Job Seekers: Q&A With Brian Batchelder, Recruiter For Fleishman-Hillard

Dear readers,

Since I talk a lot about finding jobs, I thought that a a Q&A with someone who does the actual screenings and meetings that help get you in the door would benefit a lot of folks.

So I asked my friend and former colleague, Brian Batchelder, to answer some questions that give you the recruiter’s perspective – the person sitting across the desk from you when you are wondering “what is this person thinking?”.  His very good answers are below.  And not that I need this disclaimer, but this is WTF to the FTC (sounds like rap, doesn’t it?): I was a Senior Vice President as Fleishman-Hillard.  And here’s Brian’s disclaimer: “The following is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its clients.

Brian Batchelder is an in-house senior recruiter for Fleishman-Hillard based out of Washington D.C. He recruits for a wide array of PR and digital positions across the U.S. and overseas. He has a personal blog focused on networking and job search tactics: www.brianbatchelder.com. You can also follow his inner monologue on Boston & Syracuse sports, career advice and FH job opportunities on Twitter: https://twitter.com/b_batchelder.

I have said for a long time, “you can’t teach someone to be smart.” When you are looking for talent for Fleishman-Hillard, how much of a role does experience vs. interview presence – just “smarts” make?

You need both.  At the levels I typically recruit for (mid and senior level) you need relevant experience and have to be a culture fit.  If you’re smart, but have never led the types of campaigns we’re seeking, that won’t be enough.

We’re in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What would you say to job seekers who are looking to enter the agency side of public relations?

The PR Agency world is ultra-competitive, even in a good economy.  When you look at the largest firms, you’re talking 2,000-3,000 people.  That is tiny compared with other industries. So, you really need to do your research, talk to lots of PR Agency folks and determine what your unique, specific value proposition is.  Think of agencies like a football team.  There are lots of specialized roles.  What niche skill can you do better than anyone else?  And how will it help client X?.

Can your remember a candidate or two whom you interview and thought “this is a slam dunk.” Why? What circumstances or characteristics did this individual possess that she him/her apart?

This happens a few times per year with informational interviews [EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS POINT ABOUT INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW IS REALLY IMPORTANT].  These folks basically have checked off all the boxes: relevant experience, great research, great questions, take notes, dress professionally, send a timely, well-crafted thank you note and their personality is a culture fit. They also show a strong interest in joining FH.  They don’t “tell me” they want to work at FH, they “show me.”

I have written a few posts about honesty within agencies during the recruiting process. After all, agencies are a profit-driven business. Some agencies promise a lot of “work-life balance” and deliver all nighters? What are your thoughts about this?

The agency world is unique, and as a recruiter I almost always try to recruit people with agency experience so there will be no culture shock.  You’re right, it’s a fast-paced environment driven by clients.  You need to be flexible.

Digital is the fastest growing component of most of the top agencies. What advice would you give to a mid-level job seeker looking to latch on to an account manager role in digital (I am specifically leaving out the technical ones, because those are more obvious).

Well, my take is there are two types of folks: pure digital and hybrids.  If we are going to hire someone into a purely digital role, that person must demonstrate real deep knowledge and practical application of many digital channels: social media, SEO/SEM, e-mail marketing, etc.  You really can’t fake it.  However, a traditional PR person or journalist can really ramp up their digital skills and become a valuable hybrid (offline and online communicator).  People should check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Crush It!” for a tutorial on how to get digital savvy.

Final question: Let’s say that candidates at the following levels want to work at FH. to “Get their foot in the door,” what advice would you give to:

  • Undergrads: Do as many PR Agency internships as possible, including one at Fleishman-Hillard. Ramp up your digital knowledge and skills.
  • Recent graduates: Ditto above.
  • People with less than two years’ experience: Do a lot of research on our firm.  Who are clients are.  What programs we lead for them.  Have informational chats with our practitioners.  Ask a lot of questions.  Find out what specialized skills you need.  If you don’t have them, go out and acquire them.  Ultimately, it’s about defining your value proposition.  What skill or niche experience could really provide value to one (or more) of our clients?
  • Mid-level people with five years’ experience: Ditto above.

Thanks, Brian.  And readers.  Do your homework on Fleishman-Hillard.  Find out if they have an office near you.  And note the part above about informational interview.

Mark

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Comments

  1. Thanks for such a relevant post to those of us who graduate soon! No better information than from the source itself. Two items I’ve taken from this piece are reassurance to check out “Crush it!” and informational interviews really are beneficial. Thank you both. @PRjoshmorris

  2. Remarkable, very smart people–some of the best colleagues I ever had.

    The 10 guiding principles are still ones I live by…”existing clients come first”…”quality is first and foremost in all we do”…it’s been a while, but I bet I could recite them all!

    Jen

  3. Mark Story Says: February 8, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for the comments, Josh. I have enormous respect for Robert French – I am “guest lecturing” via the Internet on Wednesday.

    If you take a look at my blog, down the right-hand column, I have two .rss feeds of jobs. I used to teach and Georgetown and try to help my grads as much as I can.

    Mark

  4. Those were great points! I am working on an article about informational interviews for PRSSA. Do you mind if I quote Brian on the importannce of informational interviews?

  5. I started out with proscout and went to their big event they have in April every year. I got picked by four agencies but went with one of them due to the location.

  6. As a graduate student seeking real-world experience, I especially appreciate your words of advice. My recent focus on obtaining experience in an agency has been reinforced by your experience and knowledge. Thank you for sharing!

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