I love interviewing and talking to smart creative young people. One of the most enjoyable aspects of what I do is being able to offer someone their first job, to help them to grow and develop and set them on their career.
Of course it all starts with getting an interview. Whilst I would happily meet potential employees every day, in reality my time is short so I have to be very selective about who I see.
Over the last 30 years I have personally interviewed many thousands of people. Every interview is different but as you do more of them you start to realise what works and what doesn't, the approaches that people take that you like – and those that put you off. To help those just starting on their careers I thought it would be useful to try to set out some tips for getting that first interview – and how to handle it once you’ve secured a meeting. Again it is my view and other CEOs may react in very different ways.
So here are my 6 things you should think about if you want to take the first step into the creative industry.
1. Getting the interview requires differentiation
Our industry is all about helping our clients to be noticed, build their brand and get their message across in an intelligent and appropriate way. So it’s no surprise that getting your brand across in a short, sharp and succinct way for me is key . I don't respond at all to the standard 3 paragraph email with a CV attached. Those get deleted as they say to me ‘I’ve sent this to everybody’.
What I do respond to is someone who has clearly read our website, looked me up on LinkedIn and then put together a personal, short, friendly and intelligent note that projects their personality. These are usually no more than 3 or 4 sentences long – one was as brief as “I love BrandPie, fancy a coffee?”
Your CV will then get read. Make sure you personalise it. If you’ve done an internship already at another company put that at the top and don't hide it down the bottom. Think of your CV as an advert for you: the more creative and intelligent the text, the more engaged I’ll be.
2. The first impression is visual
So I have agreed to meet you. I am now observing what you do (or my assistant is). Did you confirm the day before? Are you clear about how to find us? What time did you arrive? Have I got and read your CV?
Being late is to be avoided at all costs. I have no sympathy for it and probably won't see you. So find the building a good 30-60 minutes ahead of time, then go for a coffee. Finish that, then arrive 10 mins before your interview and get settled.
Like most human beings I judge people first on what I see. This happens very fast – in less than a second. By then I have already formed a view as to whether you may or may not be of interest – well before you have said anything. So how you dress, how you present yourself and you project your personality is really important.
3. Small talk is best avoided
I am not one for small talk. Time is my currency, so use it well. Think hard about what comes out of your mouth first. It’s worth rehearsing in front of a mirror. What you say will set my expectations for the next 15-30 minutes. If it’s interesting I will probably stay for the whole 30 minutes. If it isn't you will probably find you only get 10 minutes and a polite “no thanks” the next day.
4. You and your brand narrative
Make sure you have your description of yourself – your personal brand narrative – well prepared . It should be no longer than 10 minutes. It should cover why you want to work at BrandPie, your strengths and your weaknesses. I am judging you on being able to deliver a simple, coherent story. I am evaluating how grounded, objective and honest you are. I am watching how confident, clear and intelligent you sound.
These scripts are hard to write. All BrandPie employees have to have them as they use them everyday with new clients and prospects, at networking events or even at a friend’s dinner party. Your overview and introduction to you is one of your most valuable possessions. It will evolve as you grow but a good one will last you a lifetime.
I will ask you some hard questions. I am not necessarily looking for a clever answer. I am looking for how you handle the question. Do you seek clarification if you don't understand what I am saying? Do you say, “I don't know” if you don't know the answer? Do you feel confident going silent whilst you think? Do you ask questions back? If you don't know the answer to a question (which in my mind is OK) say so and say, “let me think about it”. Then think about it and put your thoughts in your follow-up email.
6. The follow-up email
It is important to follow up, not least as it’s polite to thank me for the interview and my time. And if I’ve decided to offer you a job or I’m still thinking (I may, for example, want you to meet another partner in then business), then the follow-up allows you another chance to confirm the impression you made.
Again it should be short. Say thank you. Summarise your excitement. If you’ve said you’ll think about one of my questions, do that then put your thoughts in the email.
Once I have the follow-up I will get back to you with a yes or no.
I hope you or your kids find this helpful. I know how tough it is to get a job in our industry. To get on the ladder requires a great deal of preparation before anything else.