Interview Insights | Key Question: Do you enjoy working in a structured environment? [Template & Sample]

Interview Question: As a creative professional, can you thrive while working for a client with lots of rules and restrictions?

This question comes from a recent cover letter that I wrote for a former executive producer and creative director who strongly believes that at all times two beasts have to be fed in any organization.

On the one hand, you have to feed the beast who desires extremely ground-breaking and unique creative solutions that addresses client challenges (almost always).

Meanwhile, you have to feed the beast who expects a financial return on his marketing investment. This beast also happens to pay the bills and a creative team’s salary.

Given my client’s 17-plus year history in his industry, he has witnessed many benefits that arise when a creative team operates in a world of processes and systems. Ultimately, it is in that world where a creative professional is empowered to actually adequately feed those two beasts.

As a result, if you are a creative professional who is asked about what it’s like to work in a more structured environment with visual rules, established logo dimensions, or strict client demands then apply this filter:

  • Who came up with the processes/structure? (Side note: ideally, you were part of that conversation or influenced the discussions.)
  • Why was structure necessary?
  • What questions did those processes address?
  • How much time do you think was saved as a result of those processes?
  • Think about that one time when you were able to conceptualize your best work in light of those rules.

Example:

I’m no stranger to working with clients who have multiple requirements. As an animator for a firm that developed educational online content for children with disabilities who were able to function at different levels, my clients asked for the best creative ideas that met certain governmental requirements. My clients received government funding.

Now, I could have seen those rules as obstacles. However, I try to embrace challenges as opportunities. For example, I was given a one square inch space in which my Clob character could appear, move, and exit the screen. My goal was to use that limited space in my favor. I created the tiny creature. The Clob in this instance would try to stretch the space. He would fall off the screen. The character ultimately poked fun at this limitation. The piece worked well. When children responded to a question correctly and saw this character they laughed at his silliness. They were positively reinforced and many wanted to repeat the animation because it hit their funny bone.

The key insight is to show that you can produce amazing creative work within an established system. Side note: This is a real concern that HR professionals who hire creative employees have expressed. The portfolio is great…however, will they be excited about working “long-term” on big brands with at times severe limitations?

Yes, that is Vince Vaughn in the photo.


Melissa Llarena’s craft is coaching top executives on how to strategically dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Get instant access to a 20-page interview preparation kit that will give you an edge. Join the thousands who’ve read her career insights in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Follow her at @CareerOutcomes.