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The makings of a PR agency’s star candidate


If you’re anything like us, your high school experience probably could’ve been better. You probably even thought, on that last day, something like this:

“Goodbye, judgmental popular kids. Goodbye, biology class that heard me call my teacher ‘Mom.’ Adios, awkward first date guy and classmates who remember my blue lipstick phase. I’m through with you guys.” 

You laughed, and you high-fived your nerdy best friend and drove off to college, or Alaska, or where-the-heck-ever—and you thought you were done with people shamelessly judging you.

As lovely a thought as that may have been, it wasn’t true, because then you became a job candidate, and it started all over again. Sometimes people don’t tell you when your résumé is awful or your cover letter has typos. They just snicker in the bathroom and leave you wondering, “What’s so funny?” Not to worry—we’re about to have an honest discussion about what makes people at our company love a job candidate (or not) before we ever meet them. Your résumé is just one small slice of the pie.

The cover letter

The purpose of a cover letter is to keep a reader interested long enough to introduce yourself and your résumé, and talk a little bit about why we should get to know you—kind of like the email to which you attach your résumé. Surprise! Your email is your cover letter. We don’t need another document.

It does, however, have to be tailored for the company you’re sending it to—much like your résumé. Trust us, we recognize a form email. “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern” let us know right away that we are indeed not concerned. 

In a similar vein, you will find out exactly how judgmental we can be if you misspell our names (It’s A-I-M-E-E), or confuse our gender. (“Jo” with no “e” is a female name.) We know it’s a little extra work to research these small details, so we really appreciate it when you get them right.

The résumé

The résumé is a high-level overview of you. We want to know (quickly) what your talents and qualifications are, what your education/background is, and whether you can hold a job. Your résumé should flow neatly and logically, with a clear hierarchy, one or two (legible) typefaces, preferably ones you don’t know the names of, and wide margins. Keep it to a single page, and prioritize white space above large type size so it doesn’t feel crowded.

Please don’t include photos. If you’re a photographer, these belong in a portfolio. As far as headshots go, well, we’re no modeling agency, so they’re unnecessary—and a bit narcissistic. We’ll view your profile on social media like everyone else, thank you.

Include any volunteer work, professional organizations, and interesting extracurricular activities, because this helps us get to know you and determine your “fit” with our company culture. Skip the “objectives” section, which is a little dated these days. These thoughts can be worked into the cover letter.

Be selective with your job experience. Did you increase your company’s Twitter followers by 400 percent? We want to know that. Was it your task to muck horse stables? That doesn’t help us. Do yourself a favor and include only appealing and relevant job experience. 

Maintain multiple résumés

For more formal, corporate jobs, have a formal, corporate résumé. For more fun and relaxed agency jobs, develop a quirkier one with more personality. Tailor the content as well—if a job listing focuses on social media, highlight that Instagram campaign you ran. If a position references event planning, include your role in that grand opening celebration. 

Of course, developing a résumé that reflects the company to which you are applying includes a fair amount of research into the organization and its employees, culture, and activities. 

Fortunately, the Internet makes this an easy undertaking. Take advantage of it. Find out what matters to the business, and help the people in charge see how you would fit in the picture.

Last, don’t overlook the little things:

• Print on nice paper, or, if the document is digital, make it a PDF instead of a word document. 

• Include live links, so we don’t have to hunt for you on Facebook or type in a lengthy LinkedIn URL. 

• Proofread, proofread, proofread. 

• Give it to your friend who is a graphic designer. Give it to your neighbor who works in HR. 

• Don’t forget to include obvious information, like your phone number or your last name. (Yep, that happened.)

Social media

We’ve already mentioned our affinity for social media stalking—and don’t think we won’t do it. You don’t have to amass large numbers of followers or produce gigantic amounts of content. We just like to know that you’re engaged, polite, andgrammatically capable. Keep selfies in moderation. 

Social media can also be a great tool to show employers how well-rounded you are. Use it to showcase articles you’ve written, events at which you volunteered, the quilt you just made, or videos of your cat. You know. Things that make us like you even more.

Your references

It’s a great idea to have people on your side that can vouch for your sparkling personality, your super-solid PR skills and maybe even your uncanny ability to show up to work. We just have one warning, and it comes from experience: Be absolutely sure that your references like you as much as you think they do. We’ve had that awkward call where we hung up the phone, disappointed that our candidate wasn’t as stellar as we thought they were.

Every other type of communication 

It’s important not to forget that all communications you have with a possible employer can leave a lasting impression, from tweets to voicemails to an unofficial email. Proofread them. Figure out in advance what you’re going to say. Make them interesting, professional, and memorable.

We get it—we’re all people, and we’ve all made mistakes. We walked into the wrong third-period class. We tucked our cheerleading skirts into our bloomers. We drove so many embarrassing vehicles. We’ve sent emails with Freudian typos, and, yeah, we’ve even called people by the wrong names. 

Now we’re people with a job opening, and we get to be a little picky. We’ve put a lot of effort into this company, and we want to work alongside an amazing, inspirational human being. If that’s you, do everything you can to make sure we know it. :

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