Creative Professionals: 5 Tips for Acing Face-to-Face Interviews

Now that you’ve gotten your resume noticed by a hiring manager, before you can get the job, you still must prove that you possess the right combination of technical/soft skills and personality fit for the position through your interviewing skills. As a creative professional, you should be cognizant of how certain social cues (e.g., nonverbal communication, physical appearance, listening skills, etc.) can affect how you’re perceived by prospective employers.

Lisa de la Torre, a Staffing Manager for The Execu|Search Group’s Creative & Digital division, advises creative professionals on the best practices to emphasize throughout the interview process to stand out against competition.  “While a resume will get your foot in the door, portraying the right professional attributes and creative skills will help prove that you are the right fit for the position,” says Lisa.

To avoid being overlooked for a position, pay close attention to the following areas before your next interview to land the job.

1.       Research the company, no matter what

For many professionals in the creative and digital industries, it can be easy to overlook the research part of the interview process if the company is well-known and highly visible through news outlets and advertisements (i.e., Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.). “Whether the company is more well-known or a small, newer organization, it’s important to research key aspects of the company’s history, partnerships, and accomplishments,” recommends Lisa. The best way to align with the company’s mission and other business initiatives is to conduct a proper in-depth search, which will allow you to highlight how your accomplishments and career goals will help to push the business forward.

2.       Build your portfolio with the right samples

Since your portfolio is a major component of highlighting your creative skills throughout the interview process, it’s important that you are able to intelligently speak about every project you present. “Not only should you be prepared to summarize examples of your work, but you should also be prepared to answer very specific questions about each project,” says Lisa. For example, “How did this project come about?” or “What programs did you use to create this?” are common questions hiring managers may ask to ensure your skills align with the responsibilities of the position.

“If you have an amazing portfolio, but are unable to confidently speak about each of your samples, your professional skills will be questioned by prospective employers,” notes Lisa. Therefore, before your interview, refresh your memory on the important details of your portfolio and strategically tailor the samples you include based on how they align with certain aspects of the position (e.g., programs used, writing style, programming languages, etc.).

3.       Active listening is key

While it can be easy to talk about your creative accomplishments and goals, sometimes it can be even easier to forget that active listening can say just as much about you as a professional. Not only does effective listening show your ability to take direction, but it can also indicate you can work well on a team. “To avoid being seen as a poor listener, be as concise as possible in your responses and show active listening skills through nonverbal cues, which may show that you can analyze a question, digest it, and provide a thoughtful response,” recommends Lisa.

4.       Prepare questions specifically for the role

One of the best ways to proactively express your interest in the role you are interviewing for is by asking very specific questions related to your weekly routine. “While there are good questions to ask that give you insight into the company culture or team environment, asking job-specific questions will help you gauge if the position is right for you,” says Lisa.  Asking questions like “How does your tone change between writing for X as opposed to Y?” for a copy writer position, for example, may give you a better idea of the different styles you might need to use/learn if you are hired. Posing such job-specific questions may give you a better understanding of the demands you will have to meet as well as get a feel for your hiring manager’s management style.

5.       Dress professionally

Finally, one of the trickiest areas to prepare for when interviewing for creative and digital roles is your professional image. “While you might not want to be seen as ‘conservative’ in an exciting advertising start up because of your attire, you also don’t want to risk losing out on an opportunity because you are too casually dressed,” says Lisa. “There’s nothing wrong with highlighting unique aspects of yourself through what you wear, but interviews might not be the best time to make bold statements through your professional appearance.”

First impressions go a long way in the interview process, so you should be aware of what your attire might say about you to employers. If you can, ask the person you’re coordinating the interview with what the office dress code is like to get an idea of what you should wear. You can also get a basic idea of what to wear based on the type of company you’re interviewing for. For instance, you would dress more conservatively for an interview at a financial firm than you would for one with a young social media start up. However, if you don’t have the chance to do your research beforehand, when in doubt, dress more formal.