PR Resumes: Help Wanted

I’ve spent the past month going through over 300 resumes for two different job openings. One job is in the public relations department at a large financial services firm where a friend of mine works. I agreed to help my buddy vet both resumes and (eventually) the candidates themselves. I regret that decision now.

It’s not just that going through resumes and interviewing people is time-consuming. The hiring process for any position, in any industry, is also mind-numbing and aggravating because you deal with people you wouldn’t even want to sit next to on a bus, let alone employ. There are people who simply don’t understand the job hunting process, or who refuse to accept that you may just not want to hire them. Then there are those who only get as far as the email inbox. Just take these five types.

1. The Illiterate

The advertisement I posted for the job was crystal clear on a number of points. A certain level of experience was required for the job, while no phone calls were to be accepted by either hiring parties. Directions about what materials to submit and what subject line to use in the email–so that my email program could parse them into a specific folder–were so simple that a child could follow them. Despite what I felt were very clearly stated parameters, only about half of the job applicants followed directions. I don’t think it’s going overboard when I say that if someone can’t follow directions on how to apply for a job in a communications-based industry like public relations, well, that’s someone I don’t want to hire. (No offense to actual illiterates.)

2. The Future Superstar

It’s one thing to apply for an entry-level job when you have no experience. It’s another thing to apply for a Vice President level job when you have no experience. My friend’s company is hiring for a Vice President of Communications and you wouldn’t believe some of the applications we received. My favorite was the person who was a year out of college with a physical education degree. The only paying job on the applicant’s resume was working as a counselor at a summer camp. Why a person without an iota of public relations experience felt compelled to put the time in to apply for a job as the Vice President of Communications is beyond me.

3. The Gappers

I haven’t shopped at the Gap in years, but I saw plenty of gaps on resumes. One applicant’s most recent work experience was 1994. His cover letter failed to explain why he had not been employed for fourteen years. My guess was prison; my friend guessed “won lottery, spent all the money.” We didn’t bother to find out the actual reason.

4. The Passengers

I’ve read about them, but I didn’t really believe they existed until now: the Helicopter Parent. These people earn their nickname because they hover over their children’s lives, exerting tremendous influence well past an age when most kids are already shopping for mortgages. Well, one of them called my friend after her precious snowflake applied for the Vice President of Communications job. She wanted to know why we politely declined to interview her son. After telling this Helicopter Parent that the job is for a senior-level executive with over 10 years of experience in the financial services field, she proceeded to tell my friend that her son has had a brokerage account since he was 13. My friend told the Helicopter Parent that her son should look into a public relations job at Bear Stearns.

5. The Best Worker in the World

The other position I was hiring for involved writing about securities regulatory filings. It’s a job that many seasoned financial journalists couldn’t even handle because it’s so specialized. One of the requirements of the job, as stated in the ad, was: “Demonstrable ability to read and understand Securities and Exchange Commissions filings related to insider and institutional ownership disclosures (Form 4s, Schedule 13s, Proxies, etc.).” Thus, when people whose only writing experience has been for yoga websites and art magazines applied, they got a quick rejection letter. Yes, even the one who told us, “If I can write about early20th-Century American Impressionists, I know I can write about Wall Street.”

Writing this, I realize that I may come off sounding a little angry; if nothing else, my anger should demonstrate the level of frustration during this hiring process. Part of public relations is conducting yourself professionally, especially when applying for a job. You’re representing yourself, and in a field like public relations, that means you’re already on trial.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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