Elevator Pitch, Part 4: The Interview

Granted, you have more than 30-seconds to make an impression in an interview. In fact, if you’ve come this far, your work speaks for itself. Usually, agencies won’t call people in for interviews unless they really like the work they’ve seen.

Here are a few tips to help you through that chemistry test:
1. When someone is looking at your book, resist the urge to talk. No matter how uncomfortable the silence, don’t try to explain your work. It sounds Full Metal Jacket-ish, but when someone’s looking at your book, don’t speak unless spoken to. From the other side of the table, it’s kind of annoying to try to focus on work when your mind is constantly interrupted by comments like, “Yeah, my professors really liked that one.”
2. Rule of thumb: Ask more questions than you make statements. Ask about the agency. About why your interviewer took the job there. The best part and the worst part about the agency.
3. Listen. I can’t remember who said it (probably Stephen Covey), but the problem with most of us is that we aren’t really listening when the other person is talking. We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to say next. It’s even more complicated in an interview because we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to say next that makes us sound so smart they’ll hire us on the spot. Step back. And really try listening. Then answer as best you can. Keep in mind, they probably already like your work. So you’ve got that going for you.

2 thoughts on “Elevator Pitch, Part 4: The Interview

  1. During my last interview (at one of Chicago's biggest and oldest agencies), one of my interviewers (a senior creative) became uncomfortable when I asked – what I felt were basics – about what it was like to work there (#2 questions, essentially).

    Maybe he wasn't prepared for questions? Or wasn't comfortable letting his guard down, I'm not sure.

    I didn't get the job. My question is then, can you save an interview after the interviewer becomes defensive about answering questions?

    Thanks, as always, for an informative post.


  2. You shouldn't make the person feel like they're being interrogated, but asking questions and seeming genuinely interested in their story and their take on the agency is completely fair game. Honestly, if I asked a person, for example, what they liked about working at the agency, and they got weird about about it or uncomfortable, red flags would start going up all over the place.

    That said, if you get the vibe that the interviewer's not cool with the questions, just change the subject.

    And THAT said, make sure you do your homework before you go into the interview. Getting the interviewer's personal take on the agency is good, but you shouldn't have to ask them things like what clients they have, what awards they've won, etc.

    When I interview someone, it's usually very informal. I already know what I think about their book and usually at that point want to get a read on their personality to see if they'd be a good fit with the chemistry of the agency. But even if you find yourself in these situations, follow the same general guidelines as if you were in a very formal interview. I'm often surprised what people tell me in interviews–either griping about their former agency, telling me they really want to find a place where they don't have to work late or telling me they don't think the agency will be able to afford them. All things that commmon sense would tell you not to say in an interview. Just because your interviewer is friendly and all casual-like, doesn't change the fact that they're still interviewing you.


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