Q. What are PR agencies looking for in the writing tests they give to applicants? How are the tests scored, and by whom? Do agencies want to confirm that you have basic writing skills and have the potential to improve, or are they looking for perfection? There isn’t much information about this, so any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciate. DD
A. Writing tests vary from agency to agency, and many have different tests depending on the level of the position for which you are applying. Most tests for entry-level positions include grammar, spelling and basic proof reading/editing. Often, you are asked to write two short articles about topics of the day or a new product launch. Many tests for mid- and senior-level positions have digital and social media components. Some agencies require you to take the test in their offices, while others allow you to take the test home. If you have the opportunity to do the latter, be sure to take your time and proof read, proof read, proof read. Typos will kill your chances faster than burying your lead in the second to last paragraph.
Tests often are scored by independent, free-lance contractors who are excellent writers. Sometimes, strong writers in the agency are tapped to grade the tests. Although perfection will give you an A, test scorers are looking for individuals with strong writing skills that can be developed. Take the test seriously. I’m stunned that 40% of applicants at our agency last year scored C or below on the take-home test. Nobody receiving a D or F landed a job, and hardly any Cs got hired.