Why 'Dear Sir/Madam' won't get you into PR

On my desk I currently have well over 150 CVs applying for a new graduate role.

Do your research or your CV is headed for the shredder, warns Peter Bowles
Do your research or your CV is headed for the shredder, warns Peter Bowles
The Association of Graduate Recruiters reported this week that there are 75 applications for one position. 

In PR, a profession high on many graduates' hit-list, it’s even more.

So what’s the difference between CV success and being sent straight to the shredder? 

For us we explicitly said in our advert that we wanted personable people to join our company – "no Dear Sir/ Madam". We’re a company run by two men. And our names are all over our website. 

Despite this instruction, a quarter of CVs received included this missive. 

At one stage we discussed binning every Dear Sir/ Madam application, but as an experiment we decided to see if this was the right decision.

If you made it through and included Dear Sir/Madam then very well done, yours is one of the very few CVs we’ll let through that start with this informality.
So how do you get into PR? Let me stop being a grump. 

Here are some (more positive) tips that will help your CV stand out:

Read the advert carefully

Address us: Hi Peter, Paul and Emma

You’ve done your research – I’d love to work at [insert agency here] as I, too, want a chocolate clause in my contract, unlimited holiday allowance and a nice company trip to Copenhagen

You’ve read PRWeek's articles on [insert agency here]

Tone – nice and chatty

Sell your skills in a fun, topical, way, not a stiff laundry list

No cut and paste – it sticks out a mile away

Cut terms like "I have gained invaluable experience by getting my degree" – this is the CV equivalent of "the world’s leading" in a press release

The ultimate irony is that if you work in PR you’ll be expected to contact journalists, very often for the first time. 

Would you address Tricia at the Daily Mirror as Dear Madam? Or would you do your research? 

Would you just copy a press release or tailor it to your stakeholder? 

Would you use social channels for research or to stand out even more? Could you approach things even more creatively?

I’ve worked at a fair few agencies and remember seeing the ‘buffer face’ of HR swimming through CVs. But now I’m in the same position. 

Dump Dear Sir/ Madam, dump your National Record of Achievement and, most importantly, if you want a career in professional communications, I suggest you take a PR approach to applying and get yourself to stand out from day one.

Peter Bowles is the co-chief executive and co-founder of Dynamo PR

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in