I think I have a slight obsession with applying for jobs.
WARNING: If my current employers are reading this please don’t be too alarmed – it’s not for myself but for other people.
There is just something really satisfying about re-doing a bad CV and turning it into a great one, not to mention the thrill of writing a covering letter which could help make your application stand out against all the others.
I recently re-wrote my mum’s CV which, once uploaded online, resulted in her being headhunted for a high-paid position as a commissioner for a mental health company.
I’ve also re written my boyfriends, my best friends and now I’m moving onto my dads with the hope of helping him secure a management position in the hospitality industry in Cheltenham (if anyone from Cheltenham Racecourse is reading this – that’s his dream job and he’d be great at it!)
Anyway, I’m not big headed enough to think it was my writing skills that have made these results happen – after all, even the best written CV can’t hide lack of experience and poor qualifications.
But I do think that having the insight of a PR helps.
After all, a CV is about selling yourself, your services and everything else you can offer to a prospective employer.
It’s that ‘selling’ via the written word that PRs know how to do.
So, here are my top tips on using PR to sell yourself:
1. ITS IN THE DETAIL
Detail is really important – and by this I don’t mean lengthy paragraphs and flowery language. Just be precise. For example if you work in marketing and look after a database, don’t just say ‘I manage a database.’ Make it clear – ‘I manage a database of 50,000 contacts, which I cleanse and update on a daily basis.’
2. GET YOUR DATES RIGHT
PRs are a stickler for accuracy. If I were to send something to the press which had wrong dates or product information it could spell disaster, and the same goes for your CV. Make sure the dates for each position are right. If you’ve got exact dates, great, but usually the month and year should suffice.
3. CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN
A recent Ranstad survey suggested that poor spelling and grammar was the biggest turn off when it came to CVs and covering letters. Forum 3 agree and suggest that CVs without these mistakes are 61% more likely to get a reply. So, make sure you proof read carefully – don’t just rely on the spellchecker (and make sure this is set to English UK and not English USA). Some of the common words not to get picked up by spellchecker are fro instead of for, grate instead of great, liased instead of liaised and stationary instead of stationery. Other tips include reading it backwards, or, in an ideal world getting someone else to glance over it too.
4. BE PERSISTENT
If I were to give up on coverage simply because a press release got rejected by one publication then I would never get results for my clients. Be persistent. It’s not rocket science – the more CV’s you send out the more likely it is that it will get picked up and you’ll get that interview you’ve been after. But that doesn’t mean littering recruitment agencies and companies across the city with the same CV – which brings be on nicely to my next point.
5. TAILOR IT TO YOUR AUDIENCE
Like newspapers and media outlets, jobs and companies aren’t all the same. They require different skills sets and different approaches. By all means have a CV which is your master version – but tailor it to each job. Read the job specification carefully and make sure you’re ticking all the boxes and drawing your relevant experience to the reader’s attention.
6. GET YOUR CONTACTS RIGHT
I wouldn’t send a business story to the news desk or a fashion feature to the sports desk and a similar rule applies in the job hunting process. Make sure you send it to the right person – if the job advert gives you a name then address it to that person. If you’re sending out speculative applications then do your research and find out who deals with HR or recruitment. If in doubt put in a call and find out.
7. ITS ALL IN THE RESEARCH
A lot of people think that the research part comes in when you get an interview, but I feel it’s also important to show knowledge of the company at the application stage. The CV may not be the best platform for this but the covering letter allows room to draw attention to projects the company are undertaking that you find exciting – this then gives you a chance to mention your skill set and what you can offer to the business.
8. KEEP IT CONCISE
A huge turn off for journalists is when they receive a press release cluttered with useless information that they then have to wade through to get to the main point of the story. Employers are in a similar situation – they receive hundreds of applications for jobs and don’t have the time to read through everything. Keep your CV to two pages of A4 and only use the relevant information – don’t include information no one needs to know.
9. MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY
And no I don’t mean flowery stationary, and script font. And certainly not spraying it with your favourite Gucci perfume (you know who you are!). Simply make it look good. Use a simple to read font such as Ariel or Times New Roman and make the font size readable – 11pt usually works. Make sure the formatting is right and that all the paragraphs are aligned and the headings are in bold.
