This article by Morgan Cummins was first published in January 2019. We have since added some tips on how to do a job interview online. You might also like to download and read the report DMI did in conjunction with The Economist Group on key skills for digital marketers in the 2020s.
One of the most popular questions I get from the people I work with is this: ‘How can I ace an interview and get the job?!’
While interviewing isn’t an exact science, candidates tell me that the advice I provide them with has resulted in their best interviews ever, almost always resulting in selection to the next round of interviews. The key to my advice is the more you practice, the better you will perform on the big day.
But what does this mean specifically for digital marketers?
While traditional interviews are still very much the norm, a recent global recruitment report suggests that soft skills assessment and meetings in casual environments are being increasingly used to assess a candidate’s suitability from a cultural fit point of view. In addition, and significantly for digital marketers, artificial intelligence comes into play. Don’t be surprised if you start to see chatbots conducting interviews in the near future!
As marketers you’ll be expected to be good at presenting your thoughts and ideas, to be quick-thinking, and to be well rehearsed. It’s also wise to research the industry press to keep an eye on competitors and industry trends that you can weave into the conversation.
I prepare people every day for career-defining interviews, so have a very good understanding of what is expected from prospective employees. Based on my years of knowledge and experience, I’ve detailed below four of the most important areas to focus on, to secure the dream job you’re going for.
It all starts with your CV. Your CV is effectively your career story. So, as you look back through your history, pick out highlights that you’ll enjoy talking about in an interview and that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. It might be a simple story about what inspired you to join the digital marketing industry, or it could be something specific to the role you’re applying for. The best candidates do this for each and every interview they have – a bit like tailoring your CV for the job you’re going for.
Knowing your CV back to front will be vital for the inevitable question you’ll be asked, including: ‘Tell me about yourself” or ‘Tell me about your career to date’.
When Lonne Jaffe, Senior Advisor to the Board of Directors at software company Syncsort, was asked how he hires employees, he responded: “I’ll ask the candidate to go through their prior successes and challenges and major responsibilities and tell that story, partially because I want to see how good they are at storytelling.”
Another useful technique is to write down six to eight points around each of the roles listed on your CV. Think about relevant examples that you can use in the interview and allow for two to three minutes of talking time per role. Generally speaking, CV discussions take about 15-20 minutes in an interview.
As a final tip, ahead of your interview, speak to someone like me to find out the following in advance:
Key Takeaway: Write your CV story and list your achievements in advance. Doing so will also help clarify it in the frontal lobes of your brain.
While a CV is essential, being able to talk about your experience and bring your achievements to life is crucial. This is your opportunity to highlight your successes and talk about anything that you might not have been able to include in your CV or covering note.
In any given interview situation, you’ll be asked to share your career achievements. This could be a defining career moment, or possibly your top three highlights. Try to add color to your examples and use the opportunity to show off some skills they might be looking for.
For instance, rather than saying ‘I’m very proud to have won an award in my last job’, you could say ‘In my last job I won an award for driving sales targets by X% and for using an innovative technology that showed a return on investment’.
Giving consideration to the examples you will tell in advance of your interview will help with questions you’re likely to be asked, such as ‘Tell me a time you dealt with…’, which often crop up.
If you’re at entry level and don’t have too many business examples to share, think back to any volunteer work, education or personal achievements that show off key leadership skills or talents relevant to the role.
A good way to prepare is by using the STAR model approach, as follows:
S = Situation: Set the scene in a brief sentence or two
T = Task: What tasks were involved in setting up the project?
A = Action: What was your role in the team?
R = Result: What did the project achieve and how did it deliver against objectives?
It’s all about practice, practice, practice! We can’t stress this point enough to our people! If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. It is imperative that you rehearse your pitch beforehand, find a friend, a sympathetic ear – anyone, willing to listen! It’s common for interviewers to draw on experience to understand your approach. As such, they may ask you to explain a time you dealt with a delicate or challenging situation.
For instance, Jenny Ming, President and CEO of clothing store Charlotte Russe, likes candidates to talk about their failures. She explains that it’s helpful to see that the individual is not averse to taking risks and admits things when they don’t work out.
Key Takeaway: Tailor your achievements to the job you’re apply for. Interviewers particularly love it when candidates demonstrate how they overcame a problem, or delivered outstanding results.
The ultimate question that tends to be asked near the end of an interview is ‘Why do you want this role’ or ‘Why do you want to work for our company?’
However, there are two parts to this question – why and because.
While anyone can explain why they want a job, not everyone can demonstrate the because. For instance, ‘I’d love the opportunity to take on this exciting role’ satisfies the why element, but saying; ‘I’d love the opportunity to take on this exciting role and I’m the right candidate because I have X years’ of experience and a proven track record in XXX’ really demonstrates why.
This is also the time to show off some of the research you’ve undertaken about the company. The best way to do this is to integrate it with your own skills, rather than just reel off information about the business.
For instance: ‘I’m aware that you give back to the community by partnering with local charities. I’m very passionate about this too and took on the role of team champion in my last job, to increase fundraising by 10%.’ This is a well-considered response.
You may also want to think about examples which show how you integrate well into new situations. Perhaps you’ve mentored a team member or led a successful project for instance. It doesn’t always have to be work either – volunteering, charity or personal achievements that demonstrate your skills are just as worthy.
Key Takeaway: Think about the why you want the job and follow it up with a punchy because, showing that you’re the best candidate.
Finally, as the interview draws to a close, have three really good questions to ask at the end. This is one of the top reasons why a candidate does well and leaves a lasting impression.
It’s best to consider questions relevant to your role, but here’s a couple of good examples:
Our final piece of advice is to be an active listener and always stay on point with your answers.
Key Takeaway: Prepare three well considered questions to ask your interviewer at the end.