Five Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out (PR Edition)

By Kiersten Kaye (@klkaye)

I know it’s cliché, but if I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I hate recruiters” or “Looking for a job is SO hard,” I’d be a very rich woman. The fact of the matter is, most people find the hiring process to be frustrating because of a lack of reciprocation. First you apply to a job online and then you receive a generic email that says “Thank you for your interest in X company. We have received your resume. If your experience matches one of our open roles…” – and then it’s crickets.

So, what can you do to make your resume stand out and increase your odds of receiving the elusive call (or email) back?

Here are the top five ways to make your resume stand out when applying to a PR agency

#1  “I have agency experience”

Recruiters and hiring managers automatically scan your resume and look for PR agency names.  Then they look to see what titles you held, how long you held each title and how quickly you may have risen through the ranks. This is your opportunity to self-promote! Capture your abilities and accomplishments as bullet items that start with strong action verbs.

#2  “I worked with clients X, Y and Z”

The next thing PR folks want to know is what kind of PR experience you have. Consumer? Tech?  Lifestyle? So, make sure your resume showcases the clients and brands with which you have worked.  And, *if* you are looking to jump categories then highlight some of your more transferable accomplishments (landed coverage, counseled in time of crisis) to demonstrate your “crossover-ability”.

#3  “I am a media maven”

Why do clients hire agencies? For media results! When we’re looking for Account Executives and Senior Account Executives we want to know things like:  the outlets you know/have pitched, the creative angles you’re using and the results you’ve garnered for clients. One of the best ways to get a hiring manager’s attention is to send a portfolio including this kind of information (coverage clips!) along with your resume.

#4  “My resume is as polished as I am”

At the risk of a collective “eye roll,” here I am going to say it:  Proofread your resume. PR folks do not tolerate silly mistakes, sloppiness, poor grammar/spelling or lack of attention to detail. Make your resume stand-out by sending along a proofed and polished document. For example: we are SHIFT.  That’s right – all caps. 🙂

#5  “I am local and can start yesterday”

This comes directly from our hiring managers. We do get resumes from all over the world; the most attractive candidates are the ones who nailed number one through four here and also have number five. When prioritizing resumes, hiring managers will naturally move the local candidates to the top of their lists. At the risk of alienating those PR pros looking to relocate, if you are serious about a move, invest in carving out a 2-3 week period of time to meet with potential employers in your city of choice or be prepared to move before landing the dream job.

A final note: everyone asks me about cover letters and resumes. Here’s the naked truth: Don’t tell me what you COULD do in a cover letter when you can show me what you HAVE done on your resume! Resumes are typically looked at first – cover letters are more of a writing sample.  As a side note:  if your story is unusual (as many are after the tough economic times we have been through) then the cover letter is a great place to tell your story.

Kiersten Kaye is the director of human resources at SHIFT Communications – and she is hiring! If you think you fit some or all of the above criteria, and are looking for a position in the SF or NYC area, please click on your city for more information on available positions and instructions on how to apply.

Maybe it's time for Waldo to spruce up his resume?

12 Responses to “Five Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out (PR Edition)”

  1. 1 Lance Heisler August 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Kiersten, these are such great tips for resume building. I am graduating in December from the University of Oregon in PR and Spanish and I’ll be starting the job hunting process any day now.

    I have client experience and I’ve worked for a local PR agency as an account executive and as the pr manager for a local multicultural magazine. I feel as though I have a pretty good resume so far, but I was wondering: Do you think having a Spanish degree (also being bilingual) along with my PR degree will make me stand out from the rest of the crowd? Should that be something that I highlight on in my resume and interviews?

    Thank you so much again for some wonderful tips on what’s important on a resume for pr positions.


    • 2 klkaye August 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Lance,

      You pose a good question. In the big world of traditional PR Spanish is not necessarily a differentiator. So, my advice to you is find roles in which your Spanish is a differentiator — like the tourism bureau of Spain, the Spanish/central american/Mexican branch of an American company or a language company like Rosetta Stone or EF (that’s just what pops into my head at this moment).

      Good luck!

  2. 3 gross_j August 24, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Lance –

    Couldn’t help but chime in here on your question, as I work in our SF office and am also a Spanish speaker. To Kiersten’s point, it will most likely not be a HUGE differentiator when applying to typical PR agencies, however always something to note. For example, when I was applying for agency roles I included it at the bottom of my resume. Sometimes skill-sets such as speaking Spanish won’t necessarily get you the job, but may help build a “well-rounded” person on paper.

    Good luck & go ducks!

  3. 4 Aurelia August 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm


    This is a great article with very helpful points. But I guess my question is, what if you don’t have agency experience? I did Public Relations work while I was in college for a consultant whose clients were nonprofit organizations and when I graduated I worked for a nonprofit as the Assoc. Dir. of PR… but I moved after only 6 months of working in that office… I’m afraid this may look bad on my resume. What would your suggestions be?


    • 5 klkaye August 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Aurelia,

      Hiring managers are thinking about three things when it comes to candidates:
      1. do they have solid PR skills
      2. will they fit in with the culture of the team, agency and client
      3. can they handle the dynamic pace of an agency

      Because of the third element, hiring managers favor those who have worked (and succeeded!) in agency environments.

      Most agencies offer full-time, paid internships. If you want an agency career I strongly suggest an internship as the stepping stone to an Account Coordinator role.


  4. 6 Maggie August 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm


    Such a helpful article. I’ve always been curious about “agency experience” – while I have lots of agency experience, it hasn’t been at one of the big, well known agency names – I’ve worked at a few boutique agencies. Now that I’m interested in working at a larger firm, does it hurt me to not have any of the larger agencies on my resume? I’ve always heard that “agency experience is agency experience”, but sometimes I worry that hiring managers won’t even recognize the small agencies on my resume.


    • 7 klkaye August 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Maggie,

      I do agree that “agency experience is agency experience”. The only thing I’d consider if I were in your shoes is the expectations of each role and how titles and salary expectations might map from one environment to another.

      I think a lot of people expect that a job search will end with a “promotion” (better title, more money) which is often not the case in the agency world. It’s hard enough to learn a new agency, clients and reporting processes which is why often lateral movers are the most successful in the long run.

      At SHIFT we vet the PR skills and experience and then decide if it aligns with the role. We want our new hires to be as successful as possible, and that includes the ability to competently do all of one’s daily PR activities.


  5. 8 MeShae Hankerson August 25, 2010 at 3:10 am

    As a recent graduate knee deep in the job search, this post couldn’t be more helpful. Your tips are dead on and I look forward to making some “adjustments” to my resume’. Thanks so much!

  6. 9 Tony Loftis August 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm


    What a clever job recruitment post. If you are as smart with your hiring as you are in your writing, I am sure your clients are very happy.

    ~ Tony

  7. 10 ryanruud December 30, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Quality points and good reminders.Could you expand on the non-local candidates a bit more? I’m willing and wanting to relocate with jobs. I’m unattached and I like the insight and knowledge I gain from how folks “do business” in different regions. Do you have any other tactics on landing a non-local job?

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