Sunday, February 10, 2008

So you want to work in PR - revisited

Last year, I wrote a post about the key things I look for when someone applies for a job. And in response, Centennial College’s Gary Schlee invited me to take part in a class assignment where I would create a job description for his students and then grade the cover letters and resumes. There were 26, if I recall. It was a lot of work. (I read each resume three times and agonized over the marks.)

I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.

So when Gary asked me this year, I said… yes.

And the reason I did it is that I think it’s important for practitioners to connect with students and provide them a perspective on the industry. It’s also a great preview of future PR stars.

Here’s a summary of what I told them:

  • For me, the first and most important quality in a resume is extremely hard to measure. It’s the ability to tell your story in such a way that it jumps off the page and makes me take notice. How do you do that? It’s not through fancy writing. It’s finding a way to be yourself and have your personality shine through in two pages of bullet points.
  • Write with clarity and tell me what you want. Then edit till it sparkles (brevity is the soul of wit).
  • Don’t flatter me. And please don’t tell me about my agency. I should know that.
  • For an entry level position, lead with your education. That shows me where you’re coming from.
  • Get rid of that generic list of ‘qualifications’ that I often see at the top of resumes. It really bugs me because it’s such a time waster for the reader. Instead, integrate the relevant points into your experience. And use examples.
  • Oh and by the way, I expect you to be proficient in computers so you don’t have to mention your knowledge of Word.
  • Don’t write in the passive tense.
  • I’ve said this before: typos count big! Nothing makes a bad impression like one or more typos. And I’ll let you in on a secret: typos will disqualify you from a job at my agency. I mean, if you can’t proofread your own resume, how can we trust you to send perfect documents to our clients?
  • Show me that you’re a hard worker (by listing some of the other non-PR work you’ve done - retail and restaurants, for example).

By the way, this year, there were 39 ‘applicants’ and most of the submissions were really strong; nearly 75 per cent of the class got a B+ or higher. That’s impressive. The students are also well versed in social media and many are writing their own blogs for an online course. You can find them here.

Finally, I want to say thanks to all the Centennial students for listening to me, commenting on my blog and asking questions. Good luck with your careers.

5 comments:

Rayanne said...

Thank YOU, Martin, for giving us your opinion about our resumes. This entry is even more helpful because it summarizes everything you explained to us that day, and gives us something to refer to.

As you mention, having you visit helps us students feel a connection to someone in the industry. Guests in the classroom tend to stick in everyone's mind more than other face-to-face or other networking situations.

Judy Gombita said...

LOL! Gary has coerced/invited me to do that stint a couple of times, too. (You’re right…it’s a lot of work to do it properly.)

It amazes me how many of the things on your laundry lists of Don'ts I included in my lecture portion. So, how come even though I said a few years ago to dump the generic list of ‘qualifications’ (anywhere) in the resume that they are still appearing?!

Agreed that typos count (against), big time. Particularly when it is my surname or incorrect identification of my organization’s name. Oh, and I don’t think the students who called me “Mr.” or “Julie” scored very well, either.

On the other hand, a few of the resumés and cover letters blew me away. And I was downright jealous of some students' past experience, particularly the positions that included living/working abroad.

Judy Gombita

Kate said...

Rayanne's definitely right - having you, as someone in the industry, explain the ins and outs of resumes to us brings the theory we're learning to life. We've been told over and over again that a typo in our resume or cover letter will resign them to the recycling bin, but having someone who actually does the hiring tell us that? You can bet we'll be proofreading everything to death from now on.

So thanks again for taking the time (and for letting Gary talk you into it again!)

Martin Waxman said...

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts.

I was more than happy to do the assignment again. Who says marks end when you graduate? It's always an 'education' talking and listening to students.

Gary Schlee said...

The time that practitioners like you and Judy bring to this exercise is much appreciated. I hope along the way it also provides helpful insights into the new crop of practitioners entering the PR field. So, thank you VERY MUCH!

How about other seasoned practitioners; want to take on the assignment?