Interviews for a creative position are usually much different than for any other type of job. Wearing a suit is not a good idea. Discussing your love of Swedish cinema with the creative director is not out of the realm of possibility. However, don't let the relaxed attitude fool you into thinking that anything goes because it's still a job interview. You're still being evaluated even if it feels more like a cocktail party.
Creatives bristle at rules, so consider these suggestions to help you get a better job. There are plenty of articles on the obvious things like being on time and sending thank-you notes, so I'm only listing a few that are a result of recent trends I've noticed.
1. Bring your portfolio. I've had many creative people walk in empty handed and tell me that their work is online. Or they meet the Creative Director in a conference room and tell her the same thing. This trend started with the advent of online portfolios. But it's better to bring a laptop or an iPad and present your work to whomever asks to see it. If you really want to be buttoned up, bring a printed version as a back up. It doesn't have to be expensive; just print color copies and bind it.
If it's a second round of interviews, you can feel free to ask the recruiter if he or she wants you to bring your portfolio. But for the first one, you're a creative, so it's expected that you bring a portfolio.
2. Bring your resume. I know, pretty old school, but in a competitive market it's a nice touch that will be noticed and appreciated. If you don't bring it, it could be considered as a strike against you, especially by the HR person. Even for a creative.
3. Dress as you would on a first date (during the day). If you live in T-shirts and jeans, that is usually okay for a creative department, but for an interview (or a first date), you want to be the best version of yourself. So wear your good jeans (or regular pants or a skirt) and a respectable T-shirt. A jacket would be a nice touch. Obviously, as you become more senior, it's appropriate to step it up a bit. But creatives do have more leeway in expressing their own sense of style.
4. When you're corresponding with the recruiter or assistant, be polite and professional. We're all in a hurry, but be careful about rushing too much while scheduling or communicating with an assistant or the recruiter. I once received an email from a recent grad who wrote as if he were texting me, with the “u” for "you" kind of thing. It was his initial contact with me and it didn't give a good impression.
5. Prepare answers for a range of possible questions. There could be the uninspired questions like, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" or "What are your weaknesses?" Even though these questions come from an ancient HR script, they are still used more often than you might think. A more creative question to be prepared for might be, "What's your favorite campaign running now and why?" or, "What project would you do if money were no object?"
If the Creative Director you're interviewing with looks more like a bike messenger than a Director, or you've tweeted a few times with him or her on Twitter, he or she is still an important person. You're in a job interview, not at a cocktail party. Be respectful, engaging, listen well, and ask thoughtful questions. In fact, these are good suggestions for cocktail parties, too.
Anne Hubben believes the only thing worse than looking for a job you want is looking for a job you don't want. Anne is a career coach and recruiter for creative talent. She has been recruiting creatives in the design and advertising industry for 15 years and coaching them internationally for 4 years. She can be found at AnneHubben.com where she offers free resources and creative career tips. Say hello on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+
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