After a bit of a recruitment hiatus, we have been busy with a recruitment drive in recent weeks. It has been an extremely interesting process and I have enjoyed meeting some really impressive individuals.
Being brutally honest, that hasn’t always been the case over the years. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations, but I typically feel as though I need to see around ten people to find a golden nugget. It is time consuming, and can be frustrating, but recruitment is vital for an agency such as ourselves. It is a cliché but an agency is its people, so I enjoy the process of trying to find the future faces of Browser Media.
I am, however, conscious that it can be a nerve wracking experience, especially for more junior applicants who will not have years of experience to call upon. This is understandable, but the interview process should ideally be fun and very much a two way exchange. It is an opportunity for a potential new joiner to ask questions and really understand more about the role that they are applying for and the agency as a whole. Remember that the primary objective of an interview is to work out whether an individual is suited to a particular role and, crucially, whether the agency can offer the experience that you are looking for. It is not a test and a good interview will allow you to shine rather than seek to find negatives.
Fresh from a few weeks of interviews, I wanted to share some thoughts from an interviewer’s perspective, which I hope will help you prepare for an interview at a digital marketing agency.
This probably sounds very obvious, but I often get the impression that an interviewee is trying to think of the ‘right’ answer to questions. Personally, I don’t really think that there are rights and wrongs in an interview, especially in a first round / chemistry meeting, so be confident and answer any questions honestly.
We want to get to know the real you, not the interview-mode you, as we will hopefully be working with the real you in the future. It is impossible not to warm to honesty and I always respect individuals who are clearly talking from the heart rather than trying to impress, especially if anything they say could be perceived as a bit risky.
Know your CV
Again, this sounds far too obvious, but it is extremely important to remember that you CV was the key that unlocked the interview. You must expect to discuss it in more detail in an interview, so make sure that you know it like the back of your hands and can expand on any of the experiences that you have listed.
In my personal experience, university dissertations are often a stumbling block in interviews. If you have mentioned your dissertation on your CV, please be ready to talk about it in more detail and consider how it may be relevant to the role that you are applying for.
I have sat through countless interviews where I asked about a fascinating dissertation (e.g. the role of social media in building a personal brand in elite sports (an aside, but how I wish I could have done something like that at university!), only to be met with an uncomfortable silence when trying to discuss the dissertation in more detail. It is very difficult to avoid the suspicion that, just perhaps, you didn’t actually write the dissertation if you cannot bring it to life in an interview. This then raises question marks about your entire CV.
This is probably my biggest single source of disappointment when an interview doesn’t go well. I see some amazing CVs and really look forward to chatting about the impressive achievements that are listed, but then feel very frustrated when I sense that they are largely fabricated.
Show interest in the company
It is always impressive to see that a potential recruit has spent time researching the agency and has some extremely pertinent questions.
This is not about massaging our egos, but showing that you have really considered whether the agency is the right place for you to build a career. As I mentioned, the interview is a two way process and we need to sell the agency to you as much as you need to show that you are right person for the role. It is hard to do this if you clearly know nothing about us and what we do.
You do not need to know everything about us, but should be able to show some knowledge of what we do and, ideally, pick out a few traits that attracted you to the role / agency. Do you want a job or do you want a job at Browser Media? I know which is the more interesting to us and this may well be what sets you apart from an equally qualified interviewee.
Knowledge of the agency can / should be extended to some research into the individual who is conducting the interview. I am not a vain person but will admit that it is disarming to be asked questions about yourself and it is an easy way to strike up a conversation. This does not need to take very long – have a look at your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and think of three questions that you could ask.
Above all else, ask questions. To me, questions show a genuine interest and desire to really understand something. That is critical in the interview process and I am usually nervous if a candidate does not have any questions. Don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions – if the interviewer does not welcome them, it may well be a sign that it is not the agency for you.
Call me old-school, but I cannot deny that I find it very odd to chat to someone who never looks me in the eye. It creates a barrier that I find very difficult to overcome and it makes it really difficult to get to know you.
