Want a Job in Creative? Do These 7 Things
Let's be clear: The job interview process is rarely fun. It can be nerve-wracking, drawn out and just plain exhausting. Perhaps even more so in creative fields where you've got to show the interviewer exactly what makes you that special snowflake.
As a managing editor, I'm at the frontline for hiring new creative talent for our team. I conduct phone interviews, grade editorial tests, assess candidates in face-to-face sessions, and then prep the rest of our editorial team for their meetings with candidates.
In other words, I'm the guard dog you have to get past in order to be considered by anyone else. And while I don't make it easy, I also don't set anyone up to fail.
And since I'm currently going through a hiring process again for a new member for our creative team, I thought I'd share a few pointers. Who knows, maybe a clever candidate will do his or her research about Target Marketing, will find this post, and knock an interview out of the park. I challenge them.
1. Résumés Should Never Go the Faulkner Route: All right, yes, I was an English major, and I'm being a smart ass. What do I mean? Résumés should be tightly written and get to the point (the exact opposite of William Faulkner). When working on yours, channel your inner Hemmingway — without the issues — and keep it from wandering. I've been a publishing professional for almost 12 years, and my résumé fits on 1 page ... so if you graduated in 2013, your résumé should not be 2-3 pages, I'm sorry.
Another résumé tip? Nix listing all those years you spent working at the mall; Red Lobster; Dollar Tree; etc. I'm sure you learned important customer service skills, but if you're fresh out of school, showcase your internships, on-campus jobs (Were you a writing tutor? Awesome!) or perhaps a major capstone project that is relevant to the job you're applying to. Otherwise, I'm sorry, I simply do not care.
2. Portfolio Sites Are Dreamy: You know what I love better than fresh baked cookies or a crisp gin and tonic? Well-designed portfolio sites whose links have been included on the resume and in the cover letter. It's almost luxurious being able to click a link and peruse a selection of articles, blog posts and videos. No googling, no hunting around to see if I'm looking up the right person's content ... ahhh. It's like being on a beach with a tropical drink in hand. Well, not really ... but it's appreciated and again, makes you look like a professional and pulled-together candidate.
3. Don't Take a Phone Interview in a Crowded Arby's: Okay, so maybe the person I spoke to wasn't in an Arby's per se, but three minutes into the conversation I had to ask them to go some place quieter because the background noise was horribly distracting.
Now, chances are you might be taking a phone interview during the work day, which presents its own challenges, but be smart. Sit in your car, find a quiet park nearby, or if it's a really important call to take, think about maybe staying home. Don't be the dude bogarting one of your current job's conference rooms to take the call ... that's just tacky.
4. Do Not Be 20 Minutes Early, Do Not Be 5 Minutes Late: This is a bit of a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation. If you show up super early (I prefer folks to arrive no sooner than 10 minutes), then you throw me off because I'm not prepared for you. If you're late, I'm irritated. That simple. I know traffic can be a bear, or you're not familiar with where the office is. Leave early to beat traffic, and simply figure out where the office is. If you do arrive early, find a place to cool your heels for a few minutes.
Interestingly enough, 100 percent of my female candidates in the past two years have brought a pen, whereas only 67 percent of male candidates have brought one. People, it's not hard. And by not having to ask to borrow a pen, you show me you're prepared. (Because if you can't remember to bring a pen to an interview, what would you be forgetting once you're on the job?)
6. Laugh at my Jokes: This isn't to feed my ego, but instead allows me to judge if you're going to be a fit for our team. We're a fun bunch that enjoys having a good time while working hard. Maybe our senses of humor are a bit weird, but it works for us. So if I'm funny to you, laugh. It's okay. And if you think I'm a total weirdo, then okay, maybe you're not the fit for us (and that's all right).
7. Just Relax: Seriously. If you are tense, you will possibly make the interviewer tense. And I am not a fan of that, especially when I'm taking time out of my already busy day to conduct an interview. If you're relaxed and confident, then everyone else in the room is, too. And it means I'm not going back to my desk with a tension headache and a not-so-positive impression of you.
That's it. I know this all seems common sense, but after being the lead editorial interviewer for two different jobs over the past nine years, you would be amazed (or maybe not so much) at what I've seen.
If you're already a pro at the seven tips above, then let me just remind you of this: Be yourself, your very best self. Don't be someone else ... because if that's the thing that gets you hired, and then you end up being someone else once in the job, it's not going to be good. For example, if you despise the "corporate" world, don't apply for a job at a typical corporate office. Trust me, a paycheck does not suddenly make you stop hating "the man."
Disclaimer: I am NOT an HR professional, but I know what I like, I know what kind of person I want on my creative team, and I tell it like it is.