Acing Your Interview
Months of sending out resumes, waiting for responses, struggling through pre-screen interviews has finally paid off—you’ve landed an interview. So how do you go about acing your interview? Now learn how to master interviewing techniques to help you land your next dream job!
It’s Show Time
Job interviews allow you the opportunity to display your attributes, talents, and enthusiasm for one purpose: to get a job. This is your chance to prove to the hiring manager that you’re the right person for the job. Interviews in the creative world consist of two parts: the standard question-and-answer section and a time devoted to looking at your samples.
During the question and answer portion of an interview, employers are looking for consistency, steadiness, and logic behind the moves you’ve made during your career. They are also analyzing your ability to take on the challenges of your new position. Were the career moves that you made logical? Is there a pattern behind your job titles and career history? If you’ve hopped around from job to job, this is your golden opportunity to explain your motivation and influences behind your decisions.
Just when you’re starting to get comfortable during an interview, the hiring manager might spring some behavioral interview questions on you. Behavioral interview questions typically begin with “Tell me about a time when.” The hiring manager might then ask you about times when you led a team and things didn’t turn out like you expected, or times when you had a disagreement with your manager. Don’t panic! These questions mea- sure your responses and reactions to situations that most likely occurred during your previous jobs and could very likely happen again. A strong response to these questions includes three components: the original intention of the project, your exact contributions, and the outcome of the situation or conflict.
Prepare in advance for these types of questions. Impromptu trips down memory lane can be difficult–so flex those muscles in advance of your interview. If you’re new to the industry or hitting the circuit after a sabbatical, drawing upon personal rather than business examples is perfectly acceptable and appropriate.
If you’re interviewing all over town, it can be easy to go on autopilot during the question-and-answer portion of your interview. Remember to keep things fresh by varying your responses to questions that you’ve answered a million times. Believe me, your boredom will be apparent to the hiring manager. You also need to wake up and remember to ask your fair share of questions, too! Ask the hiring manager to explain the growth plan for this role and the overall room for advancement within the organization. Ask your interviewer to explain what happens during a typical day and to describe the company’s culture. You want to be sure that your next job will offer you not only tangible benefits, but also lifestyle enhancements– otherwise you’ll end up right back where you started from!
Finally, always speak positively about your former job. Resist the urge to bash your former boss even if it requires sitting on your hands or bit- ing your tongue. Hiring managers will inevitably ask you why you left your last position and this question can get a little hairy. One possible answer is that you’ve left to “pursue other opportunities.” How you speak about your former employer is a direct reflection of what you might end up say- ing about your new job. Be positive in every element when discussing your past jobs.
Strutting Your Stuff
Art directors, creative directors, graphic designers, and copywriters have one thing in common: we all have to show samples of our work during interviews. Always remember to be confident during portfolio reviews and never criticize your work. Instead, focus on answering the following questions during your portfolio review:
- How many other people worked with you on the project?
- What was your role?
- What programs did you use?
- What success did the piece bring to the client?
Strong portfolios display your work in a variety of stages: from initial concepts through final product. If you are just starting out on in the industry, a great way to enhance your portfolio is to create pieces for companies as if you were their very own hired designer and to also include a healthy sampling of school projects. If you’ve been working for a while, use all the research you did on the company you’re interviewing with to help you pare down your samples. Make sure your samples are targeted specifically to the type of opportunity you’re going after, but do include more experimental pieces that illustrate your personality and individuality!
It’s a Wrap!
As the interview reaches its end, share your enthusiasm for both your career and your feelings about this new job. Flatter your hiring manager with your excitement about the company’s initiatives and long-term goals. Help them believe that you want this job more than anything–or anyone. The last words out of your mouth, aside from “Thank you,” should be, “I am very interested in this opportunity.”
When the interview wraps up, remember to ask the hiring manager two things: how she’d prefer you to follow-up and what the next steps are in the hiring process–and always remember to request a business card from each individual you meet with. This will help you in your follow-up activities. Immediately after your interview, mail a traditional pen-and-paper thank-you note to each individual you met. Just like calling the next day after a date, sending a real bona fide thank you note will make a great impression. By following these tips and just being yourself, you’ll easily prove who the best candidate for the job is: you!