For hiring, how vital are media references? Writing tests?

Actually, we go to reporters more often as a source of job candidates than as references.

Actually, we go to reporters more often as a source of job candidates than as references. But their feedback on a prospect can be useful, especially when recruiting primarily for a media relations position. Reporters can offer insight into candidates' news sense, depth of industry knowledge, and responsiveness, as well as their overall professionalism.

All of our candidates take writing tests. Writing tests, which vary by level and practice area, reveal a lot more than whether someone can write. You can learn a great deal about how a candidate thinks, about how strategic and creative they can be under deadline pressure. The test also provides insight into a candidate's judgment and analytical skills, and serves to verify his or her stated professional experience. This exercise has proven to be a key predictor of the ability to deliver the kind of quality results that clients expect from their firms. Many other factors play into a hiring decision, but poor performance on a writing test can rule someone out for a position - even a candidate who may get rave reviews from references and interviewers.

Agnes Gioconda is EVP and senior partner, chief talent officer at Fleishman-Hillard.

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