Resume tips for anyone working in PR and Communications
Do you work in public relations and are currently on a job hunt? Or maybe you just want to update your resume to the best it can be?
As a recruiter specialising in PR and communications with the emphasis on agency roles, I meet PR professionals on a daily basis and the one thing I get asked most is to give feedback on my candidates’ resume.
Whether you’re new to the workforce or a veteran of your trade, your resume really is the key to your next job. You want to make sure your resume does the job of selling you in the best possible way and securing you an interview.
Having seen hundreds of resumes and spoken to many hiring managers, below are my top resume tips for anyone working in public relations and communications:
1. Short and sweet intro
Try not to get bogged down with a lengthy introduction consisting of a long list of rather generic adjectives. Rather, try to compose a short and to-the-point summary that very clearly outlines your suitability for the role/agency.
Focus on your unique selling points:
- What makes you different from other candidates, and how can you say that in a concise way?
- What kind of value can you add to the business and which unique set of skills and competencies can you bring to the table?
If you are sending your resume to a recruiter, it’s also a good idea to include a sentence or two as to why you are looking to make a move and what kind of roles you are ideally looking for. In that way, she will be able to see straight away if and how she can assist you in your search.
2. Key responsibilities are a must
When referencing your past professional history, an essential ingredient is to include your daily tasks and areas of responsibility. You’d be surprised how many people leave this section out in the interest of keeping the resume short. But if you do not include what kind of tasks you have been handling on a daily basis, how would a potential employer be able to assess any of your competencies and your suitability for the role? Showcasing what your past roles have been all about is the key.
Do you have any team management experience? Are you an expert in content marketing? Have you been heavily involved in the operational side of running the business? Is event management a big part of your current role? Do you liaise with influencers on a daily basis? Note all that down as bullet points for every single of your past roles, so that the reader can quickly grasp what your main areas of responsibility have been.
3. Highlight any notable achievements
Detailing your daily tasks is great, but don’t just stop there. Especially if you have PR agency background, as people who are at the same level of seniority as you, often have very similar areas of responsibility.
Let’s say you are a PR Account Manager applying for a similar role in another agency. You will be competing with other PR Account Managers, and it’s highly likely that the other candidates have very similar skillset due to the fairly standardised structure of PR agencies. Which means that on paper, you might look like many other candidates in the bunch.
What really sets you apart from your competition then is not necessarily what you have been doing on a daily basis, but the achievements you have contributed to or been solely responsible for.
If you’ve gone above and beyond for a client to achieve notable coverage, increased social media engagement or attained new business, then make sure it’s clearly and visibly presented on your resume. It’s truly here you can outshine your competition and convince the potential future employer that YOU, and only you, are the unicorn they have been looking for.
4. Include a list of past and current clients
Another must for anyone with PR agency background would be to include a list of key clients – current and past. Again, many candidates miss out on this simple opportunity to give themselves a competitive edge.
The main reason for including a client list is to display your sector experience, which will give the potential employer a clear indication of how well your past experience correlates with their current roster of clients.
Have you mostly had travel clients or maybe you are very well versed in food & beverages? Or have you done a lot of work with business-to-business (B2B) or technology clients?
Not only will this instantly show that you are likely to better understand the environment your potential employer’s business or their clients’ businesses operate in, but you are also more likely to bring with you relevant media contacts that would allow you to hit the ground running, which is a great advantage. In other words, by just including the brands/accounts on your resume, you will be able to communicate the relevance of your past experience.
Secondly, including the accounts you have worked with will also indicate whether your experience is mainly from working with large global brands and big budgets, or whether your strengths lie in helping smaller brands with their PR efforts. One is not better than the other, putting it all down will just help assure the hiring manager that your experience is aligned with her current business needs.
5. Fill in the gaps
From time to time I come across resumes with chronological gaps. Sometimes the candidate had a gap year or went travelling for a couple of months. Other times, they might have had a role for a very short period of time but didn’t enjoy it and moved on.
Whatever the reason behind those “sidesteps”, my recommendation is to include them on your resume regardless.
By leaving them out, you only confuse the recruiter and/or the hiring manager, or even worse – make her slightly suspicious. You can always explain the exact reasons behind your choices and decision later in an interview.
Eliminating any gaps on your resume will make you appear more transparent and honest, which again will increase your chances of getting that interview in the first place.
6. The length
Finally, a few words on the length of your resume. The general advice often suggests to keep it to a page or two as a maximum. I don’t necessarily agree.
In my view, the contents of the resume should determine the length of it, and not the other way around.
My advice is to focus on including whatever you need to include to sell yourself to a potential employer in a best possible way and put less emphasis on the length of the resume. Don’t be overly detailed, but don’t panic if your resume is 3 pages or slightly more. If that’s what it takes to showcase your achievements properly, then that’s absolutely fine.
A distinction should be made whether the resume is for someone with 15 years of experience, or for a candidate who has just finished their studies.
The more senior the candidate, the longer the resume can be. Especially if they have agency background I would expect them to include key responsibilities, key achievements and key client list for every single one of their latest and most relevant roles (the last 5-10 years for most people). And all of that quickly adds up. But make an effort not to bore the reader.
If a number of your roles have had similar responsibilities, focus rather on achievements to keep each role description concise.
The above tips apply regardless of whether you have a recruiter assisting you with your job search, or are applying for roles directly.
However, the benefit of going through a recruiter is that even when your resume isn’t top notch, she will do the work of convincing a potential employer of your suitability on your behalf.
It’s not unusual that I meet candidates with poor resumes who impress me with their skillset and/or attitude & personality when I meet them in person. In those instances, I’m determined to communicate to my client how awesome the candidate is, despite their resume not doing them a proper justice. When you are applying for roles directly, your resume really is your one and only chance.