Do you want the job?

First make sure you really want this profession as your career. This writer, having trained in counselling and qualified as a trainer, thought coaching offered an interesting new direction. It was not until the practical part of the certification course, that I realised I didn’t like sitting down listening to people all day. If, for instance, you want to be a copywriter, take a course to see if you have aptitude or even enjoy cracking your head for ideas. You can also volunteer to work in an agency as an unpaid intern.

If you manage to talk you way into a job and then realise it is not your cup of tea, you have wasted the company’s time and set your real career back by months.

Are you qualified?

Too often people apply for jobs for when they are not even close to meeting the needs of the employer. Yes, try for a job just above your qualification but not as the CEO of the firm when you are still a junior executive. Look to add some additional qualification – not an MBA but just to show you have attended a course that will make you better at the job. As an account executive, having completed a presentation skills course or a recent language refresher course could give an added attraction for the company.

How do you look and speak

Unless you are an amazingly talented person trying to get into creative department of an ad agency, the way you present yourself is important. Think of yourself as a brand. What is your brand image? What brand is the company trying to buy?

It seems so obvious but often interviewers complain about body odour, people turning up in beach clothes or torn jeans. Whatever, your personal preferences in clothing, you are selling yourself when you apply for a job. Wear something that matches the job you will be doing. Creative people have more licence but they still have to wear clean, fresh clothes. Account servicing people need to look smart – not sexy. In both cases, your outfit and hairstyle should show you are in touch with today’s trends (not the extreme end, however!).

Learn to speak clearly and confidently. The interviewer has to judge your competency quickly. Take a course if you are weak in this area. Most jobs require you to communicate well internally and with clients.

The resume

There are many web sites giving you examples of how to prepare a CV. But many are a bit old fashioned especially for the creative and marketing industries. The main purpose is to set out your experience related to the job. You may never have been a copywriter before but perhaps you wrote for the local Church magazine (but please don’t show this to the CD unless it is really brilliant). You may have been a volunteer in Africa, so explain why this has helped you face unusual challenges and that this experience has matured you.

In each job, describe your participation. Just in short point form. This CV is going to be scanned in a 15 to 20 seconds.

GEC certs are hardly relevant for a 20 year-old let alone anyone over 30. Just a photocopy of your degree (if you have one) is enough to say let the reader know you ain’t stupid. It also doesn’t mean you are that bright either, so do not rely on this to get you an interview through or eventually gain you a fat salary.

Type up the CV neatly using just two sizes of type with a restrained use of bold or capital letters.

Is this prisoner 26598? Do make sure you have a pleasant photograph to attach. A photograph used on your I.C. or picture taken on holiday squinting into the sun in Phuket is not going to get you on the short list. Invest in a professional taken photograph.

Do your research on the company before you even apply. Is this the right company for you. Does it send good feelings on its web site? Is it about to be taken over? This could be a short-lived employment period. You will impress the interviewer if you appear to know something about the firm and its businesses.

On the day of the interview.

Be on time! The boss is a busy man with lots of meetings to go to. He has set time aside for you so respect this.

Enter the room with confidence, a smile and a firm (not crushing) hand shake. Wait to be asked to sit down.

Have a spare resume or any examples of work handy in your bag/case.

Be ready with answers. The interviewer may ask why you left your last job. Never run down your old firm or he will imagine you doing the same to him. He may ask difficult questions like “Why do you want this job?” “Because you pay well” is not the answer to give! Run through likely questions and rehearse the answers.

How much should I ask for?

If you have been doing a similar job before, you know what you are worth and most companies will offer a monetary incentive to move. If you are trying to move into a new area, do realise that you past salary is irrelevant. Quite often people who have reached a senior level in one industry, think they are worth the same in another. However, it is back to square one, until you prove yourself.

It isn’t easy to get into a good advertising agency. Take any salary to get your foot in the door. In this industry it expected that people move around so you are not stuck at that level for ever. Increases can be rapid even within the same agency if you prove your worth and the competitors will also soon seek you out.

If you have some tips to help people who are seeking new jobs, write to the editor. We are happy to publish good advice.