Hiring young employees

If you want me to tune out, start a sentence with "Kids today..."

If you want me to tune out, start a sentence with “Kids today…”

Every generation complains about the one behind it and young people coming into the workforce now seem to run the gamut from slacker to super-accomplished. You are much better served by taking a close look at the individual rather than giving in to blanket statements.

“Twentysomethings” are often the most prevalent demographic of a PR agency and, since people are an agency's only true assets, it's crucial we make the right decision right away. Nothing is better than a client complimenting our account people. It means we've made the right choice for their business. And nothing is worse than putting the wrong person on an account team, no matter how short-lived.

Here are some best practices we follow:

Set high standards. Each interviewed candidate is told he/she should be reading The New York Times for 30 minutes a day, both for content and writing style. Every document we write should meet the Times' writing standards, and every employee should be familiar with all of the paper's sections.

Test communications skills. Candidates take a two-part 90-minute written exam. The first segment is a current events/common knowledge test with both mulitiple choice and fill-in questions (e.g. Dow Jones average, this year's Oscar for best picture, match country with leaders). The second part is writing a press release and pitch letter from supplied client information.

Go beyond the resume. Ask germane questions allowing the candidate to showcase his/her personality. Two of our favorite questions are, “Aside from what's on your resume, what makes you most proud?” and, “What's a common misperception about you?” And, candidates, I beg you, please don't tell anyone you're a “people person.”

Be creative. Each employee changes the agency's branding. Look for the candidate that brings a new perspective (e.g. foreign language skills, non-PR degree) to your current and prospective clients.

Jeff Graubard is the founder and president of The Graubard Group, a full service marketing/PR agency in downtown NYC since 1992.

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