TALENT SPOTTER: ALICE WEIGHTMAN, HANSON SEARCH

NAME: Alice Weightman
Company: Hanson Search
Job title: Founder and CEO
Twitter: @aliceweightman
LinkedIn: Alice Weightman
Website: www.hansonsearch.com

What does your day-to-day job involve?
Each day varies so much, that’s what I love about the job!  As a consultant at Hanson Search, I work with leading agencies and in-house teams to find the best talent in the industry. I am networking constantly, making business connections and meeting great new candidates.

Now running the business, it’s equally as varied, but in different ways and with different priorities. There’s much more travel for one thing. I work with global clients – from the UAE to the USA and beyond. I often speak at industry events and attend conferences worldwide. I still run client work and am actively involved in internal recruitment and training, but I’m also building the business internationally. That means that travelling and meeting people at those global industry events is crucial.

don’t hide the fact that you took a different route – celebrate it and let it be known.

Is it essential to be a graduate to get a job in PR?
It definitely helps to have a degree, but increasingly companies are looking at the whole package and alternative ways of attracting top talent. If you are a graduate, make sure you have done something worthwhile outside of university. There’s more to do than studying and drinking! It’s not easy landing your first job. You’ll need an impressive CV with plenty of work experience and interests outside your degree.

If you aren’t a graduate, you’ll need to think of a different approach. There are plenty of examples today of successful business people who made it without a degree, but unfortunately they are usually exceptions to the rule. To succeed, you will need to be intrinsically motivated, gain as much practical work experience as possible, and work on making a name for yourself. Go to networking events, meet industry people, blog, and get involved in conversations on social media. Show that you know the industry but also that you are keen to learn.

Companies like hiring people with an alternative or diverse background. If you know you have what it takes for the job, don’t hide the fact that you took a different route – celebrate it and let it be known.

What do you look for in PR hires?
I look for people who are bright, passionate, and engaging. It’s important to me that there’s an instant rapport. Strong written and verbal communication skills are a must. They should be on top of current events, have an interest in brands, politics or business. I want to see that they dig deep into a certain topic – to demonstrate their professional passions. At the end of the day, people buy from people, so I look to hire individuals who embody the core values of my business.

I also check to see if they are active on social media. Online reputation is of enormous importance. They should be involved in the industry online, not just posting selfies or what they had for dinner.

How do you find PR talent?
We advertise some vacancies, but as a search firm we mainly headhunt and gain referrals. We use in-depth research skills and techniques to source the best talent in the industry. We also maintain an extensive network of “Hanson Friends”. That is an invaluable resource and offers many referral opportunities.

Recruiters use LinkedIn and increasingly other social platforms – Facebook and Twitter – to headhunt,

Has much changed in how PR practitioners are recruited in the last five years?
The biggest change has been the impact of social media on recruitment. It’s much easier and faster to validate what people say in their CVs about their interests and skills. It’s also easier to get an idea of the way they communicate, their network and professionalism.

Recruiters use LinkedIn and increasingly other social platforms – Facebook and Twitter – to headhunt, so it’s important to keep an up-to-date profile.

Which sector is the most difficult to recruit and why?
I think healthcare communications is the most difficult to recruit in. I have over 15 years of experience recruiting in the industry and it has definitely been the toughest sector. It’s also been one of the most rewarding. If you’re interested in social issues – raising awareness of rare diseases or emerging, life-changing initiatives – healthcare communications is fascinating. You can make a real difference. More people should get into it!

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
There are so many. David Gallagher does a great weekly blog where he interviews senior PR people. He offers a good snap shot of the industry and what it’s like working in PR.

I’m always checking PR Week, PR Moment, Brand Republic, and the Holmes Report for industry news, trends, and upcoming events.

What else? Well I can’t fail to mention the Hanson Search blog! My colleagues and I write regularly on industry topics and hiring trends.

Be strategic – you need to think of the long game.

What are your tips for seasoned PRs looking to move jobs?
Brush up your LinkedIn profile and CV. Run it past a senior head-hunter.  They can help you position yourself in the right way, highlight the right skills, and make you the most competitive.

Think about the skills you have to offer and your major achievements.  Be strategic – you need to think of the long game. What sectors or companies are going to be interested in you? Will they offer you the progression you are after?

Don’t move for the sake of moving. Loyalty is looked upon favourably and hopping around can hurt your career prospects. Likewise, know when you’ve plateaued. That’s when you should make a move.

What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
Integration is increasingly important in PR – as it is across communications and marketing teams. Make sure you know your business and understand the wider objectives. If you keep your eyes on the big picture, you will be more successful and valuable in your role.

PR is a great industry. It’s full of interesting people and businesses. You will learn more than just business skills, but skills for life. You can carve a successful career in the industry if you find the right role.

The hours can be long. You need to be good with people – a good communicator and networker. But if you are passionate, then go for it!

 

 

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