Is your CV up to the job? The graduate challenge.

Posted on March 8, 2013 by Lauren Greatorex

“Dear graduate jobseeker,

“I am a hardworking, enthusiastic, motivated Account Manager who is incredibly passionate about hiring a graduate for a role in communications/ marketing/ advertising/ PR. I look forward to discussing this further with you below.”

You may have seen the ‘Every Communications Agency Application Form’ currently doing the rounds online. This particularly frustrated graduate created a template application that is both hilarious and refreshingly honest.

For any potential PR applicant in the same boat, putting together seemingly endless CVs and covering letters can seem all too dull and routine. There are more applicants than PR agencies (we’re in a recession, don’t ya know?) and jobs are incredibly hard to come by.

At Man Bites Dog, we sympathise with the plight facing graduates – sending endless CVs, the rounds of applications, the knock backs and the internships that lead nowhere. It’s why we’ve set up a paid graduate scheme that does just the opposite. We hope to give grads an opportunity to work in PR and apply for a permanent role after 6 months – Bekki (her blog is below) being a case in point.

As a result, we’re inundated with graduate CVs filled to brim with the standard promises of enthusiasm, motivation, communication skills, attention to detail and the heartfelt cries of, “I’ll work for you forever for no money or sleep. PLEEEASE hire me.”

We would like to hire all of them, we really would, but we just can’t take everyone. For that reason, a ‘cut and paste’, scatter-gun approach to job applications just won’t work.

To be a PR, you need to start thinking like one by building your reputation and promoting yourself. With that in mind…

It’s PR, not rocket science

Make it personal – Agencies want to get a feel for the personality of an applicant. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing anything too crazy (despite the success of various well-publicised stunts). Instead your charm and charisma should be conveyed through your writing, experience and interests. We like wit and humour too and encourage grads to be creative. Just don’t go too far!

Educate us – It may seem dull and old fashioned but please include references to your education and grades. At Man Bites Dog, we come from a range of academic backgrounds in subjects including law, philosophy, history, economics and chemistry (we even have some PR and marketing grads). We’re not fussy when it comes to subject, just make sure you let us know how yours is relevant.

Know your agency – Agencies are vain creatures and would like to believe that you are applying to them (and only them). It may seem obvious but flatter their egos (or at least show you care). References to the specific agency including its quirks, culture and areas of focus, always go down well.

Be specific – On a similar note, stating that you are keen to work in ‘marketing/ PR/ communications/ media’ is incredibly off-putting. These are not catch-all terms for the same job and this demonstrates a lack of understanding of the role you’re applying for.

Meet the brief – Even if you think it’s silly, please follow the brief. After all, it’s a crucial skill for PR. A CV and covering letter are always welcome but make sure the agency didn’t ask you to respond to specific questions or challenges. We zany PR folks are known to think outside the box!

Cut the clichés – The old CV buzzwords can get little galling 70 covering letters in. By all means, explain your skills, talents and character attributes but please back these up with evidence and examples wherever possible.

Pay attention to detail – I cannot over emphasise how important copywriting is to an agency like ours. For that reason, typos and grammatical errors are a massive turn off. We proofread everything we produce several times before handing it over to clients or journalists. It never hurts to have someone else cast another pair of eyes over your CV.

Big yourself up – This may seem obvious but many applicants fail at the first hurdle because they don’t explain why their (no doubt useful) experience is relevant. We don’t expect graduates to have a wealth of PR experience but we do expect them to sell themselves and describe why their work experience, part-time job, hobbies or extra curricular activities are relevant to our work.

Show enthusiasm – Too many grads get through to the hallowed interview round only to hit us with the news that their life’s ambition is something other than PR (shock horror). It’s also not unknown for an applicant to reveal that they’re there because their Mum told them to apply. Needless to say, anything less than 100% enthusiasm is a big interview no-no.

Missing the mark

Here are some of our recent recruitment clangers:

  • A cornucopia of CVs accompanied by toys, food and biscuits for 'The Dogs' (please note: there are zero actual dogs living in this office).
  • References to how desperately grads want to work for ‘Man Versus Dog’, ‘Dog Bites Man’, ‘Men Love Dogs’ etc.
  • Covering letters explaining in detail why applicants want to work in the music industry/ film/ television/ radio (met with shouts of “I’m pleased for you but you’ve got the wrong guy”).
  • Looong winded covering letters (why use 5 words when you can use 30?).


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