Every day of your career is a job interview: A dozen(ish) points for every type of job interview.

Welcome to our second installment of “Things I wish someone had told me earlier in my career.” Today’s topic: Interviewing.

All of us, no matter what our employment status, are interviewing every single day of our careers. Especially now. Every day is an opportunity to demonstrate your value.

Below, a collection of points about interviews and introductions. Many I learned over the course of interviewing hundreds of people. However, most I’ve learned in my own everyday work in marketing: meetings, presentations, introductions, and all the other daily “job interviews.”

A dozen-ish things I wish someone had told me when I started interviewing:

1) Working around smart people makes YOU smarter, especially at the beginning of your career. (As I wrote in my book, “Aspire to be the dumbest person in the room.”) That’s really important.

2) Which company you work for matters less than which clients and which boss you work for. You can find brilliant bosses in crap companies, and vice versa, but earlier in your career, your boss will play a more significant role in the final quality of your work.

3) The questions you ask in the interview are often more important than the answers you give. Think ahead to topics specific points that will not only give you valuable insight into the company, but will also reveal your own discerning observations. (For example, don’t focus on “What’s your vacation plan?” Instead ask, “What’s your company’s culture of work/life balance?”)

4) Treat the assistant as respectfully as the bigwig. Not only is this common courtesy, but theres usually an instant line of communication between the two. 

5) Try not to limit yourself to one city or part of the country. If possible, go wherever the best job is at the start of your career. Then, after you’ve proven yourself, you’ll have earned far greater control over lifestyle choices for the long-term.

6) If your body of work or experience isn’t substantial enough to sell you yet, consider writing a couple of simple paragraphs about yourself. It could be anything: a remarkable experience, or something unusual that you’re really passionate about. Don’t get cutesy or “TMI”– rather, give people a more dimensional sense of what you offer.

7) For any materials– in an interview or otherwise– a quick bit of background or explanation can help convey the power of your thinking. In your resume (or portfolio), for any experience that’s not immediately obvious to the viewer, include a brief explanation such as an overview of the big-picture assignment, strategy, results, etc. Whatever will fill in the missing pieces.

8) Write very short cover letters, without rambling stories and requests for help. Craft a simple, clear resume. No wacky fonts. No goofy illustrations. Please.

9) Make sure your name, phone number, and email address are very clearly indicated on every single thing you send.

10) Avoid showing half-assed work to a potential employer. Better to show nothing at all.

11) You could be unemployed for six months, then get three offers in a week. It happens. You just never know. Your next job might be waiting just around the corner. And sometimes, the most talent people are the slowest to get a job. If youre one of them, have faith that if you keep dedicating yourself, your talent will get recognized. You need to find the right opportunity to blossom… or more specifically, that opportunity needs to find you.

12) Once you get past the initial stages and snag that golden interview, spend time getting to know the company’s past and present. Also research every person you’ll interview with, if at all possible, including their background, role, and hopefully get a sense their personality. In my own career, this simple tip has helped me enormously, because it develops immediate rapport in an interview.

13) When a prospective employer makes all sorts of promises, remember that your salary agreement is the only promise they cant flake out on.


8 Responses to “Every day of your career is a job interview: A dozen(ish) points for every type of job interview.”

  1. David Esrati Says:

    On sending resumes and cover letters: use PDF. Word won’t always display the same way. Also- do PDF right- have links to your e-mail, site etc. even former employers.
    Have a site. What- not a web person? Go to http://www.Wordpress.com and set one up- have your info there.
    On your portfolio- and resume- don’t name the files “portfolio” and “resume”- make them – Lee Clow’s resume. Of course if you are Lee Clow, you don’t have much on it- or need one :-)
    And if you wank to work in advertising, and don’t know who Lee Clow is- well, “you shouldn’t be working in advertising” (from Chiat/Day’s full page NYT ad congratulating him for entering the Ad Hall of Fame which is hanging on my wall).
    Als0- get used to rejection. It’s part of the ad business. Really.

  2. Brandi Clinch Says:

    Thanks Sally! Great tips. I did want to ask your opinion on the after the interview portion. As a student, I’ve heard (more than once) that in this economy, take any job in your field that comes your way, even if you’re lukewarm about the work the agency (or CD) does. Regardless of your own financial situation. What’s your view on taking offers in this economy?

  3. Sally Hogshead Says:

    David, very smart as always. Totally agree about the putting your work in PDF or other idiot-proof format. The market is too competitive to allow any sort of simple barrier slow someone from viewing your resume or work. Always think ahead to how you could make the whole online and introduction process more seamless.

    And Brandi, very good question. Right now, we all have to to take a job or assignment that we might not otherwise. I do. The point is to be very honest with yourself about your choices so that you can continue to build your experience and skills OUTSIDE of your job. If you’re in a job you loathe or with a company that’s not respected, minimize the damage to your resume (and your spirit) by investing in yourself with career-building projects: a blog, community leadership, Twitter, etc. Make sense?

  4. Brandi Clinch Says:

    Yeah, definitely makes sense. Take the money if you have to and keep up the good work on your own. Thanks!

  5. Jon P Says:

    Sally, it’s great to see you back in the blogging saddle again.

    Speaking of early on in your career—some people are lucky and land in a good place right off the bat. Most of us had to fight our way there. Do everything you can at the start to land in a good shop with visionary creative people. Take an unpaid internship, work in the mail room, whatever. If you start at so-so places thinking you’ll work your way up to the good shops, it may take you 10 years of struggling as it did for me! And by then, it’s hard not to be jaded.

    Out on the street with no job prospects? First thing you should do is build yourself a website with an easily-viewable portfolio, and a point of view about how you create value and solve problems with your work (in other words, it’s not about you, it’s about the people who pay you). Best two places I’ve found to build a great-looking site quickly without hiring web developers:

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