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Friday, 5 November 2010

Scary examples of how not to apply for a career in PR

This is a guest blog by Rich Leigh from 10 Yetis PR Agency.

If you’re a PR student or a recent graduate thinking about a career in public relations, this one’s for you.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Rich Leigh. I’m an Account Director at 10 Yetis PR Agency, an award-winning agency based in Gloucestershire. We work / have worked with a number of large clients including IKEA, TotalJobs, and more.

Trumpet-blowing aside, I see a lot of CVs and job applications in my role. Some for intern roles (we loudly advocate paying work experience and intern PRs and as such get quite a few), but just as many for people applying when we’re not looking on the off-chance that they’d be right for us.

In true PR piggybacking fashion, I’ll tie this blog in to Halloween with the ultimately spurious title: Scary examples of how not to apply for a career in PR.

Here’s my top 5 favourite scary examples of job applications – read them and learn, folks, these applications were about as welcome in my inbox as Gary Glitter at a kid’s party.

 1.       If you’re mail merging, make sure you know what you’re doing first.

Nothing says ‘you’re not special enough to email individually’ than a poorly mail merged job application. Mail merging – for those that may not be aware – is a way to send a document to many people at once through a document client such as Microsoft Word. You can personalise said mail merged emails to an extent, by including first names or company names, as long as they feature in the same spreadsheet you’re using to pull the email addresses from.

An example of this is as follows:

I feel that I am well qualified to make an effective and useful contribution to 10 Group.

I can see what the applicant was going for. They wanted each email to seem entirely personal by having the company name mentioned in the body of the email, but ballsed it up in a way that it looks immediately amateur.

The worst part of it is that often, PR firms will use mail merges to get information to a large number of journalists quickly and effectively. Mistakes happen, but the general impression it gives me is that if you can’t proof the document well enough before mail merging, you could very easily do the same to a journalist – a mistake that could very easily backfire on the agency and client we’re contacting.

2.       It’s OK to big yourself up… to an extent.

I want to run a cover letter in near-entirety, to show you just how not to do it. Seriously, never, ever send a cover letter like this.

Hi Rich

Rare as a Bigfoot dropping.

That’s about the only way to describe an experienced PR and marcomms professional who started a career in trade publishing, has experience on consumer titles, significant strategic marketing experience, a solid grounding in copywriting and design for sales and corporate campaigns AND has worked clientside.

And did you know that ‘Yeti’ is actually derived from the Tibetan word ‘Wylie’ (I bet you did), and that ‘wiley’ just about sums up somebody like me – someone with the interpersonal skills to generate organic and acquisitive client growth?

So I’m not really interested in a PR Exec position. But I am local, available and bored. Very bored. And I’m loaded with expertise in traditional and digital media relations, crisis, issues, and event management, industrial relations, community relations, corporate publishing, design and the panoply of wider PR and creative disciplines.

The Yeti, Bunyip, Bigfoot, Gigantopithecus and other cryptids may be intriguing, but they can’t use a keyboard.

Or get you to read this far. Which I’ve done.

Kinda makes you wonder what else I can do.

Doesn’t it?

Kind regards
(I’ll save him the benefit of having his name put alongside this shameful effort)

 3.       Be aware of sounding like a massive pleb.

The above does obviously make the applicant sound like a massive pleb, but no more than the following, who is just clearly trying to show off:

An alert, committed holder of (X award) deploying a rigorous cast of mind, persuaded of, and stimulated by, the baroque potentialities of new technology.

I need say little more than ‘the overzealous nature of the applicant’s prose, combined with his anti-colloquial stance ensured that any future computer letters were destined for a depressing existence in the desolate environ of my spam folder.’

 4.       A good agency will check you out on social media platforms.

An applicant for a role here at 10 Yetis came in for an interview, and did very well. So well, in fact, that there was talk of her being given a role at the agency at a time we were expanding rapidly.

Andy, MD and co-founder of 10 Yetis mentioned on Twitter shortly afterwards that he was very happy with the day’s interviews, and said something about the lack of formal Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) training in PR degrees ‘nowadays’. A brief, flyaway comment, you’ll understand.

Well, not for said promising applicant’s partner; who decided to launch a bit of a tirade in Andy’s direction, stating that employers should refrain from even talking about interviews. A few increasingly aggressive tweets later from the person and Andy had found out that he was involved with the applicant we really liked, through some simple Twitter searching and Googling. The issue pretty much put paid to the chances of the applicant, due to the nature of the exchange – and the fact that you can’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again in the future.

There are plenty of examples of social media gone wrong for employees, but people seemingly never learn. My advice is: keep your Facebook as private as you can get it, and keep your tweeting professional. Ish. PR is a communications industry, and we’ll probably look into your publicly available social media usage as an example of your ability to communicate professionally. If you don’t want us knowing about how wasted you were the night before your interview, don’t say it.

 5.       Avoid sounding like a crazy person.

Getting ignored or turned down for jobs contributes to what I call the ‘Rejected Psycho Syndrome Cycle’.
Repeated job rejection can make people desperate. Desperation can make people do weird things. Avoid doing weird things. Or keep getting rejected. Such is the cycle.

I have two great examples to hand. One is a CV from a nice enough-sounding guy, who tells us quite prominently that he’s ‘good at lifting things up to 25kg’ – an especially important skill in the world of PR – and the other… well.

The other is a life story, which it would be inappropriate to reprint, but should serve as a lesson that employers are there to employ you, not emphasise with every single of your struggles to that point in your life. Personality in emails is good – treating us like wage-controlling counsellors isn’t.

It tells us of how she struggled at school and just generally had a bit of a tough time – all conveyed in a way that does make you feel for her – but also says things like:

English is one of the most frequently spoken languages I am completely honoured to speak it as my mother tongue and feel can communicate perfectly with the rest of Europe who also speak it.


So, there you have it, my top five favourite scary applications. If any of these are you – yeah, sorry about that, yours was just the best to illustrate my points. Stop being odd.

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