So, you now have a great resumé and you landed an interview. Now what? We need to do some interview preparation. How do you know if the role and company are the right fit for you? Here are some interview techniques to consider from your side while interviewing and (hopefully) considering a job offer.
Before we get started, I want to remind you that an interview should be as much about you interviewing them as it is them interviewing you. Figure out as much as you can about the company’s structure that will have a key impact on your day-to-day. And then make a decision for yourself once you know what you’re looking for. Let’s get into it.
The “Age” of the Company
Consider whether the company is a start-up, one that’s more established, or one that’s somewhere in the middle.
As a general rule, a start-up will be more scrappy with less process, and maybe this would be an opportunity to build your own processes. You should expect some longer hours as start-ups are looking for people to put in the work to get the business off the ground and they’re picking up as many marketing opportunities as possible which means they’re going to need creative assets, usually on accelerated schedules.
A company that’s been around for a while will have more processes in place so you’ll be coming into something more structured. You probably won’t have much opportunity to build new processes but rather find small efficiencies in an established system. Sometimes this is nice because you’ll have a clear role and responsibilities immediately upon joining the company. Media plans tend to be strategically planned and you’ll have longer lead times to develop the creative for these assets.
Obviously, a company that lies somewhere in the middle will be a mix of both. You’ll have a bit of structure and still have some things that need to be scrappy. You’ll probably still have the opportunity to make process improvements but won’t have to start from scratch.
I think it’s important to understand who you will be your manager. And while getting to know the person and their management style is hugely important, I think it’s also key to consider your manager’s discipline – that is, what creative function they play.
In a smaller company, you may report into a Creative Director or Head of Creative. Conversely, in a larger company, there’s a chance you’ll report into someone in the project management org, such as a Program Manager or Director of Project Management.
This is important to consider for a couple reasons. While someone in a creative role may value a project manager, they’re not going to be well-versed in project management tools, processes, and standards. This means you may be on your own when it comes to finding project management solutions and implementing changes.
Conversely, reporting into someone in the same discipline will give you a sounding board and partner for project management challenges and change implementation. This person might better understand your day-to-day challenges and be a mentor for you in your role.
Another thing to consider when interviewing a company is the organizational structure itself. It’s important to know who holds the authority to make a decision.
For example, some companies are democratic and they require everyone’s buy-in before moving forward. While it’s great that everyone has a voice, decisions can move slowly as everyone needs to weigh in before moving forward.
Some companies are aristocratic, in that a small leadership team makes the decisions. This seems to be the most common structure that I’ve run into, as a few key leaders are able to give you a green-light depending on the importance of the project.
Some companies have an autocracy where their CEO is very hands on and needs to see everything. In my experience this has led to “because I said so” changes so you and your team will need to be flexible and willing to be iterative.
And some companies have a flat org (if you know a better word for this, please lmk). A flat org is exactly what it sounds like – there are a lot of people in the same or similar role who think they have authority. I would avoid these types of org structures because “final” decisions tend to be overridden again and again.
When you’re interviewing with people, ask them how long they’ve been with the company. Ideally, you’ll have a mix of folks who have both been there long (5+ years) and those that have just joined.
I will caution against joining a team where everyone is very new, or everyone is very tenured. If everyone is very new, there’s a chance of high turnover. Find out why. If everyone is very tenured, a couple things could be happening: the team has “grown up” together which means they’re used to doing and having things a certain way. This could also be an indicator of slow promotion cycles where people have had to wait around for a few years before moving up to the next level.
Another important one to consider is if you have room for career advancement. A smaller company might have more flexibility in creating roles as you show competency and deliver successes.
In a larger company, watch out for roles where you’d be a project manager reporting into a senior project manager. That senior role will be blocking you from you moving up and you’ll be dependent on your senior PM to advance before you can move into their position. If you’re considering a role with this reporting structure, ask about the career growth path and goals for the role.
Interviewing should be a two-way street. Know what you’re getting into before you accept an offer.
Did any of these help you land a job (or avoid a bad one)? I’d love to hear about it!
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