The setting and tone may be relaxing compared to other industries, but a job interview at a creative agency is serious business. The hiring manager has seen your digital portfolio and knows you have a talent. Now they want to know if you understand the agency’s brand and have the right mix of technical and soft skills to impress clients and colleagues alike.
Here are eight questions to consider beforehand to help you prepare for your interview.
1. Will the interview be in person or virtual?
In this era of pandemic, your interview may be virtual, even if you live a few blocks from the agency office. Either way, be as thorough and prepared for the online interview as you would for a physical interview. But also try to use the medium to your advantage. For example, you can open some pages from your digital wallet beforehand and use the screen sharing function to make your main points (literally). Also, think about your background. A cluttered bookshelf makes a bad impression in any context, let alone an interview for a design job.
2. What industries does the agency serve?
Many creative agencies specialize in working in a few select industries. To see which ones to target, check out the mission statement on their website and review their recent work samples. Summarize this information into talking points that you can address during the interview. For example, if the agency is closely aligned with the healthcare industry, be prepared to talk about trends in the sector as they relate to the open role – and highlight any relevant work in your portfolio.
3. Who are their top clients?
Hiring managers may ask you to describe what you already know about their agency, so it is important to demonstrate that you did your research. Again, a list of clients and recent work can provide valuable information, but you need to dig deeper if you want to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Does the agency run multiple projects with one client? Does this client make use of agency-generated content in any interesting ways? Did the client increase sales on the back of an agency campaign? Knowing things you aren’t necessarily expected to know makes you appear hardworking, curious, and insightful—all qualities that hiring managers value.
4. What kind of work do they do?
Most agencies are multidisciplinary and generally address the client’s brand. However, they usually have some specialties. When preparing for an interview, look for patterns. Is the agency doing more print or more digital work? Are they considered pioneers in any media or platforms, such as TikTok or social media marketing? Once you determine their focus, upload similar projects to your portfolio to be presented at the interview.
Read our tips on the best way to present your portfolio.
5. What is the size of the team?
Try to determine the size of the creative team as you prepare for the interview. Although the primary responsibilities may be the same, a creative role in an agency of 10 may differ greatly from a role in an agency of 100 employees. For example, a smaller company will have fewer management layers, and each employee may wear more hats. This type of agency is best for you if you are a beginner and hungry to learn new skills, so you may want to highlight those qualities in the interview.
6. Who will be the interviewer?
Try to figure out who is going to interview you and tailor your prepared responses accordingly. An HR manager will be more concerned with your soft skills and work experience, while a creative director may simply dive into your portfolio. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that HR’s answers should be less strict than your technical ones. Whether you’re talking about team player qualities or mastering Adobe Creative Cloud, illustrate your answers with real-life examples of when you created value or made a difference.
7. What does the company culture look like?
Dress appropriately for your interview, whether virtual or face-to-face. Look for clues in employee photos on the company’s website and social media pages. Although the agency has a casual dress policy, you should still dress elegantly and professionally for your interview. Also research the language they use when talking about their projects and incorporate that into what you say during the interview.
8. What are the most important interpersonal skills for this position?
During interviews, job candidates should prepare for their strong communication, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities. “Working in an agency requires the ability to manage multiple clients at once and shift gears quickly when needs change suddenly or when projects arrive unexpectedly,” says Diane Dommer, vice president of managed creative solutions at Robert Half. “Employers are looking for candidates who can move from one task to another without dropping balls and work in high-pressure, fast-paced environments. Adaptability and a customer service orientation is also essential to thriving in an agency environment.”
Strong people don’t always get the job, but they are always ready. Support your raw talent by showing that you understand the agency’s mission, culture, and values, and you’d be a tough candidate to beat.
Learn more about marketing, creative jobs, and salaries.