you. It could be the reputation, the mission, its values or its culture. Get yourself fired up about some aspect of it and be able to talk with enthusiasm to your interviewer. Use this angle to demonstrate why you feel you’re a great match for what they need. Know this point well, because sometimes you’ll hear, “Tell me more about that,” and you’ll want to be able to go deep.
Set Yourself Apart.
This is harsh, but prospective interns tend to look alike on paper. You’ve mostly taken the same classes, worked on similar projects and served on some of the same committees. What are you doing outside of classwork to set yourself apart? Not just your volunteer work. How about writing? Being a good writer is the core skill of any PR professional. Show off your blog. Show an essay you wrote or present a creative piece of work. It’s hard to read class papers, they’re formal and formulaic and don’t tell people anything about your creative abilities—which are essential to success in the profession. If writing isn’t your strong suit, work on it. Read good books and quality magazines and practice writing, it’s a skill you can improve with practice. Don’t be afraid to show off something else you’ve done in PR that’s just as vital. Do you make videos? Organize big events? Have you scored some news coverage for something? If you have a knack for design or social media campaigns, lead with that.
What’s Your Story?
Everyone loves a good story and a great storyteller. You’ll be asked to talk about yourself during the interview. Find something to talk about that sets you apart—what attributes do you carry from life’s experiences that make you an excellent candidate? Has anything interesting/difficult/remarkable happened to you? Success, struggle and failure are the hallmarks of a good life story. How have any of those experiences shaped you and your outlook on life and what you do? Can you develop it into an engaging and appropriate interview story? If you’re a good storyteller about your life, you’ll be a good storyteller in the workplace, too.
Student Activities Matter.
It’s not just good enough to take the right classes and get good grades. Choose your extracurricular activities with purpose and focus. It’s not just about what you do, but how you show leadership in your activities. Find an organization where you have the opportunity to make a change and have an impact on whatever the group does. Get involved in things that interest you and purposefully work yourself into a PR or leadership role, seek opportunities to help the organization thrive. This work helps fill important space on your resume, and you won’t have to put ‘proficient in Word’ in the skills section.
Jobs Matter, too.
Learn how to talk about your summer jobs, no matter how pointless and humbling they might seem. Before you go into your interview, think about those jobs and what you learned doing them. There’s something you learned while making a perfectly scooped double ice cream cone or making a customer smile while taking their cash at the fast food register. Find a few things in those early jobs and think about them as life lessons that you still use today.
Write the Damn Note.
Call me old school, but a handwritten “thank you” note after the interview matters. In a pinch, an email will do, but truly a note in your handwriting gives you a bonus point or two. It won’t get you the job on its own, but it will help you stand out among equal candidates. When you see a test or assignment with bonus points you don’t skip those, do you?
Roberta F. King, APR, is the owner, buzzmaker, and writer at Canna Communication, a PR firm for the cannabis industry. Before founding Canna Communication, she was the Vice President for PR & Marketing at Grand Rapids Community Foundation and also held communication leadership positions at Mercy Health, Grand Rapids Art Museum and the American Red Cross. During her career, she’s worked with nearly 50 interns—she is the godmother to the child of one, she’s served as a bridesmaid for another, attended weddings of quite a few and has written recommendation letters for most of them. She is a board member for the West Michigan PRSA.