How Not to Get a Job in the
Creative Industry, Part 3: The Interview
JUSTIN GIGNAC / WNW Co-Founder
You've probably heard all of the advice there is on how to get a job in the creative industry. So I'm here to tell you what you need to do to NOT get a job. Everything you can do to completely blow it. This is based, in part, on what I've experienced and observed both in my years in Advertising and as the co-founder of Working Not Working. But primarily, the following advice, or the opposite of that advice, is coming directly from a bunch of Creative Directors and Recruiters on Working Not Working. They're the people you need to answer to if you want to get through the front door of companies like Wieden+Kennedy, Droga5, Nike, Facebook, Chiat, B-Reel, McCann, Butler Shine, and more. They told me very specifically what annoys them, what kind of work makes them groan, and what nixes applicants right away. They also addressed their pet peeves surrounding the interview process. I figured this will be helpful for all you students and up-and-comers to know. And if you're a senior creative making these mistakes, they'll be twice as glaring.
Some of this stuff at first glance seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many creatives fail to pass these simple tests. And you may be surprised if you reflect on your own outreach and interview habits after reading this post. The good news is that a lot of these issues have very simple solutions. So get on it.
Outside of emails and referrals, there is no known method of communication that any hirer gives a shit about. If you’re a student proactively reaching out to a hirer, don’t bother with gifts, phone calls, or a promotional mailer. They’re creepy, forward, and tacky, in that order. Gifts, phone calls, and promotional mailers have a combined 0% approval rating in our hirer survey. That should keep things simple when it comes to deciding your outreach method.
It’s amazing how many people don’t research where they’re going, who they’re talking to, what the work is. People want you going into an interview asking questions, “What is it like to work here? What was the thinking behind the work for that client? Which clients have the best creative opportunity?” Make it like you’re excited to work there. An interview should be a two-sided conversation.
Eagerness is good. Creepiness is bad. Recruiters don’t want you to friend them on Facebook and, to a lesser degree, don’t want you to follow them on Instagram or Twitter. A lot of people use social media similarly to how they use LinkedIn—as a business networking tool. But not everyone sees it that way. If someone is exclusively posting photos of their kids, homemade meals, and vacation time away from the office, they’re probably not using the platform to follow creatives. So be mindful.
These results are interesting because there seems to be a hierarchy to which platforms are used for personal goals rather than professional. Also, it’s nice to see that following a hirer out of the blue on WNW is only creepy to 5% of recruiters.
It turns out that you can’t be fashionably late to a job interview. And unless you’re applying for a job at your local news station, walking in 15 minutes late with a traffic and weather report isn’t showing initiative.
I also think sending thank you notes after the interview is a nice touch. I’ve been talking about doing it for years, and rarely have, but I still think it’s a very nice thing to do.
People want to know you and know who you are and what makes you tick. Just relax.
It’s easy to go in and try to say all the right things and try to make a good but disingenuous impression. But that’s not going to serve you in the long run. You want people to hire you for being you. Not for being someone else. Eventually you’re going to have to give up the act and start being yourself. And then they’re going to wonder what the point of your bait-and-switch was. The fit is not going to be right and, more likely than not, you’re going to be miserable because you’re pretending to fit into a role where maybe you’re actually not the right person or personality for it.
This is from personal experience. I once interviewed someone and they talked shit nonstop about their current agency and their boss. The guy left, and I was like, “No way. That’s how he operates. He’s 100% going to talk shit about us down the road. He’s going to do that about me in the first week.”
Don’t talk shit. The fact that you talk shit gets around just as much as the shit you’re talking. People know if you’re a negative presence. You may think trading or inventing salacious information will make you an indispensable source, but everyone will look forward to a time when that negativity is no longer around. It’s just a bad look.
Don’t be entitled. Here’s the truth: They don’t need you. Nobody needs you. You also don’t need them. Everyone be humble, everyone be kind. Don’t have a huge ego.
Zappos offers a great example in terms of their hiring practices. They’ll go through two weeks of training and then pay you $2,500 at the end to quit. They want people who are committed and fit their company culture. And with their interview process, they do something really interesting. If you go to Zappos to interview, they’ll pick you up from the airport in a shuttle. After interviewing around Zappos all day, they’ll ask the shuttle driver how you treated them. They want people who are actually good people. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. You never know when people are paying attention.
This is so basic but it bears repeating. Apparently, people think it’s okay to have your phone in your hand. They’re probably using it as some sort of security blanket. Like a vape pen. Power your phone off before you walk in the room. Don’t bring it out ever. It’s really rude.
That just about covers all the interview essentials for how to not get a job in the creative industry. Follow these simple steps to never be gainfully employed again. Next up, I'll be talking about all the creative ways you can manage to screw up and not keep a job once you’ve got one. Stay tuned.