10. RESEARCH YOUR MARKET
Sometimes you can have a great story but not know what to do with it. And there are plenty of people, especially in the current market, who are perhaps feeling the same. But if the jobs aren’t there then you need to create your own chances and be proactive. Start researching companies you’d like to work for and send out speculative applications. You never know what opportunities might present themselves.
I’m sure there has been a fair few posts on this in the past, but it is something that continues to be discussed between myself and colleagues, if only in a tongue in cheek manner.
So what is the PR’s perfect journalist?
The easy answer could be ‘the one that publishes everything I send them’.
But I’m not sure that it is as simple as that. I can envision that should that ever happen the already declining state of journalism would slip even further.
And after all, it’s nice to have to fight (at least a little) for that key piece of coverage and know that you’ve done a good job for your client.
So, here’s my vision of the perfect journalist – if you have anything to add, or indeed take away – leave a comment and let me know!
1. HONEST TO THE POINT OF RUDENESS
I’m not adverse in the slightest to a bit of rudeness – and many journalists have a reputation as being a bit surly. But honesty really is the best policy when it comes to PRs. If we send you a press release, and it’s not of use, replying with a simple ‘NO’ would save everyone involved so much hassle, not to mention eliminating the need for those annoying ‘did you receive my press release….’ phone calls.
2. FEEDBACK IS WELCOME
There is one regional journalist I work with on a regular basis who is well versed in the above, but is in fact one of my favourite journos. They nearly always reply when they receive a press release – whether it’s ‘great story – thanks’ or ‘too weak, not using it’. It’s all valid feedback and will help us to define what to send you next time.
3. VALUE OUR SKILLS
Although of course there are some (very) bad PRs out there, many of us are ex journalists, or have been working in the industry for years and know what works and what doesn’t. Journalists who take the time to get to know their decent local PRs are the ones that benefit from exclusive stories, tailored features and being offered the first bite at the cherry when something really good comes along.
4. DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CANT KEEP
If you don’t know when you can use the story – don’t make up a date – just say you don’t know! The worst thing is telling a client when to expect coverage and then having to explain, tail between your legs, when the coverage doesn’t appear.
5. DON’T PRETEND YOU HATE US THEN BEG FOR STORIES
Everyone knows that there is a love hate relationship between PRs and Journalists, but the fact is, and apologies for sounding like a naff 80’s film, but we need each other. You get some great stories from (some of) us and in return we get great results for our clients. Nurture relationships with a few key PRs and you’ll always have someone who will go out of the way to get a story for you when you’re suffering from the dreaded ‘slow news’ day.
6. TELL US WHAT YOU WANT
Need a case study or a quote from a reputable source? Contact us! If we haven’t got the clients ourselves, if we’ve got the time we’ll try and point you in the right direction. After all, the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ approach is always going to work.
7. WE’RE NOT PSYCHIC
There are a million posts out there that say you shouldn’t phone a journo, you shouldn’t send attachments on emails, and you shouldn’t do this, that or the other. But the fact is everyone is different and if it’s a PR you’re going to be dealing with on a regular basis tell them how you like to be communicated with. Do you prefer emailed press releases, a short synopsis or a phone call outlining the story? Perhaps you even prefer a Tweet or a Direct Message? The best PRs will listen and make sure they do what works best for you.
MPs are to be asked to agree to an earlier sitting of the House of Commons next Tuesday, so the emergency Budget can be held at the earlier time of 12.30pm, according to the BBC.
This is great news for business PRs and journalists alike.
I moved to the B2B team from consumer about three months ago and was lucky (!) enough to experience my first taste of budget day fairly quickly after starting.
Usually the budget is announced at 3.30pm and having to juggle numerous clients and get their comments together in time for close of play can be a nightmare.
This move to 12.30pm should be a huge relief for both PR’s and business journalists in the region – giving more time to source good quotes, case studies and reactions.
The only thing left to find out is are the reactions from businesses in the region going to be good or bad?
With previous threats of ‘painful cuts’ from the new coalition government , and George Osborne set to announce additional public spending cuts or tax increases of £34bn a year, I have a feeling it might be the latter.