When you’re looking for a job or freelance gig, everybody wants to get past the gatekeeper and in front of the actual hiring manager.
I’ve been the gatekeeper for many years and have noticed some commonly made mistakes that either nudge or launch them straight towards the “dinged” pile. Having a strong portfolio is obviously very important, but not the only factor that’s taken into consideration. Here’s a list of 10 things to watch out for when applying and interviewing for a job.
1 – Please, I beg of you, spell the word “stationery” correctly. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years simply because of the slew of misspellings. Someone once told me a very easy way to remember that it is ER, not AR: think of the word PAPER. Stationery is paper which is spelled ER. So is “stationery.”
2 – Check your resume and portfolio for typos. You hear it all the time, in school, from recruiters, your subconscious, but still, they run amuck in many of the resumes that I receive. Sure, spell check is great, but it misses things, so make sure you’ve read through it and if you’re immune to typos, then have your nitpicky friend read through it. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been in the business either. I see it at all levels.
3 – Please don’t use “texting” shortcuts in your emails. I’ve had people say “u” instead of “you”. It’s fine with your friends, but if you’re emailing a recruiter or someone who is considering you for employment, please don’t use those shortcuts. It comes across as lazy and disrespectful.
4 – Don’t overdo casual. Yes, it’s pretty amazing that we can dress casually in advertising and the creative industry, but for your first interview, put a little effort in to it. Wear your nice jeans, not the ones you just painted your apartment in. When in doubt, wear pants other than jeans.
5 – Bring a copy of your resume to the interview. Even though it’s no longer necessary to put your resume on fancy paper like the old days, just print a copy out and bring it with you for each person that you’re meeting. They will appreciate this small detail.
6 – Bring a printed portfolio to an interview. Even if you have a website, bring a printed portfolio as a back up in case you meet people in a conference room where there is no computer. Again, it’s a small detail that people will notice and appreciate.
7 – If you’ve been around for a few years, update your portfolio when you bring it. If you bring in the portfolio that you used in the 90s, it’s going to look dated. I know you spent a lot of money putting it together, but spend a little more and update it to be more streamlined and portable.
8 – Practice presenting your portfolio ahead of time. Even if you have descriptions on each piece, I want you to tell me about the work. I’m looking for enthusiasm, articulate communication, confidence and presence. Are you talking at me or engaging with me? Do you care about what you do? Do you look me in the eye?
9 – Don’t show a piece and say that you don’t like it. I’ve had people do that more times than I care to count, and I always wonder why they’re showing it to me. If you don’t like it, keep it out of the book.
10 – Don’t be cagey about salary. I just read an article by a recruiter who said to avoid answering the salary question in an interview. I completely disagree with this advice (unless your headhunter has said that he or she will handle the salary negotiations, and then tell them that). When I’m interviewing someone and ask what he or she is looking for salary wise, I’m not playing a game. I want to make sure that we’re not wasting everybody’s time with 2 completely different salary ranges. I appreciate the people that are direct about what they’re making now and what they’d like to make. Most of the internal recruiters that I know want the best for the candidate. Why would we want to lowball someone and then see them unhappy in 6 months because they’re underpaid? Yes, we have budgets and need to work within those confines, but we know you work hard and we want you to be fairly compensated. That said, it’s important to talk with someone you trust prior to the interview and make sure you can speak articulately about compensation. Often we get tongue-tied talking about money and it’s a good idea to practice.
These are my top 10 ways to avoid getting dinged as a candidate. If they all seem obvious to you, and your portfolio is strong, then nice work, you’re undoubtedly getting past the recruiter and in front of the creative director.