Big interview turn offs: Part 1

The next two posts are about the dreaded interview and outline 6 particularly off-putting behaviours that I feel should be duly noted and then given a particularly wide berth.

These ‘turn offs’ are all based on real life interviews that I have conducted and specific factors/personalities/actions that I have witnessed first hand.

Ok, in we go with the first 3…

I once interviewed a potential strategist via Skype. He was in deepest, darkest Europe and it was around 10am, his time. As the video sparked up, he appeared centre stage and, to be brutally honest, he looked like he had been to hell and back. His hair was all over the place — which could, of course, have been the style he was going for — but other signs confirmed my suspicion that he had just got out of bed: rubbing of the eyes, pale and puffy face, scruffy t-shirt and an immense amount of yawning, pausing and fidgeting throughout the somewhat stilted conversation.

Some observations, as follows:
 • A Skype interview from the comfort of your own home does not 
mean you don’t need to make an effort in terms of your appearance or 
your preparation.
 • Don’t have a late night and a skinful of alcohol (or worse) the night before — it doesn’t exactly show you are dead keen for the job and to be taken seriously.
 • As Head & Shoulders told us in the 80s: “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” — so don’t blow it with an easy mistake like this.

I used to get involved with Grad Recruitment when I worked in big network agencies like Leo Burnett and Interbrand. You know that every single hopeful in the room is applying to each and every big agency they can grab an application form for. They all want the big, sexy job in ad land or branding, or any type of industry for that matter, to get their foot on the corporate ladder and start paying off those student debts. In the old country, we call it ‘doing the milk round’ i.e. they visit everywhere and anywhere peddling their wares and aren’t exactly picky.

So, what can happen is that you’re mid interview and you ask the classic question: “what is it about [insert your agency name here] that makes you want to work for us?” I kid you not — at this point in the conversation, I 
have actually seen the whites of people’s eyes as they strain to remember which particular agency they’re currently sitting in and what they may, or may not, have read about them on their website. The inevitable response they give starts with ‘Um…’ by which point they’ve certainly lost their captive audience.

• Swot up on every single agency and make sure you have something interesting to say and ask about each, to prove you’re prepped and as keen as mustard.
 • Know the agency’s client list, be familiar with their recent work (and awards) and have an opinion on their point of difference versus the rest of the pack.
 • Take the time to understand the unique culture portrayed by each one and express an interest in learning more about their philosophy and quirks.

Ah yes, the interview outfit. Crucially important. It’s easy to think it’s just your brain that is under interrogation but it’s really the whole package. Visual cues are just as important. So, this point is about the consideration of what makes for an appropriate outfit, with particular reference to that all important first interview.

A young lady once turned up to be interviewed by myself and my Account Director, for an internship on one of our biggest client accounts. To her detriment, she was a daughter of a client. Already a tricky situation for us to handle but she knew she was in with a pretty good chance at success. So, she opted for a 40 degree day outfit — for reference, it was London, and a relatively (British for ‘not really’) sunny, Spring day. She had ‘her lads’ out for the boys, with an eye-wateringly low top, and tottered in on 5 inch wedges. Now, I appreciate a good set of pipes as much as the next woman, or man, but they were beyond distracting. She was a bubbly creature and so were they, bouncing around all over the place and taking on a life of their own. My colleague was a cardigan wearer, a mid-calfer skirt hem kind of chick and not feeling it. At all.

• If it’s skin tight, low cut, high cut, circulation stopping, wobbling or eye-popping, it’s probably best avoided.
 • Consider who you’re being interviewed by and the female/male dynamic. Women, for example, often don’t exactly warm to another woman who appears somewhat ‘slutty’…
 • Dress to impress — show them how well you scrub up and how professional you would look when accompanying the team to an important client meeting. It’s not a runway, or, heaven forbid, a scorching hot date!

That’s the 3 turn offs for this week. 3 more to come soon… ;)

Michelle x

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