Lindsay Olson

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Media Relations 101 for Your Job Search

You dream of landing the perfect job at a public relations agency, working with the most interesting clients in the industry and getting them all sorts of public recognition. I’m always amazed at how some PR pros are brilliant at their jobs, but when it comes to selling themselves in a job interview, they crumble. Where did that confident, over-achieving, media rockstar go? Apply some media relations 101 rules on your job search will help pitch yourself as the perfect fit for your next job.

  1. Do Your Homework. It gets tiring sending cover letter after cover letter. You’ll be tempted to just use a template and be done with it. But spending just a little time digging into the company you want to work for will pay off. For starters, it’s impressive because you have already set yourself apart from 90% of the applications the company receives. Unfortunately, most people try to shortcut the job search. Making a tiny mention in your cover letter that shows you’ve read through the company’s website, blog, or recent news can show the hiring manager that you put thought into your letter, and that you really are interested in working for this company.
  2. Know Who You’re Pitching. Sometimes those “Dear Hiring Manager” generic openings are unavoidable, but if you do a little research (see #1), you may be able to get the name of the person who’s interviewing for the role you want. Look on the company’s site, and call if you need to in order to get this information.
  3. Customize Your Pitch. Both your cover letter and your resume should be tweaked slightly for each PR job you apply for. One might look for industry-specific experience, while another may want someone with a wider depth of experience. Play to what they’re looking for, and highlight your skills to match. If you are agency-side, a quick blurb about each client you represent helps set the tone and show how you are the security software PR expert they are looking for. Don’t make the reader think too much to connect the dots.
  4. Hesitate Before Sending an Attachment. Not everyone wants attachments. Read through the job description carefully to see whether it mentions how the hiring manager would prefer to receive resumes. If you have an online link to your resume, include it in the cover letter.
  5. Proofread! Nothing looks sloppier than grammatical errors in your resume or cover letter. Everyone in the world must know this rule by now. Yet I’d say at least half of the applications I receive have some glaring issue. Go over each carefully, and ask a friend to do so as well, to ensure its perfection. Then, just like with a PR pitch, follow up. Give it a few days once you’ve submitted your application, and then check in to see when the hiring manager expects to make a decision.

Cover Letter Awesomeness

I got a cover letter from a candidate a few days ago that stood out from the rest. It's definitely share-worthy and a format that everyone should consider for their cover letter.

Most of the cover letters that I see tend to be bland and not written for the specific posting in mind. This cover letter was an exception.

To protect the identity of the candidate, I've edited the specific details and only posted a portion of it.

When I'm conducting a search, I don't generally post a detailed description online for a million reasons I'm not going to explain right now. The point is that this candidate took the tiny bit of information that she knew about the job  and matched her experience with exactly what we needed in her cover letter. With a specific job description, an applicant could get even more specific.

I didn't post the rest of the letter, but the candidate follows with: a paragraph about her other relevant experience that may not be as obvious in her resume, a statement about what she is known for by others (soft skills/personality) and a short list of places to find out more information about her and her recommendations (LinkedIn, etc.).

What I liked

  • The cover letter was specifically addressed to me, not a "To Whom It May Concern" or a "Dear Recruiter".
  • The Your Requirements, My Qualifications matching. This tells me that she has given some thought to the job and she is not lazily sending resumes for just any job. I feel confident that if I were to present her to a client she could give good examples of her previous experience and how those will help solve their void. It also makes it extremely easy to see how she fits my client's requirement before I even get to the resume. Remember, your job is to generate enough interest to get a call. Make it easy for the reader.
  • A paragraph detailing additional experience relating to the job that may not be as obvious in her resume.
  • A sentence about her soft-skills. Often this translates into cover letter "fluff", but keeping it at one, strong sentence is sufficient.
  • A LinkedIn address for quick access to recommendations and additional information.
  • A strong close.

She also sent the cover letter the body of her email rather than a separate attachment. I'm not the only person who, if given the choice to open a resume or a cover letter in attachments, will go straight to the resume. Since her cover letter already spelled out why I should consider her and was part of her email, my next step is to look at her resume and make the call.


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