Whether you have recently decided you want to get into digital marketing or have been in the industry for years, the following advice will apply. In fact, it will apply to just about any job interview.
Hold up. Why even listen to this advice? Who are we?
As an agency with almost 15 years of history, we have done A LOT of interviews. The following advice is based on what makes a resume stand out to us, what makes a candidate stand out from other candidates, and what we look for in our team members. This isn’t a guarantee this will work at any agency, though my guess is if executed well, 80% of you would at least get an interview.
We’ll break this into two sections:
Getting the Interview
Landing the Job
Step 1: Getting the Interview
Make your resume stand out
Agencies receive a huge amount of resumes. It’s too many for us to actually read through. You need to give some extra effort to make sure your resume stands out from the rest and gets the attention of the hiring manager.
As an agency named “Odd Dog”, I can tell you that anyone who applies and also sends in a resume for their dog gets passed around the office via Slack.
Research the company you’re applying for and find a way to appeal to the PEOPLE who are hiring. It’ll be different based on the company and your unique style.
Don’t have all the experience or knowledge they are looking for? Use Google and YouTube to study the fields you lack. Even take a short class on Skillshare or Udemy. This will at the minimum give you talking points and the ability to speak with confidence about the subject matter. One of our Odd Dogs noticed many jobs within the marketing industry were looking for knowledge of HTML and CSS, but he didn’t have any. Can you guess what he did to bolster himself? He studied HTML and CSS to better market himself for these positions.
*Bonus – Think about the knowledge you already have in the marketing world. How can you apply that to market yourself? For example, if they are asking to see your knowledge of SEO, what keywords do you have on your resume?
Write a custom cover letter
Cover letters aren’t dead, they’re actually more important than ever. They’re a chance for you to show you are more interested in the job than the 100s of people who clicked “submit resume” on LinkedIn.
Research the company, READ THE WEBSITE, browse the blog, check out their social media, look up the hiring managers on LinkedIn…THEN write your cover letter. Tell them why you’re interested in the role, and why you are a great candidate. Use the opportunity to let them get to know you a small bit.
Pro tip: Pay special attention to their “values” if they have them published. If not, make that a question if you get the interview.
Submitting Your Resume
If they have a way in which they have asked for the resume to be submitted, do that first.
Then: Try to submit your resume another way to help you stand out. Be careful, you want to come across as being excited about the opportunity and professional… Not annoying.
Find the LinkedIn of the hiring manager and send them a message that you applied and are excited about the opportunity. This leverages a professional, business-oriented social network with a message that is short, to the point, and conveys your enthusiasm for the role.
Can’t find them on LinkedIn? See if you can find their email and send a short email with the same message.
Better yet, send a handwritten note via snail mail along with a personal anecdote of some sort. A photo of your dog, mention a spelling error on their website, a personal story that relates to something you saw on their website, etc.
Do not look them up on Facebook, or Instagram, tweet at them, call them, or randomly show up at the office. *cringe!
I think you get the point by now. Find a way to stand out in a professional way that helps them get to know you as a person and a professional.
Again, DO NOT randomly show up in person
I had a candidate do this once and it was super awkward. The candidate showed up with their resume in hand and just started talking. I wanted to be polite, but the timing was terrible and I had pressing items to be paying attention to at the moment. This person was never called back.
Side note: If you ever cold-call someone, ALWAYS ask the question “Is this a good time?” upfront and allow them the chance to say no. I don’t care what smooth-talking sales seminar you attended that says otherwise, starting a conversation off by trapping someone against their will is not a successful relationship-building strategy.
There have been cases where we posted jobs because we needed the help, then were slow to follow up with people because we were so slammed trying to do all the work that we need help doing. It can be a vicious cycle.
If you feel the desire to follow up, that’s totally fine. Just be sure to do it with the respect that they are probably hiring because they are extremely busy. You want to be the source of help and peace of mind, not a nag that is demanding their attention.
My advice here is to use some humor to lighten the touch. Something like:
While I don’t want to come across as overly excited about the job you posted and I applied for, I am. I thought I’d follow up to see if you had a chance to review my resume as I would love nothing more than the opportunity to support your team and make your lives easier.
If you have no recollection of who I am, here are some quick links for you:
If you don’t mind, I’ll keep checking in every couple of weeks or so. Until then, I’ll just keep waiting over here like:
Step 2: Landing the Job
You successfully go through the sea of resumes and landed an interview. Things are looking good! Now you’re past the “paper” part of the process and into the “face-to-face”.
