How to Prepare Yourself for Today

Good news: The demand for advertising and marketing talent is rising for the second year in a row. Sixty-eight percent of industry executives polled by The Creative Group said their firms plan to add personnel in the next 12 months. That’s up 11 points from last year and 24 points from the 2003 forecast.

The demand for talent is due largely to increased confidence on the part of employers: Companies feel that the economy is showing sustained growth and, as a result, they want to find and secure the best talent before other firms do. If you’ve been itching to make a career move, the timing may be right—but only if you’re prepared. Updating your book and brushing up on your interview skills are excellent first steps.

Portfolio Tips
Your portfolio is essential to obtaining a new job. In fact, in a survey of advertising executives commissioned by The Creative Group, 63 percent said they consider it the most important factor when hiring creative associates.

Consider your book a key marketing piece: The samples you include and the manner in which they’re presented should persuade the person reviewing your portfolio to hire you. What outstanding projects have you worked on in the past few years? Most industry executives say they know if someone’s qualified for the position after viewing nine pieces. Place your best piece up front, and your second strongest sample at the end. Remove any outdated pieces and keep your book brief (no more than 15 items).

Advanced Interview Skills
You likely know the basics of interviewing, such as showing up on time and presenting yourself professionally. But sometimes even subtler behaviors distinguish you from a competitor. For example, do you listen well? It’s key to pay close attention to the person interviewing you. In general, good listeners give the speaker their full focus and avoid formulating a response until the person is finished talking. By actively listening, you may clue in to specific traits the employer seeks and be able to address them more readily, giving you an edge over other job candidates.

When it’s your turn to ask questions, make sure they’re relevant. Research the company so the hiring manager knows that you’re well-informed and serious about landing the job. Also, do your best to formulate open-ended queries: Instead of asking, "Do you see the line of products growing in the next year?" ask, "How do you see the line of products growing and how can this position contribute to its expansion?" Better yet, tell the interviewer how you think you could contribute to the product’s growth. He or she will be impressed with your initiative and knowledge of the company’s operations.

Along these same lines, it’s important to highlight your experience. What can you bring to the business, and how can your efforts save time and money? Be sure to discuss specifics, such as how a process you implemented at your last firm helped ensure a project was completed before deadline and under budget.

Be prepared for both multiple and group interviews. In the case of the former, it’s key that your message is consistent—but not scripted—because your interviewers will likely compare notes. For group interviews, you’ll want to establish a connection with each person in the room, addressing him or her by name. Even if someone keeps fairly quiet, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a decision-maker. It’s important not to ignore anyone present.

Regardless of the type of interview you have, send a personalized thank-you note to every person you meet. This added touch might be what helps them remember your name when narrowing the candidate list.

The turbulent job market of the past five years has presented many challenges for creatives, so it’s refreshing to see employment growth. By updating both your portfolio and interview skills, you’ll be ready to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.