How to get a marketing or PR job early in your career

‘I’ve applied for 100 jobs and not got an interview’. That was the headline on one BBC News story and certainly the experience is something that many people experience. What’s the cause? Well, the candidate is sending generic applications out of desperation. Here are some tips to make your applications more likely to succeed.

Firstly, the trick is to really understand what makes each employer tick. They won’t be trying to hire just a marketing, but one who shares their worldview about marketing. Are they about building a mass consumer brand or about supporting a B2B sales programme? What does the marketing director say about their experience on LinkedIn? Because if they are an ROI-focused direct response marketer, talking about brand might come across as fluffy. If you have university library access, you might be able to use Nexis to read the employer’s media coverage and, if not, there’s always Google News. You want the employer to think that you are an ideal fit, so if you read about them more than other candidates, you’re likely to get an interview and perform strongly in it.

Secondly, take a view as to what bits of the job description are really important and what are just standard requirements that the hiring manager might not care about. They might not get any good candidates apart from you, so the requirement for a professional membership or a degree might not be as important as you think. You could alway ask for an informal conversation about the role before applying in order to get a steer on what they really want.

Thirdly, if you don’t have all the software or other business skills they are asking for, signing up for a free LinkedIn trial can give you access to short courses that you can refer to on your CV. Likewise, if you’ve read some of the important books on marketing, you’ll be able to talk about the subject more effectively.

Fourthly, include successes in your application rather than just responsibilities. You want to give the vibe of being a winner. Growth in attendees at a student society that you ran or the turnaround in the performance of a university football team that you captained can work well.

Fifthly, avoid any suggestion of desperation. I once interviewed a marketer who had been made redundant from his previous role. “I’m just desperate to get a job,” he explained. That was a big turn off. I also interviewed someone who revealed that he’d been made redundant from several of his previous roles, which was a red flashing light.

In reality, finding a good fit can be difficult for employers, so spending your time applying for fewer roles but positioning yourself as the right fit can pay dividends.