Research the company and match the vibe
Know who you are interviewing for. Deep dive into the company’s website, social channels, and LinkedIn profiles even more than you did for your cover letter. Learn about its values and the tone it sets. Informational interviews/calls with current employees are also great ways to do this! Just remember those boundaries from part one.
Are they fun? Serious? Numbers-oriented? Heavy on the creative? When you understand more about the company and culture, you can match that tone and show up to your interview already fitting right in! This doesn’t mean you cannot be yourself, far from it! It means you can show up and really speak to how your unique self can fit right in with the company you are interviewing for.
Research the People
It’s okay to LinkedIn stalk the people who you will be interviewing with. See if you have any contacts in common, where they went to school, types of roles they have held, posts they have published lately, etc.
You will need to walk a fine line in how you use this information. You don’t want to say too much and sound like a stalker. A question like: “I saw on LinkedIn that you worked for ACME company before this role. How do you feel your experience at ACME has helped you to succeed at this company?” Shows an appropriate level of research and application to the company/role at hand. (vs. I saw on Facebook that you went to the lavender festival with your ex and her family. Was that awkward ?)
Prepare some standard answers
At an interview, you should of course be expected to be asked questions. Make sure you have some well-thought-out answers at the ready. You should always know your answers to the following:
When you would be able to start? (HINT: Always give your existing employer 2-weeks notice if possible. It shows your new employer that you would show them the same respect.)
How long you would want to consider an offer?
Any specific requests or accommodations?
Maybe you have upcoming travel plans you would want to make them aware of and approve upfront.
Along with some standard interview questions that can be repurposed into stories if they aren’t specifically asked:
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
What do you feel are your strengths/weaknesses?
How have you gone above and beyond in a previous role?
Prepare some questions of your own
The best candidates are the ones that ask the best questions. To really set yourself apart, ask questions that help you understand the motivation & strategy around where the company is headed and how you can help support this vision. Remember, you are interviewing them as well!
What key goals are you trying to accomplish as a company?
How can this role best support your goals?
What are the top traits/skills for this role that you feel are critical to success?
What is the biggest pain point you are currently trying to solve?
What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
What does success look like for this role?
What is the biggest pain point you are looking to solve with this hire?
The secret to success here is asking questions that get them to tell you what they want to hear in the interview. It’s a classic sales tactic: Ask them what they want, LISTEN, then say “Yes, I can deliver that”.
Identify what the company wants
After a couple of years in my first job, I asked my boss what it was in my interview that gave him the confidence to hire me. I’ll never forget his response: “You know, you came in here talking about the big-picture ideas and creativity you can add to the role. All of which you currently deliver on and are highly valuable. But to be honest, what I really wanted to hear at the time was that you would work hard and do all the stuff I needed done but didn’t want to do myself.”
I didn’t do a good job of asking what they needed, instead, I interviewed for what I wanted. Ideally, there is a match of company needs & candidate wants, but business isn’t always ideal. The person who gets hired is the one who is more than willing to do what the company needs.
Listen and DO NOT Interrupt
In the actual interview, do as much listening as you can. If you are listening, you are learning, which you can then apply when it’s your turn to speak. When you do speak, wait until the other person has finished talking. This sounds small, but it’s a sign of how respectful you will be when you communicate with clients and co-workers.
This is a big step that almost 95% of applicants do not do. You can really set yourself apart with a simple thank you email or handwritten card. It shows an appreciation and respect for the time the company took to interview you. We had one applicant who taped a thank you card to our door the evening after the interview that we saw the next morning. Guess what, he got the job.
As a company, we want to know that you are as excited about joining the team as we are about adding you to it. Send that thank you email/note right away, don’t try to play it cool and wait 24-48 hours.
Waiting for a day or two after the interview can lead to the interviewer forgetting about you and what stood out to them. After all, when a company is hiring, you aren’t the only person they are interviewing. Stand out and break from the mold. Be sure to personalize the follow-up as well, it shows an additional level of care and that you aren’t just using a boilerplate.
You can also use the follow-up to add color to any topics you wish you did better on. (We all feel this way after an interview) We had a candidate follow up recently with an email that went a bit deeper on a specific question that was asked where the candidate didn’t feel their answer was adequate. They included a bit more color, along with a few links for further reading on the topic. This shows personal awareness, a desire to do well, attention to detail, independent research, and a commitment to get things right. It’s less about the specific answer, and more about the traits you exhibit when answering.
There you have it!
Your sure-fire way to interview and land the job at a marketing agency. Now, go get ‘em, tiger!
Want to work at Odd Dog? See if we are hiring!