Five tips on hiring PR apprentices

Posted on 16/07/2014


PR Apprenticeships have been helping agencies and in-house teams grow their own talent for over two years now.

And Matt and I recently spoke to the PRCA’s DARE conference about what a PR Apprenticeship actually involves – from employer and apprentice perspectives.

You can view the presentation we gave below, but there are five key things we have learned about hiring PR apprentices over the last two years:

1) Get help with the CV sift

There are an average of 13 people applying for every Apprenticeship (in fact we had many, many more than that!), so you will need help to do the CV sift. This is where the training provider can help. Set criteria and ask them to sift through and just give you the prime candidates to interview.

2) Look for work readiness

As with graduates, this is one of the most important factors when assessing candidates. Do they have the right mindset and attitude to work? On the whole, all the candidates we interviewed have been enthusiastic and ready to work.

We set criteria to ensure we only spoke to people who had relevant previous work experience (however how this was defined ranged from writing newsletters at a Council to telesales and even Saturday jobs in customer service), a real understanding of what PR is and a knowledge of what we as a firm did. Apprentices will be with you (hopefully) full time and long-term, so be demanding in the interview, hiring an apprentice shouldn’t ever be a CSR decision.

3) Pay well

Just because the apprentice minimum wage is pretty low, it doesn’t mean this is a race to the bottom. The better you pay your apprentices, the more valued they will feel. We’ve signed up to the London Living Wage (which therefore means our apprentices are among the 2% highest paid in the country). And they will get a promotion and pay rise if they successfully finish the Apprenticeship (and decide to stay with us).

4) Respect the training

There is a reason apprentices have to do a minimum number of guided learning hours a week. It is how they reflect on the range of experiences they get everyday.

In short, it means that their mentor (from the training provider) sets them coursework to complete. This ranges from writing up lessons learned from a social media campaign, analysing a successful pitch to journalists or detailing the planning in a great event, to think pieces on industry issues to essays on how tactics work.

We’ve tried a variety of formats, but the best approach is to set aside a day a week (the actual day can be switched if necessary to meet workloads) for the apprentice to really power through this “apprentice work.”

5) Value their (life) experience

One of the main reasons we decided to take on apprentices was to diversify the outlook and life experiences people in our office have. Listening to our apprentices has resulted in new ideas, new ways of thinking, better ways of working and even pitch-winning ideas.

Now that’s a return on investment.