“When I die, I want ex colleagues to lower me into my grave, so they can let me down one last time.”

Exploring the value of teamwork and other graduate buzzwords in interview.

[All views expressed in this copy are my own and are not a reflection of that of my employer, company or their affiliates. I have employed a grand total of 0 people in my lifetime and my expertise on this topic is limited. However I am employed and once taught my dog to sit – so I must have done something right.]

In the wake of new graduates entering the marketplace and a downward trend in the belief that they are equipped with the skills they need for the creative workplace [all shade directed towards an old tutor of mine] – I’m giving you a new spin on those unquantifiable tick boxes; the fluffy ‘people-persons’, ‘good listeners’ and the ‘team-player’ descriptors which will actually tickle your employer.

[Print this out and keep it under your pillow for a week before you interview for our Graduate Account Executive role.]

We once created a fun mailer titled ‘Bulls**t Bingo’ for one of our clients calling out Grads on the ‘ego-generic’ bulls**t you say in interviews* if you haven’t done your research** and have never even heard of a competency-based interview***.

[*guilty]
[**consistently guilty]
[***complete blag fest]

Would you believe your interviewer has heard your answer to ‘what makes you right for the role’ a thousand times before? [gasp] And that they’re likely playing our wicked Bingo game under the desk while you… blab. [gasp again]

1. “I’ve got great communication skills.”

If there’s one piece of advice that no one takes on board – it’s this:

SPELL CHECK YOUR CV.

There’s an outstanding number of applications I’ve seen in various roles who cannot safely say they have ‘great communication skills’ if I’ve had to take a red pen to their CV. In this instance however, I’m not here to discuss spelling, as on the third edit of this copy I cannot be one to judge.

Communication skills for me, as part of the creative team, go a little bit deeper than a proficiency in spelling. Not only how you communicate your big idea well, but also, in terms of managing and directing a team; how do you recognise and add value? Deliver and receive feedback? Champion people, decline irrelevances and not come across as a complete a**hole?

This for me comes down to aspects of your character; whether you’re concise and fair. I know I am bad at receiving poor and subjective feedback. However I am very responsive when feedback is structured, measured and rationalised. This is because you don’t leave me scope to feel bad, or to waste time feeling bad.

Good communication is efficient to the purpose of the role. If you’ve highlighted the strengths of my work and found opportunities for me to develop I feel good and the work I do becomes better. If you reconstruct what I’ve not done well in an analytical way and explain why my idea won’t go forward due to the insights you’ve calculated, then you are a good communicator and good for you. If you just don’t like it, lump it****.

[****not my work, your attitude. Lump your attutide.]
[Suggested reading: ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k’ by Sarah Knight]

2. “I’m extremely organised”

I love a new set of colourful post-its as much as the next guy, but no, this is about relevant scheduling, transparency and improving the overall creative process of the company.

What do I actually need to do? As a designer I know I am of little benefit to the account team’s weekly reporting call, so therefore I streamline my business to not include the account team’s weekly reporting calls.

However, say I have hit a creative block on a brief, that I’m super anxious to hold my hands up and admit I’m stuck, that two days go past where I’ve prayed each night that the idea will come to me in a dream and that the decreasing number of hours I have to complete the task cut me some slack and hold still so I can get the job done. This is disorganised.

Recognise your limits and plan for any limitations accordingly. Pencil in a review and ensure that everyone required is available for that review, knows what it is for, and that it’s scheduled in in time to complete the work comfortably. This is transparency.

[If you are applying for the role of our Graduate Account Executive there are massive bonus points for the ability to be able to take and keep organised notes. Note takers are good people. In fact, do bring in examples of your notes and showcase these in your interview with Matt. Fudge them if you have to. Matt absolutely loves to see notes and note taking. Even take notes in your interview to really throw him off. Call it ‘Noteception’.]

3. “I’m a team player.”

You play football, we get it. There is nothing that ‘being a team player’ says about you that would make you better for the role then another member of your football team. [gasp – they’re team players too!]

I want to switch this question up and ask how would you still promote teamwork if you were in the position of management?

Do you suspend the advocacy of your own idea to push another person’s concept in order to broaden the conversation around the brief?

Do you test your idea with all the same awful hurdles you subconsciously put in front of someone else’s ideas which prove that someone else’s idea ‘just won’t work’, whereas yours will?

Do you allow other people ownership of your work in order to build support for it, giving everyone an equal share and reward in what’s been made?

Are you humble?

The result of good teamwork in each of these instances is a broader, wider and much richer conversation around the creative brief which will answer the question in often a very surprising way, which also often delivers surprisingly good results.

4. “I’m punctual”

It actually makes you entirely unique if you’re able to sleep through the shrill iPhone alarm, so I’m not going to congratulate you for waking up to go to work.

I will congratulate you on your proactivity in finding out that southern rail services into Clapham Junction are delayed [gasp again] and that planning your alternative route got you to work on time.

Your employer can forgive you 5 minutes of tardiness and personally I won’t bat an eyelid. In relation to work, the key words to recognise were proactivity and planning. Doing what you say you’re going to do when you said you would do it. That punctuality is an efficient management of time, resource and project handling.

EOP. What does EOP say about you? “I would love to get this work by EOP today if that’s possible” – which to me describes a 5:55pm email to a client, giving them ample time to see our hard work and creative on their train home when they’re obviously most enthusiastic to read it and best equipped to see it on a small phone screen and teetering 3G connection.

[If you’ve failed to see my sarcasm here then please don’t apply for our Graduate Account Executive role.]

EOP is not punctuality, it is a cheap rush to complete work to a standard defined by the time allocation over the quality of the work, which can easily be better maintained through good project planning and high quality feedback [the process of punctuality and my point here]. Book the client email in for 9am the next day, when the first drop of coffee hits the soul and the client is much happier to answer an email.

5. “Creative thinking”

The one most detrimental remarks to come from a business leader is that “that’s how we’ve always done it,” [take note Toys’R’Us…BlockBuster] however one of the most blah things you could say in an interview is schlep like that you’re an ‘innovator’ and ‘game-changing’. How do you change the game exactly? Before you turn up with your unquantifiable ‘creative thinking’ bravado, give ‘critical thinking’ a chance.

Do you deal with analysis over emotion? Why did you choose the lumpy blue sweater, for instance? Because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back? What you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in Miranda Priestly’s office.

[I’ve always wanted to use this Devil Wears Prada quote and I am so happy right now that i’ve succeeded.]

Critical thinking opens the door to solutions that are missed through lack of research, and research is a valuable commodity in the creative brief. The results will tell you whether you have answered the brief successfully and results come from good research – otherwise you are answering subjectively and will quickly find that absolutely everyone has an opinion on everything.

EarlyWMC are currently recruiting for a Graduate Account Executive. If you are interested or have any questions regarding the role, send your CV, Cover Letter or any questions to andrew.latchman@earlywmc.com