New to interviewing? Totally understand. It can be nerve racking. We have some tips geared toward interviewing for agency jobs in the marketing/advertising industry- account executives, project managers, program managers and coordinators.
It seems so obvious, but after the interviews I’ve experienced, I have to say it. Show up looking good. You’re trying to make a positive first impression here. Plan your outfit the night before and iron or steam your clothes so you look neat and clean. Stick to something simple. Structured pieces like pencil skirts and blazers are great – they form clean lines and hold in unwanted bulges. Flowy, frilly, lacey items are usually unsafe. And pairing that silky lingerie top with a blazer is still not going to fly. Cleavage is a NO. Strappy, open-toe shoes are a NO- this is one of those things that women think they can argue; that if they have on a conservative work-appropriate dress, they can throw on strappy stilettos and the classiness will remain. Wrong. Evening attire does not equal business attire. Classic colors like black, gray and navy are usually good; and a pop of color here and there isn’t a bad thing at all. Just watch it. Orange is not the new black in this scenario. Lastly, it’s all in the details. Do your hair, put on make up and minimize the jewelry. It’s always nice to interview someone who looks like they know how to take care of themself. Especially, if you’re interviewing for a client facing role such as an Account Executive.
FIRM HANDSHAKE. Always introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Practice. You’d be surprised how many sad, flaccid hands I’ve had to grab and shake myself. LAME.
Bring several copies of your resume in a nice folder- sometimes additional staff will either join your scheduled interview or want to evaluate you afterward. Be ready to describe your background in a nutshell – it’s typically the first thing you’ll be asked to do. Tell them what you’ve been doing over the last couple years- places you’ve worked, your major, any internships. Make sure your summary is brief and has purpose. This is especially important if you’ve worked at several places in a short period of time. Pretty common in agency life since time seems to add up in dog years – a couple years at a single agency feels like 14 in the end. So starting from what you’ve been doing recently, tell them what that agency or company’s focus was and what your role has been, then move on to the next. You’re almost always asked why you’re leaving your current job and even why you’ve left your past jobs. Always keep it classy- you can be honest but there is no need to go into the emotional details of why you left (horrible boss, crappy pay, idiotic staff, lazy coworkers). For example- “I’m looking for a place where I have more opportunity to grow and advance” is a better answer than “The place I’m at now will never pay me what I’m worth and I’ve been doing so much for them. I have a mortgage to pay so I really need to move on”. Bringing in that personal nitty gritty about your bills is just unnecessary. Everyone has bills and don’t need to hear about yours. There are just gentler ways of telling people what you’re looking for.
If you’re a recent college grad, with no experience, bring up a few things you’ve been focusing on in school (big papers, research, classes that you took on the side that didn’t really pertain to your major but you loved) and then lead into skills you’ve developed…you took Statistics so you love analytics and looking at numbers (made for direct marketing), you worked on group projects and was always the leader who moved everything along (natural born project manager), you worked on an art installation that made you realize you have extreme attention for detail (potential AE material). Interviewers don’t just want to get to know you – they want to know how your qualities and skills can help their business.
Listen to what your interviewers have to say about the company and the position. And always make sure you’ve done your research prior to the interview (perused the website, looked at their About page, read the job description carefully). Take notes on points you’d like them to elaborate on. This is very important. It shows you’re interested and keeps your interviewers talking. The more engaged they are with you, the easier they’ll remember you when making their final decision to hire.
Smile. Be personable. If you’re typically shy, will yourself to be a little more bubbly and energetic than usual. Chances are, you’re going against many others for the same position and the less meek and more memorable you are, the better.
If your interviewer is not very chatty, make sure you ask questions to keep the interview flowing and free of awkward silences. Have a few questions prepared ahead of time. Who will I be working with? If I were to start tomorrow, what would my responsibilities be? What kind of meetings would I be attending on a regular basis? What’s your process on starting a new project – who are the people that touch it along the way? How do you begin your creative process? When and how often do we meet with the client? These are all open ended questions that call for specific details about the company and can keep your interviewer engaged and talking for quite a while.
Remember that this is also your chance to interview them. So if they do make you an offer, you know what you’re getting into.
Conclude the interview with another FIRM HANDSHAKE, get business cards from everyone you’ve interviewed with and send thank you’s to each person. A handwritten note is sweet but I personally think an email is more effective in the agency world- it’s immediate and less easy for you to forget. Plus they’ll easily have your email on hand in case they have additional questions.
Lastly, remind yourself that interviewing is not something you do everyday (hopefully). If it doesn’t go exactly as planned, that’s okay. Intervieiwing is a taxing, exhausting process – both physically and mentally. It definitely takes practice and time to get used to. So cut yourself some slack.
Good luck! You’re going to be fabulous.