On Friday, February 24, the Career Center welcomed Ayana Picariello of Energy BBDO, Deirdra Lucas of Leo Burnett, Taylor Styduhar of FCB Chicago, Stacey Fenster of Onward Search, Erika Ryan of Havas, and Mary Foxgrover and Megan Steidl of We Are Unlimited to Columbia for a revealing panel discussion. The panelists shared their personal anecdotes and candid opinions on what works and what doesn’t when candidates apply for jobs in creative industries. Here are some of the take-aways from the event:
On what made a candidate memorable…
- Create something interactive-Someone once applied with a portfolio that allowed the recruiter to pick out the candidate’s interview outfit.
- Think outside the box- Someone sent their follow-up thank you through social media by tagging the interviewer in a thank you post.
- Don’t overthink it- A simple designed resume and portfolio can speak volumes.
- Don’t try too hard-The crazier you get, the crazier the recruiter will think you are. Don’t be a “loon”.
- Get another set of eyes on your portfolio- Talk to your professors and the Career Center to edit your portfolio and check it for cultural nuances.
On standing out in the application process…
- Craft an“About me” section that shows your personality and who you are. Recruiters will refer to this section, so it is your opportune chance to impress.
- Find out who the creative recruiter is (try LinkedIn or cold call the company) and personalize your application with their name included in your cover letter.
- Research your potential mentors at the company – see where they’ve worked before, compliment their work, ask them to go out to coffee to learn more.
- Apply online and then send an email as a follow-up (most companies require you to submit your application through their recruitment system to be considered).
- Make sure you include a link to your portfolio that is easily accessible and highly visible.
- Get noticed by keeping tabs on awards and congratulating them on a win or new business coming in.
- Thank you notes are necessary (emailed or handwritten), but be careful not to be super aggressive with thank yous.
On applying as an art director/copywriter team…
- There is nothing more valuable than good chemistry between a copywriter and an art director. If you’re planning to be hired as a team, have a website of your work together and brand yourself as a team.
- Be prepared to apply for solo gigs to show that you can be paired up with others. Things change. your team member may want to move away, go freelance, etc.
- Many companies will move your team around based on their needs, or they may not be able to hire both at once.
- If you are hired solo, you might be asked to bring people on to your team who you have worked with before.
On the turnaround time for applications…
- Once you send your application, it may take some time before you are initially contacted as the recruiter reviews your work. If you aren’t hearing back, don’t be afraid to call and ask for the truth about your work.
- Turnaround time can vary, it can be one week, two months, to the position changing completely. Follow up with a recruiter if you don’t hear back after you submit your initial application. Some recruiters may keep you looped into the timing of the hire, while others may not.
- Following an interview, do not follow up with the recruiter, follow up with the person with whom you met.
- Appreciate the closure of hearing back from a recruiter if they aren’t interested.
On following up if you haven’t heard back…
- Email the recruiter or the creative who interviewed you to follow-up and show your personality, or remind them about that “something” that makes you stand out – without being overkill.
On what impresses you the most…
- Hunger – A candidate who is really hungry – a self-taught candidate who is learning different aspects of the job.
- Makers – People who are out there doing stuff – it doesn’t need to be the best work, but it shows your creativity and that you get a project done.
- Passion – Know the company, the person’s name who is interviewing you, and be familiar with their work (bring up one campaign that you saw and loved).
- Coachability- Make it known that you are open to learning. You can be taught whatever you need to know.
- Team players- Be someone who can work together on a team. You have to be able to step in at any time to help out for someone else.
- Humility- Admit you don’t know everything, but you want to learn. Make this apparent throughout your application and in your interviews.
- Preparation- Bring your laptop ready to share your work.
- Chemistry- Look for culture fits, they may be thinking “can I sit next to this person for hours if our plane is delayed?”. I
On the worst hire they ever made…
- Gut feeling already told them “no” before the candidate was hired.
- Confused on the intended goal of the candidate. Be clear in what you want to do and what your expectations are in your role. Don’t come in as an Art Director and decide you suddenly want to be a Copy Writer.
On the use and knowledge of tech tools…
- Be knowledgeable of what’s out there and what’s new.
- Be versatile. The more you know the more valuable you become. Showing you can speak the same language helps instill confidence in your abilities.
- Make sure your social media is branded well. It helps to show your interests and what you are knowledgeable in. Note: Some agencies place more importance on social media than others.
On expectations of portfolios…
- Your portfolio should always be digital. Don’t bring a printed portfolio, bring a tablet or a laptop and ask for the wifi password when you are setting up your interview.
- If your portfolio is password protected, share the password before the meeting. Do anything and everything to make it simple for the recruiter.
- Have all your chats and other pop-ups disabled on your computer during your interviews.
- Include only relevant work that you are proud to show. Some recruiters will go straight to the last thing in your book, so stand behind everything.
- Take advantage of the fact that as students, you can do anything you want in your books without client demands.
- Show four great things vs. thirty that you might not love.
- Six campaigns is a perfect number for your book.
- As a copywriter, create fake campaigns and ads. Assign yourself work to help you complete your portfolio.
On everyone having a portfolio, even non-creatives…
- Project Manager- not necessary.
- Account Manager- not necessary, but might be helpful.
- Producers- required, you should have a reel of work.
On the one piece of advice you wish you had as a student…
- Don’t fail out of Columbia!
- Take advantage of what you have here, go to events like the One Club Boot Camp, the Mosaic Career Fair, etc.
- Network and keep going to career-focused events to learn more.
- Stay focused on completing your portfolio.
- Don’t exhaust yourself of being a student, keep learning, get out there and continue learning.
- Don’t be afraid of the fact that life is often not linear. If it doesn’t go as an arrow straight ahead, embrace the curve and go with it.
- Be yourself in your interview don’t be the person you think they want you to be.
- If a company wins business, it’s usually a good indicator they will be hiring, just apply.
On rookie mistakes that still happen today…
- Don’t chew gum at your interview.
- Be open-minded to different work and don’t be a one-trick pony.
- If you’re a great employee, you’ll be recognized and you’ll get to work on the things you want to work on at some point.
- If you can make the most of the ‘not cool stuff’, you’ll go far.
- Don’t get caught up in the culture of things that can happen around advertising – partying, the darker side, drama, attitudes, etc.
- Whatever happens inside of the agency, don’t fall prey to the things that you see around you. They work hard and play hard.
- Remember it’s a small industry and people will remember the impression that you make.
- Don’t burn any bridges, everyone knows everyone.
- Don’t have an ego – everyone gets in somehow, take any position that’s open. Consider positions that might get your foot in the door.
On their current hiring schedule…
- FCB and Leo Burnett are looking for interns now and the program starts in June.
- Havas will call for submissions pick from the top candidates in the coming months.
Last questions and remarks…
- A logo on a resume is good.
- The market for content creators is growing swiftly.
- If you have multiple interests be clear of your intentions, but incorporate all of your work into your portfolio. It’s good to show a range of what you can do.
- Make sure the copy in your work is readable, especially if you are a copywriter.
- For international students, will not shy away from hiring you, but it will depend on their budget and your visa. Usually, the visa budget is reserved for senior level hires. RGA is an agency known for hiring international employees, be sure to check and see if they are hiring.
- Steer away from political views on social media while you are looking for a job
- You are a brand. Think of how you are portraying yourself through all of your social media feeds.
Check Handshake for upcoming career-focused events happening this semester.