Preparing for an interview with a creative agency is not like preparing for an interview for a corporate position. So make sure you've considered the following points before you walk through an agency's doors.
1. What industries do they cater to?
Many creative agencies specialize in work for a few select industries. To learn which industries they target, check out the mission statement on their website. Or review the agency's client roster and recent work samples to identify the industries they work with most. Then prepare for your interview by researching those key industries, and be sure to highlight any work you've done for similar markets.
2. Who are their top clients?
Hiring managers may ask you to describe what you already know about their agency, so it's important to show that you've done your research. Some agencies publish their client roster on their website, and almost all of them highlight their most recent work. Look for multiple projects with one client, which can help you identify key clients. Then, refer to them if the opportunity arises during your interview.
3. What type of work do they do?
Most agencies are multidisciplinary and address a client's overall branding. However, they usually have a few specializations. When preparing for an interview, look for patterns. Does the agency do more print or more digital work? Are they known for a particular discipline, like brochure or poster design? Once you've determined their focus, highlight that type of work on your resume, and include similar projects in your career portfolio.
4. How big is the team?
Make sure you know the size of the creative team when you're preparing for an interview. Although the core responsibilities may be the same, a creative role at a 10-person agency may differ greatly from one at an agency with a staff of 100. A smaller agency will have fewer layers of management, which impacts reporting, approvals and growth potential. And each person will also "wear more hats" at smaller agencies. If you have concerns about these differences, work them into the conversation during your interview.
5. Who does the position report to?
At an agency, you're more likely to report to the owner or someone in a creative role, rather than a noncreative person in a corporate position. But it's important to clarify this point, because it shapes your conversation about performance reviews, career development and even salary structure.
6. Who will be the interviewer?
Try to find out who your interviewer will be when you're preparing for an interview. Then you can tailor your responses accordingly, especially while presenting your portfolio. Use different language when talking about your work with HR versus a creative director or a marketing manager. But remember to make any conversation results-driven.
7. What's the corporate culture like?
Get a sense of the office culture before your interview, so you can dress appropriately. Look for clues in staff photos on the company's website and social media pages, or talk to a friend or a LinkedIn connection who currently works there.
Even if the agency has a casual dress policy, such as jeans, shorts and T-shirts, you should dress neatly and professionally for your interview. Granted, you may not want to wear a suit to an interview with a laid-back creative agency, but you should look neat and polished in business casual attire. Also, if the company is conservative — or, conversely, known as a trendsetter — tailor your attire and accessories accordingly.
8. What soft skills are most important to the position?
You'll want to play up these skills in your resume and cover letter, then exhibit and talk about them during your interview. Practice discussing and demonstrating these capabilities and character traits when practicing for an interview. Weave in examples of collaboration, initiative, problem-solving, leadership and good communication.
Preparing for an interview requires not only focusing on yourself but also on the company you hope to work for. Showing that you've taken the time to understand the agency's mission, niche and culture will help you stand out among the pool of candidates for the position.