Why I’d Rather Hire a Liberal Arts Student than a PR Student

Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure to recruit and interview a number of potential employees – and see and speak to a number of amazingly unsuitable candidates. I went back afterwards to see if there was a trend among the candidates (and other students / young pros I didn’t think would be a good fit (I always keep an eye out for possible recruitment)).

And in-fact there did seem to be a trend (at least for me).

But before just giving you the answer – here’s a small list of things I do not want to hear from a candidate – either in a phone interview or on their social media feeds (and if you think I didn’t find everyone’s Twitter (and other public SM) accounts – you’re crazy). Hint hint – there might be a theme here that provides the answer to the trend.

  • (A tweet) Why do I need to learn world history – by June I’ll be a PR pro.
  • I run a twitter account for my uncle’s business, but don’t have my own – I don’t have anything interesting enough to say.
  • (In response to a “what if your executive didn’t have the bandwidth to handle x,y, and z?”) Just reiterate to them the importance of the project and they really must do it.
My initial gut (and silent) responses to the above were along the lines of:
  • Because if you ever want to work in technology, fashion, the arts, manufacturing or any field of PR which includes elements beyond your own backyard having some kind of reference point for your clients’ business is vital.
  • You don’t have anything worthwhile enough to say – on any topic at all?
  • Don’t tell me to completely ignore the obstacle – tell me ways to go around it.

Inquisitiveness.  That was the key trait I found (and still find) lacking.  And it’s also why I’d rather hire a Liberal Arts students over a PR student. Full disclosure: I myself do hold a Liberal Arts B.A.  Fuller disclosure: It doesn’t have to be a liberal arts degree – humanities, multiple majors, unrelated minors, etc. all count for this purpose. Fullest disclosure: Of course PR students can be inquisitive (see Fuller disclosure), but it’s not a given.

A liberal arts student (besides usually having dealt with intense writing requires) demonstrates a level of inquisitiveness that pretty much goes unmatched.  This peculiar student has chosen an educational path that does not guarantee a job and involves studying all manner of material – literature, history, philosophy, art (in many of its forms), etc. and achieving a level of competency in pretty much all of these with the skills necessary to deep dive if need-be.

I can get over lots of things – I can teach someone to “be social,” to work with the client, to create a media list, to structure a pitch, read basic analytics, etc.

I can’t teach them to want to know things just for the sake of knowing them and learning something new – to revel in the discovery process itself.  There’s more to being a good candidate than can be taught in a PR classroom.

PS-Also, please cover your mouth when you yawn.

PPS-The next candidate that comes in and mentions they read this post, or any post of mine, gets extra inquisitiveness points.