By Tricia Barrett
Each year I receive well over 50 resumes and probably interview at least 30 potential candidates looking to join our ad agency. Some interviews are tied directly to open positions – entry level and senior level – and others are more informational in nature. Either way, the same rules always apply. Read on to find my tips of the trade. I’m not an HR expert, nor am I a career counselor, but I am a communications professional who is responsible for hiring, and I expect a certain level of professionalism and attention to detail from those I’m interviewing.
1.) Proofread. I can’t stress enough the importance of proofreading. All correspondence – résumé, cover letter, emails, and follow-up notes – must be proofread. If you’re not the greatest proofreader, have someone else review your work for you. You have one chance to make a first impression, and if your first impression is riddled with errors, then I can only believe your work product will be just as sloppy.
In no particular order, here are some of the most common proofing mistakes:
- Periods within bulleted lists (either include periods or don’t – just be consistent)
- Mixed verb tenses
- Improper use of hyphens and dashes
- Wrong/misspelled addressee name or incorrect company info
- Typos in general – it only takes a minute to run a simple spell-check
- Inconsistencies among headers and subheads
- PowerPoint is one word, not two
- Mobile phone autocorrect – don’t rush!
2.) Prepare. Even if only informational, an interview is a big deal. This meeting could be your first introduction to your future employer, or it could be the networking move that opens the next door in your career. Make sure you do your homework and prepare for the meeting. Research the company and the individual you’re meeting with. Visit the company’s social sites to get a sense of culture. Do a drive-by of the office to make sure you know where to park, how long it will take you to get there, etc. The better prepared you are, the more calm, cool, and collected you’ll be when you arrive for your interview.
3.) Google yourself. You can bet that any prospective employer will Google someone they are interested in hiring. This also includes image and video searches. We’ll check all social sites, so be sure the person you come across as online is the same person you want coming across in an interview.
4.) Tell a story. Make me remember you. Think about the usual interview questions you are typically asked, and find a way to weave in a personal story or two so we have something to connect on and something for me to remember. For example, I did a semester abroad at sea when I was in college. Now, that has absolutely nothing to do with my career in advertising today, but it did teach me about independence, the importance of taking risks, and how to interact with 30 different personalities in tight quarters – all of which are transferable skills and experiences that have helped me in my career. A semester spent on a 134-foot sailboat in the Caribbean isn’t easily forgettable either, so sharing that story could help my interviewer remember me.
5.) Be confident. I get it – job hunting can be frustrating and laborious. But once you have the interview scheduled, let all the other stuff go. I can’t tell you the number of times I have met with candidates who tell me that there’s nothing out there or that it’s really hard to get your foot in the door of the advertising field. Well guess what, you’re at the interview, you ARE in the door, so make me believe this is your dream job and I’d be a fool not to hire you. Confidence comes from within, but it also comes from how you present yourself. Dress for the position you want (and if you’ve researched the company in advance, you should have a sense of office culture/dress). Practice your handshake (no wet noodle, please!). And always brush your hair and teeth (that’s a life tip).
6.) Don’t go overboard. Trust me, I don’t need a gimmick to remember you. Yes, I work in advertising and we’re a creative bunch of people, but you don’t need to make your application or your interview creative – you should be able to sell yourself. Don’t overdesign your résumé – let your design or creativity show through in your portfolio of work. And if you’re not looking for a position in the creative department, don’t sell yourself as an expert in all other things marketing. Really spend time trying to understand where your passions and interests are, and where you think you can make the most impact in a company.
7.) Ask good questions. I fully expect you to come prepared to the interview with questions, especially if you’ve read up on the company. If at the end of 30 minutes you can’t think of one thing to ask me, you’re probably not going to get the job. I prefer a more open dialogue and conversation, so know that, for the most part, it’s totally appropriate to ask questions throughout the interview, especially if it pertains to the topic we’re discussing at that time.
8.) Follow up in a timely manner. It’s important that you appreciate and respect the time someone has made for you, so follow up to say thank you. To be honest, I don’t care if it’s electronic or handwritten, as long as it happens in a timely manner (ideally within 24 hours). And please don’t send the same exact note to everyone you met with. I would hope that there was something unique enough about each conversation for you to personalize your response. Plus, we compare notes on our end.
Tricia Barrett is SVP and Managing Director at Crowley Webb, where she also oversees the agency’s patient recruitment division, Praxis Communications.