College degree, check. Resume, check. Internships, check. Interview techniques?

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Prior to an interview, do not practice positions of weakness. Learn the power stance. It will elevate your confidence and reduce stress.

Advertising is an intense business.

You have to solve unsolvable problems.

Think on your feet.

Generate volumes of ideas.

Express yourself clearly.

Present with authority.

Demonstrate creativity.

Produce on demand.

Work under pressure.

Live outside your comfort zone.

Collaborate with multiple partners who have differing opinions.

Well guess what, These days the same applies to job interviews. Even for entry level positions.

I had lunch today with a few senior media, creative and social PR folks and talked about how and who they hire.

Note: they hire the person, not the resume. That’s not to say the resume doesn’t matter, but it’s the impression a  candidate makes in that initial meeting that determines whether or not you get the job.

In one case, a social media supervisor puts finalists through a one hour exam. Having culled a dozen or so semifinalists down to the final four, here’s what they’re in for.

Each candidate has to:

  1. Describe or demonstrate a key quality in a standup routine. It can be a performance, a poetry slam, a deck, a story. But it better be good.
  2. Name and analyze two recent campaigns of note and present the pros and cons, what works and what doesn’t, and what lessons can be applied to subsequent marketing initiatives.
  3. Write a brief for a client challenge that gets handed to you on the spot.
  4. Develop a content strategy for how to bring that brief to life.

The candidates have one hour to answer the questions, prepare a presentation and deliver it to the people they’ll be working with and for. Oh, and they have no idea this is the ask. They’ll find that out when they show up for their second interview. And this is for applicants right out of college.

Sound tough? Not at all. It’s easy compared to what the real job will be like. So get ready.

If you think you are going to get hired from a resume, think again. Internships and experience? That’s the ante.

HR may look at your resume but as an SVP of Digital and Social said to me today, “The first time I look at a resume is when the candidate is sitting in front of me.” (I’m not surprised; that’s how I did it during 30 years of hiring people.) “The only reason that person is here is because she knew someone, came via a reference from another employee, or somehow made it through the HR and junior employee filter. I’m tuning in for the first time.”

True the latter calls for a great resume and cover letter that details experience, demonstrates writing quality and offers a clear sense that this is the only job and agency the candidate wants to work for.

But after that it’s all about the interview. You can be smart, well-educated, even capable. But if you interview poorly, forget it.

Here are some of the reasons you lose. And these answers came from women supervisors in media, social and creative.

“Her handshake was just so weak.”

“She really didn’t convey much confidence.”

“When he would answer a question, his eyes would drift toward the ceiling instead of looking at me. It was like he was struggling too much.”

“She just seemed a bit mousy and the other candidates were more focused and confident.”

“His questions bored me and lacked any insight.”

The lessons in this are as follows.

  1. Start developing relationships with ex-classmates, past graduates, even Twitter and Linked In contacts so that you have someone who’ll pass your resume along.
  2. Make sure your resume and cover letter are customized and show enough accomplishments to get through HR.
  3. But more importantly, practice your interview techniques. Everything from your hello, to your handshake, to your answers to anticipated questions, to the interesting and insightful questions you plan to ask yourself.

If you have studied branding, marketing, advertising and creative, then you know what to do. You are the brand. You’ve sized up your target market (employer), you know exactly how to position yourself, and you have a clever and original way to do it. Just remember to apply conviction and confidence.

Need help? You may want to watch Amy Cuddy’s talk on body language. It’s a reminder that you can convey power, and even fake it until you become it, by assuming physical positions that can elevate your testosterone (confidence) and lower your cortisol (stress.) It even includes some exercises you can practice in the rest room before you take your place opposite the interviewer.

If you have other tips, suggestions or methods that worked, please share.


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@edward you mentioned in your post on Creativity Inc the need for agencies to be more innovative in their approach, including hiring.  Do you have any examples of that?  I started my career in the film business, have experience in a small market at an agency but looking for insights to get to the next level.


Nice read! Very informative. Did you know that Unilever calls for business 'mindfulness' on consumption. Full story here: