Now being on the other end of the interview process, I’ve learned that interviews are just a conversation where both parties are aiming to build a relationship in a short period of time.
It’s not easy, however, to stand out and have a productive conversation without thoughtful preparation. These tips will help you walk into your next interview confident in your story and point of view to secure that future career.
Do your research
Think of the acronym PRESS.
Press: Follow relevant trade publications and media pertaining to the industry, and other verticals you are interested in. Being up-to-date on recent news will allow you to have insightful conversations during the interview.
Recent work: Familiarize yourself with the agency’s recent and historic work, taking special note of any awards won. Be sure to understand the type of work the agency does and take stock of what you connect with and why. Having a point of view is extremely important.
Employees: Do your homework on everyone you are meeting with in your interview. Research the work they have done, how long they’ve been with the agency and their growth path. It’s helpful to also research other employees at the agency with the title you are seeking.
Social: Glance through the agency’s social profiles to see how they portray themselves online. This is where you can get a better sense of agency culture, interesting initiatives/programs and even how employees dress in the office.
Story: Every agency has a rich history, vision or mission that can be found in various articles, recorded panel talks or on their website, so spend time pinpointing what differentiates them. It’s important you connect with a agency’s values and foundations.
Know how to sell yourself
During the interview, you may be asked to describe yourself (the classic elevator pitch). Practice articulating a well-crafted, easily recited story out loud.
Ask yourself questions to help form your pitch. To show what drives and motivates you, ask yourself about which accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction. Sharing your passions with your interviewer will help establish a personal connection. To uncover those passions, ask yourself what you would do for a living if money wasn’t part of the equation. And to exhibit what makes you unique, ask yourself what words you would use to describe yourself. Try to focus on strengths and traits that make you unique rather than learned behaviors. Brave and curious are traits; hardworking and organized are behaviors.
Now pull it all together. How do your motivations, passions and character strengths form your personal brand and contribute to achieving your goals personally and professionally?
While interviewing, you can expect to be asked open-ended questions designed to understand your behaviors and level of self-awareness. Here are example questions you can practice with.
To reveal your passion and curiosity for your work and the industry:
- Tell me about something you’ve done, read or seen outside of work that you thought was really interesting.
- Describe a [design, technology or client] problem you solved in a unique way.
To evaluate your effectiveness collaborating with other people:
- Tell me about your favorite experience working on a team. What was your role, and how did you help the team work effectively together?
- Describe a supervisor or peer that you loved working with and what it was about their approach that made it a great relationship.
To showcase your drive and creativity when facing new challenges:
- Share a situation where you were asked to do something that you had never done before.
- Tell me about an obstacle you’ve run into that you had to try different approaches to solve.
Your problem-solving skills and thought process are also likely to come up. For past projects, be prepared to confidently and efficiently talk through these items in detail:
- The situation at hand and the parameters you were working within.
- Your process in solving the problem.
- How you managed any obstacles.
- What you learned from the experience.
Successful interviews will feel like natural two-way conversations. To show you have an interest in your interviewer and the position, ask thoughtful questions that progress the conversation. The interview is your opportunity to determine if the agency aligns with your beliefs and values, so ask what’s really on your mind.
Here are some thought starters:
- What are the most important attributes that make someone successful here?
- How has working here contributed to your growth?
- What is one thing that surprised you once you started working here?
- What are three words that describe what it’s like to work here?
Most of us have probably felt the interview nerves that change normal sentences into a jumbled mess. By learning about the company beyond the surface, practicing speaking about your strengths and experiences and preparing insightful questions, you’ll be ready to ace that first interview.