For some roles, this may not be a show stopper. E.g. if you are applying for a job which is based at home and all communication is via email, then comfort / confidence when meeting people is less relevant. For agency folk, I believe it presents a real problem as we are in the services industry and I want to be confident that our account teams will look clients in the eye when discussing the performance of their marketing campaigns
I appreciate that this does not always come easily to everyone, but practice if it is something that you struggle with. It really may make all the difference.
Don’t be nervous
This is obviously much easier said than done and a few pre-match nerves is natural, but a good interview should be a really enjoyable experience and you should feel confident walking in to the room.
There is a responsibility on the interviewer to put you at ease and help dispel any nerves, but remember that they are probably slightly nervous too. Personally speaking, I always feel a few butterflies before an interview as I am always desperate to avoid an uncomfortable meeting and am conscious that I need to sell you the role as much as you want to convince me that you are the right person for the job. It is like a first date – nerves can be inevitable but there really isn’t anything to be worried about and you should look forward to it. It is a chance to shine and find out more about the role and the organisation.
Early ice breakers always help, but you should just take a deep breath, smile and enjoy the chat. Never be afraid to ask questions and ask for clarification if you do not understand the question. Remember that you are in the driving seat as much as the interviewer.
In most cases, an interview will be for a particular role. You should naturally make sure that you really understand the nature of the role, but I am sure that we are not alone in recruiting for a role but hoping that the successful candidate will go on to develop and enjoy a successful career. Whilst we may be recruiting for an account executive, we are really hoping to find account managers / directors of the future.
Whilst too much ambition and demands about when you will be promoted to managing director is likely to be a turn off, it is really good to see ambition from an interviewee. Don’t be afraid of talking about the future and asking how the agency will support you in your career development. This shows real intent to be part of a success story and this is attractive to most interviewers. The success of any agency depends on its team, so we will always be looking for people who want to be successful in their own right as that will be beneficial to us all. Arrogance, however, should be avoided – humility is more endearing and demonstrates that you are likely to be a great team player.
I have focused mainly on the interview itself, but you should not forget that the whole recruitment process spans much more than a physical chat. Your communication before and after meeting up can make or break your application and I would encourage you to think carefully about how you present yourself at all times. Communication is a critical skill in any client facing role and I will always read emails and consider how I would feel if I was a client receiving those emails from my agency.
Some of the pitfalls are obvious, e.g. typos / grammar errors, which create a poor first impression and suggest a lack of attention to detail, but it is sometimes the emails that you don’t send that can do the damage. If you have been asked to prepare a presentation for a second round interview, but are not 100% clear on the brief, please be sure to explain where you are struggling with brief and seek clarification. This indicates that you have considered the task carefully but need some aspect confirmed. Not only does this show that you are treating the task with respect, but it shows that you not scared to challenge the brief and have the confidence to ask important questions. Again, this is a key skill in a marketing agency role, so helps build the case that you are the right person for the job.
Another area where I have been frustrated by a lack of communication is responding to emails. I always make sure that I provide comprehensive feedback to individuals who are not successful with a job application. I think that this is the very least that we can do, as we appreciate any time and effort that is put in to the process, and it is right that we are transparent about our reasoning. I remember one particular example where I spent over an hour giving really detailed feedback to an individual whose CV had impressed / excited me but was then followed up by possibly the worst interview that I have ever been involved with. It was really frustrating as I felt that the individual had so much more to offer but fell short in pretty much every area that you could possibly fall short. I was sad for us and sad for the individual, so spent a long time outlining where I felt he needed to polish his interview skills. I appreciate that a no may not have been the news that they wanted to hear, but a total radio silence following my feedback was frustrating. On that particular occasion, I actually saw the same individual reapply for the same job six months later. Needless to say that the application was politely turned down.
Communication skills are important for all jobs, but especially so in a marketing services agency, so please pause for thought before pressing the send button and make sure that every aspect of your communication is impressive.
Congratulations – we would love to offer you the job!
So there you have it – my personal thoughts after a recent spell of interviews. There is no secret to interviewing and I hope that the points above encourage you to be yourself and look forward to meeting potential colleagues. As I say, this is really what we want to see. The real you.