As the summer approaches, my inbox is filling up with resumes from eager applicants looking for both summer internship opportunities and full-time openings at Obsidian. Fortunately for them, we are the type of firm that will open their emails, review their resumes with careful consideration and even respond, as we never want to miss out on the opportunity to scoop up today’s best and brightest PR stars. Unfortunately, some applicants don’t seem focused on shining very brightly. Here are five actual missteps that have halted the progress for applicants at Obsidian.
1. Attaching the wrong cover letter
I understand that applicants are applying for jobs at multiple firms – I’ve been there. But, I’m not interested in reading a cover letter addressed to someone else that gushes over this other firm and how much he or she would love to work there. My assumption: This person lacks proper focus and attention to detail needed to work at Obsidian.
2. Using bad grammar and misspellings in your application materials
While it’s important in any industry to submit a resume and cover letter devoid of misspellings and bad grammar, we are hypersensitive to it in the PR industry, as high-quality writing is imperative to what we do every day. My assumption(s): This person is either uneducated on proper writing guidelines or is OK with turning in low-quality work. Either way, he or she will need a good deal of guidance and editing before getting to the level necessary to succeed at Obsidian.
3. Not responding to my email in a timely manner
Most of the time, after reviewing an applicant’s resume, I have to request writing samples. (Side note: Today’s “best and brightest” applicants have personal websites that house all of their writing samples, along with other interesting information about them and their experiences, so my reply email to them often simply requests availability for an interview.) Other times, I’ve shot over a few quick pre-interview questions just to feel out an applicant’s interest in applying with us and maybe dig a bit deeper into his or her experience before setting up a formal interview. It’s unbelievable to me when I don’t get a timely reply – or any reply at all in some cases. My assumption: There is no way this person could work for Obsidian, where we operate on a sense of urgency and immediacy, always being quick to respond to a reporter or a client request.
4. Lacking prior PR/writing experience
This applies mostly to our Level 2 internship and any full-time position at Obsidian. We do offer an entry-level (Level 1), unpaid internship for students and those with little to no prior PR experience. But, I have to say that if an applicant doesn’t have much PR writing experience – or hasn’t been working in the PR industry in the past several years – I can almost guarantee that he or she is not going to get to the interview phase. The facts: The PR industry is constantly evolving and changing. There isn’t a lot of time for teaching important skills, such as PR writing, or playing catch-up in our environment. We need applicants who are skilled and ready to jump in and go.
5. Having an unflattering digital presence – or no digital presence at all
Guess what? Employers are looking for your digital presence. What I find about an applicant can influence if it’s worth the time for an interview. And, if no one has said it before, let me be the first: If an applicant doesn’t have a digital presence at all, I can’t help but wonder what they know about digital relevance and the power of social media in today’s world. (And, how are they getting their news?) My assumption: If an applicant is on the job hunt and doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile, I have to assume that they don’t understand how to leverage digital and social platforms for their own benefit, much less for the benefit of a client.
I would advise anyone applying for any job to consider how every step of the application process – from submitting your materials to conversing with the potential interviewer –represents the type of employee or team member that you would be. From my perspective as the interviewer, my time is valuable. I do spend a good amount of time reviewing resumes and researching applicants online so that I ensure that those I take to the interview phase will be worth the conversation.