Job needs in New York public relations firms can turn on a dime. You land a new tech or B2B project and after the celebrating, you ask who will staff it? Great employees are the lifeblood of any PR staff, agency or in-house. What can you do to ensure you get the most qualified candidates?
Ask yourself what you really need. Don’t hire just because the office has a vacancy at a certain level. Hire to fill the position the account work calls for. For example, a piece of business that is primarily media placement can work quite well with a supervisor and two junior people, whereas an account requiring much more strategic PR counsel can support a director level, a supervisor and a more junior staffer.
Forget the “usual suspects.” Well, maybe not forget – but certainly augment your list of job ad go-to’s. In addition to LinkedIn, PRSA, and MediaBistro, go where the techies go. Hit up your closest tech or B2B media friends for info on PR people they know and respect. Contact any former clients in the industry and ferret out info from them. Scan past PRSA Award winners and others for good prospects and see which PR pros are blogging on related topics.
Change up your writing test and other criteria. When was the last time you reviewed your writing test? Sure, there’s a press release writing assignment, but is it too generic to allow real industry knowledge to shine through? Does your test include any social media elements? Keep it current and relevant.
Provide a “real world” assignment. See how a candidate would perform in an actual account situation. Provide a client conundrum to solve or a stale pitch to punch up. (Bonus points if said candidate recommends smart media contacts!) Interaction with other team members is a good idea as well.
Make references relevant. When was the last time a candidate gave you a “bad” reference? Try “never!” How to make those polite reference calls actionable to your search? Probe for nuanced details by asking questions such as “Are there any projects you wouldn’t recommend Joe for?” or “In which situation would Joe perform best (provide two examples) and why?” Get past the niceties.