Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Repost: 5 First Round Interview Tips...

Try to look less like an illustration than this guy. Via country_boy_shane. Usual rules apply.

Hi gang. I wouldn't usually repost bits and bobs, but as it is the season, I thought you should check out this old 'un on first round interviews:

We're right in the thick of advertising interview season. By now, first round acceptance emails and letters will be winging their way to those lucky few.

And it suddenly hits you; shit, this is all a bit real.

Well, as someone who's had more than a few grad interviews, I thought i'd share a few first round interview tips. Read on, Macduff:

1) It's likely to be pretty formulaic.

For all of the challenging questions you received in the grad application form, most of the real life interviews will follow a set routine. They sort of have to; you've still got hundreds of grads at this stage, and you need to have something straightforward to judge them on. How they usually go is to talk about you and your achievements/CV/answers in the first half, then talk about some ads (usually print), and what you think the message behind them is. There may be a few lateral thinking questions thrown in at the end (what product would you invent being a favourite), but many don't even do this. It depends on the mood of your interviewer/how engaged they are with you.

2) Good Cop, Bad Cop exists.

Now, normally, you'll be interviewed by a planner and an account handler. Sometimes these are in the same room, other times they are in separate rooms. Every now and then you might have two account handlers, or (rarely), a account handler and a HR person. Though the latter is fairly rare.

In the most conventional (planner/account man) situation, there will definitely be a good cop and bad cop. And, to be honest, usually the planner's the nice one, and the suit's the more tricky. (Of course, sometimes both are lovely). Why? Well, planners are interested in people who are lateral thinkers, and got into the job to find out about people. Don't be surprised if they just let you talk, then get excited, and you find yourself talking about something else entirely. Account handlers on the other hand - they want to make sure you can do the job, and will be looking for obvious reasons as to why and how you can do it. You're a raw material to both, but in the case of the latter, you're one they don't want to have to refine much.

3) You don't have to fill the silence.

I speak with real conviction on this point, because it's something I (still) struggle with. It's especially hard when speaking a lot and having a point of view about an intangible book or theory in University is positively encouraged. And, while there are rarely concrete 'right' answers in advertising, there are those which are nearer to right than wrong. You can easily go the other way if you talk too much. Feel free to ask questions too - let people talk, tell you what it's like to work at agency x or y. They won't mind.

If you find yourself talking, and wonder just what point you're making - it happens to all of us now and then - then shut up, or re-direct the conversation.

4) Know your ideas.

Most candidates won't know the difference between executional and campaign ideas. Most won't have a point of view which bears in mind why or how crap work comes to be made - a lot just like the ads on the telly. So know this stuff. Don't get me wrong, post-rationalising why an ad is a certain way isn't an exact science, but you should have an idea about just why an ad turned out a as it did.

Just don't do what I did, and slag off a very well known campaign, then get told 'you're not strategic'. Don't let your prejudices stop you getting through to the next round - christ, i'm a planner now, but just speaking my mind without thinking things through when I was a grad did for me. (You'll also end up working with those people whose ad you spoke about at some stage. It's sod's law).

5) Relax.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood had it right. Relax, don't open your mouth without thinking about what you've got to say. And, for God's sake, let your personality out. It's the only way you'll know for sure about whether (at this stage) you'll fit into an agency. Yes, it's just a first round interview, but if you can't be yourself/feel trapped, then the place probably isn't for you.

You'll just know this, I think. An interview situation is always artificial, and you may just not get on with your interviewer (Lord knows it happens - you're probably the 50th person who's made the same comment about the work). Despite this, you can usually tell whether you'd like working in a place - you can sometimes tell from the worried looks on the faces of the account execs hurrying around the agency.

Letting your personality has another advantage too - you may not think it, but I bet your interviewer is wondering what you'd be like to be stuck on a train with, or on a very boring conference call. Will you be someone who's interesting and interested, or will you be someone who bores the bejesus out of most people?

Best of luck to everyone going for their first rounders...


Ceyda Keceli said...

Does this mean they're already calling for interviews? :(
The deadlines for most of them are in November?!

Will said...

Hi PI - yes, most are in November, but I thought reposting this with enough time to spare might be helpful..

Ceyda Keceli said...

Thanks I thought I was late for a second! I really appreciate the energy you put into the blog!

Lee said...

Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. I'm doing practice GRE here: masteryourgre.com . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

Lucy said...

Can anyone recommend any books as a good introduction into advertising for those of us without much previous experience?


Anonymous said...

Hey! I just wanna know if you may know how the chances for grads from other countries are? I mean also because of the language, little mistakes when speaking or something like that. I can imagine one is out straight away if they see/hear you are not the "best" in communication. In general I would say I'm very good in speaking, but of course English is not my mother tongue and I know I just need an English environment to speak "perfect" English... Thx

Will said...

Hi Lucy - it depends on what you want to do, but this is the best, in my opinion:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Excellence-Advertising-Chartered-Institute-Marketing/dp/0750644796/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1289410533&sr=8-1 (get it second hand/not from Amazon).

If it's Planning you're interested in, check out 'Truth, Lies & Advertising'. If Creative, try 'Hey Whipple! Squeeze this!'.


I think it really depends on the accounts they have; it's often an advantage if you can speak more than one language at some of the bigger networked shops. In terms of the interview/the application, I'd just keep it as simple as possible, to avoid any misinterpretation. People aren't *that* harsh, in my experience.

Lucy said...

Thank you Will. Love this blog by the way, its been really handy with all my applications and getting to know the industry that bit better!

Anonymous said...

Hi guys. Thanks for all the tips and info..has been amazingly useful. I have a first round next week and have no idea what the format of an ad interview would be. Can you give me some indication of the type of Qs the account manager might asked, compared to that of a planner? Especially if I want to go into planning, is the account manager going to ask competency type Qs regarding communication, teamwork etc or something completely different? Thanks so much!

FD. said...

these tips were very helpful. I was just invited for a first round with he JWT for their grad scheme in london. I am in New York, so it will be a video interview from the NY office to London.
Any tips on video interviews? Or anything about the jwt format?

thank you so much, this blog is invaluably helpful!!

Jenny said...

Just wondering if you had any tips about first round interviews where you have 2 separate interviews - will you be asked the same questions in each? Is it ok to repeat some examples/ideas in each?
P.S This blog is so useful, thank you!

Will said...

Hi guys. I have neglected AdGrads a bit in the last few days - I will write a post encompassing these questions in the next few days. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Will,

Thanks so much for all the great advice- it's been really helpful. I have a second round interview coming up on Friday, where I'm giving a 3 minute presentation, and then there'll be a day full of workshops etc. Pretty daunting stuff.

Any advice?

Will said...

Hi last anon.

Basically, be yourself - but take great care to be measured in your answers without being silent.

If you talk too much, it'll look like you're trying to boss the group, but you need to be seen to interject as you go.

Barring that - turn up on time, look sharp, smile, and be honest.

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