Home Blog HAPPO|PR How to land a job with a PR agency: Q&A with a Fleishman Hillard’s Beth Ward

How to land a job with a PR agency: Q&A with a Fleishman Hillard’s Beth Ward


One of my biggest career regrets is not working at a big agency right out of school. In fairness, I did try (not hard enough apparently). But, at the time (remember, this was 1996–I’m a bit old), agency jobs were hard to come by. And, we had the “Gold Book”–not LinkedIn, #HAPPO and Twitter. So, I had little chance of making a personal connection before I sent my resume over the virtual transom. During those early years in my career, I always wondered how big agencies made decisions about entry-level hires. What do they look for in a candidate? What skills do they value? What piques their interest? All questions I thought I’d ask Beth Ward, recruiter at Fleishman Hillard, in hopes of finally getting some real answers (16-plus years later).

You’re a lead recruiter for one of the largest PR firms in the world in Fleishman Hillard. What are the top three skills you’re constantly searching for—and what’s the top skill you have the biggest problem finding?

The top three skills I am looking for: Fundamental writing skills. Creativity ability to listen. And, I wouldn’t classify this as a skill, but the toughest quality to find in candidates is the individual who recognizes opportunity without someone handing it to them. My most sought after candidates are the ones who proactively provide opportunities and solutions to clients. They are the ones who can sit with colleagues and not only come up with the big idea but have a tactical approach to make it happen. They are the individuals who recognize problems and don’t just point them out, they provide solutions as well.

How big of a role does a job seeker’s resume play in the initial vetting process?

To use a digital analogy, the resume is my wire frame. It offers a very solid framework of who the candidate is. When I look at a resume I look at where did they work , where did they go to school, what was their GPA and how many jobs have they held relative to their years of experience.

Basic question, but what’s the best way to follow-up after submitting your resume? And, how often/with what frequency?

I look at every resume that is submitted in the database to my jobs. I review all resumes that my colleagues and Linked In contacts send me. I really don’t need or want follow up after I have the resume. I can guarantee you, if I think we have a role for you somewhere in Fleishman-Hillard, I will reach out to you.

How important are referrals as a part of the process? How much weight do you give someone who has been referred vs. someone you find “organically?”

Referrals are a good way to learn more about a person that might not be on the resume, but I scrutinize all candidates equally.  Referrals may get you around to the right recruiter, but it doesn’t mean you will have any more preference over someone who I found with the right credentials through our recruiting database or Linked In. What’s on your resume will get you on my radar faster.

We hear so much about the importance of “agency experience” as a precursor for working at an agency. But, at the same time, I’ve seen a lot of people with limited agency experience make the shift recently (Christopher Barger at Voce comes to mind). So, how big is agency experience and how does it fit into your decision-making?

We use the “agency experience” requirement because we have seen firsthand from past hires that the transition from corporate to agency is tough.  We have the employees to attest to that transition. It is really difficult to manage several different clients working from several different checkbooks versus several different departments working from a single checkbook.

We’ve seen a number of creative approaches to the job search process over the last several years—using Twitter, Slideshare, YouTube and any other number of tools. As a recruiter who sees thousands of resumes, cover letters and “pitches” each year, do these creative approaches work? Do they really help people separate themselves from the pile?

The more examples a candidate can provide me that demonstrate measureable results on behalf of the client, the more attractive they are to the me and the agency. Our clients hire us to get results, if a candidate can walk me through a case history laying out the challenge, the objective, the strategy, the tactics and the measurable results they will separate themselves from the pile. It doesn’t matter what they use to illustrate their case history — social media, word of mouth, a written document  all forms will work so long as their example follows a logical path from beginning to end.

Finally, what’s the one tip you’d give job seekers who want to get to the top of your resume pile in your office?

Don’t have any spelling or grammatical errors in your resume.

Beth Ward has more than 15 years experience in traditional public relations, online communications (intranet and Internet) and media relations. She is responsible for finding and recruiting world class talent for the integrated, digital, global communications agency Fleishman-Hillard Inc.  In her current role, she works with Fleishman-Hillard’s team of global recruiters, liaisons and selected public relations and digital practitioners to identify the best communicators throughout the U.S. central region across a range of disciplines (agriculture, branding, corporate, digital, social, creative services, financial and IR, food, healthcare, consumer marketing, public affairs, research, and sports marketing).  You can learn more about Fleishman Hillard and their incredible career opportunities by following Beth on Twitter @BethWardPR or on LinkedIn.



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