Halfway through 2021 and job openings reached historic levels. At 9.2 million openings, they’re about 30 percent higher than they were, prior to the start of the pandemic, in February 2020. This may all be due in part to a surge in workers changing jobs at a record pace amid burnout, according to USA Today, which is also leading to openings with higher pay.
Indeed alone shows nearly 115,000 marketing job openings and recruiters are looking for the best candidates and recruiters from Ogilvy, MikeWorldWide and PR Talent reveal how to best prepare for your next interview. From winning formulas and memorable stories, including what not to do, these agency recruiters have interviewed candidates across a variety of levels and share what it takes to win them over.
Mabel Liang, a career counselor turned recruiter, is the associate director of recruiting at Ogilvy. Over the past eight years, she has recruited across digital; media; technology; advertising; fashion; and lifestyle industries.
As someone who’s dedicated to bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion to the advertising space, she’s an active member of Allies in Recruiting (AIR), an active community partner with Defy Ventures, Adcolor, and a mentor for Built By Girls.
With all her experience in the field, Liang’s biggest piece of advice for an interview is simply to be authentic.
“It’s so hard to do. It really is. And what does it really mean to be authentic, or to be ourselves? I think that while our presence and communication styles can be very different, it doesn’t mean it has to be one way or another.”
Liang says, “It shouldn’t be about how corporate America behaves. It should be about a culture add, a value add, so we can show up and be who we really are.”
In order to help do this, a tactical piece of advice she gave when going into an interview was to list out three to five top strengths that would be valuable and relevant to the job. Then she suggested working those things into a short story that would represent the traits in a professional setting. That way, no matter what happens, there’s at least one important point to make.
Human resources and talent acquisition business partner, Anjelica Jones, has worked across advertising and public relations agencies where her career has been all about attracting, identifying, and developing talent.
Jones graduated from SUNY Old Westbury, where she majored in media and communications and adapted her communications skillset to the needs around her. This resulted in her HR career where she currently holds the position as a human resources director at MikeWorldWide, formerly known as MWW.
When asked to recall a memorable interview, one story jumped out in her mind.
“I once invited someone to meet me for an interview before they met the rest of the team. But when I went out to the lobby, they looked way too relaxed, as if they were waiting for one of their friends to grab a drink. They wore sunglasses inside, slouched in their chair and had an unbuttoned shirt. It looked like he was headed out to brunch.”
In contrast, Jones explained that the best interviews she had were with individuals who took the time to really do their research and dress for the part. They knew what was going on with the company and they asked thoughtful questions showing that they really understood the business, the culture and the strategy going forward.
“The best candidates were one’s who weren’t just selling themselves, they were positioning themselves.” Jones states. “Those who think they don’t interview well are just in their head. They need to be confident in who they are and know they were asked to interview for a reason.”
Julie Dixon, a North Carolina Public Relations Hall of Fame recipient, is an expert in diversity, inclusion and recruitment relations, in addition to practicing internal communications, crisis relations, integrated communications, corporate communications, public relations over the past 30 years.
She’s currently a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, a Barry Saunders Professional in Residence, and managing director at PR Talent for the recruiting firm’s Southeast Region, including Washington, D.C.
One of the best interview stories Dixon had was with someone who came in for a junior account executive role.
“This guy had done so much research on top campaign topics. He knew everything imaginable about our agency, and during the interview, he pulled up the past three industry interviews I had done.”
The very next morning after the interview that was done at 8 p.m. the night before, she received a handwritten note. Plus, since the account was for McDonald’s, he also included a happy meal box with various items representing things they had talked about during the interview.
This example stood out to Dixon because he was as prepared as possible during the interview process, went above and beyond after the fact, and was confident without being arrogant.
“Leave your arrogance at the door. There’s a fine line between being confident in your abilities…and then coming across as arrogant. As a recruiter I’m interviewing 10 people a day… and the arrogant piece would turn me off,” she says.
Dixon’s final thought perfectly summed up the advice of all three recruiters.
“People need to understand that with big brands, big companies, big agencies, you have to get past that recruiter first…so make sure you’re kind, polite and professional.”
David Thimmesch is a freelance correspondent covering various feature stories for Marcom Weekly. He's the owner of David Thimmesch Creative and a former copywriter for Lands' End. He studied advertising and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he served as advertising director for TV10.