If you’re looking to break into a career in marketing, or to move up in the marketing world, the American Marketing Association’s Get Hired event on March 19 at WQED was the place to be. Five panelists, all marketing professionals with varying backgrounds, shared their expertise with those who were looking to move up in marketing.
To be expected, interviewing was a topic of discussion.
Lindsay Zaltman, CEO/Partner of Olson Zaltman, a market research firm, said that during interviews, he’s always asking himself, “Are my clients going to like them? Clients want to work with nice people.” There’s a time to be assertive and proud of your accomplishments during an interview, the panelists mentioned, but there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
Jeff Revilla, Digital Marketing Manager at Smail Auto Group, said that red flags appear when he sees the resume of someone who’s been at jobs for 6 months or 8 months. “They’re not a team player in my mind,” he said. “Stick with something, and get everything you can out of it” including training and conferences.
So you landed that coveted interview – how will you research the company?
David Horn, Digital Marketing Manager at ANSYS, a simulation software company, mentioned visiting Glassdoor.com to view the health of the organization by reading reviews of the company written by employees. He also mentioned the site BuiltWith.com, which he said will reveal what technology a company uses for CRM and marketing automation, for example.
Anne Parys, Director of Marketing at the law firm of Rothman Gordon, directed all candidates to visit the company’s website “but then go beyond. Do some digging…Who’s been interviewed in the papers?” Neil Owen, Director, Global Marketing for FS-Elliott Co., LLC, a compressor manufacturer, mentioned using Owler.com to view a company’s profile.
Jeff got technical, guiding candidates to look at the company’s SEO efforts on their own website as well as the company’s social media presence. “Look at their title tags…Look at their social media – do they post infrequently or have no comments? That’s opportunity. Find the answers to their problems.”
Lindsay mentioned viewing client websites when interviewing at an agency such as his. It can also be helpful to research partners, case studies, conferences presented at, and topics presented on. “The most interesting information [about Olson Zaltman] isn’t on our website,” he said.
You’ve done your research, but how exactly do you “wow” an interviewer?
Jeff relayed a story about hiring a writer who was part of a comedy/improv troupe. “It was a skill he had that we weren’t looking for that brought added value to the company,” he said. In other words, spin your talents into solutions to the company’s problems.
David said that he’s been wowed by how much someone knew about his company. “Find the company’s pain points,” he said. “In the interview, get to the root of why they’re hiring and how you can fit the role.”
Neil’s response was quick: the questions they ask at the end of the interview can wow him. “Probing questions are impressive,” he said.
What probing questions should you ask during an interview?
David and Neil agreed that asking about the marketing-sales department relationship can yield a lot of important information about the company. According to Neil, sales and marketing alignment is “a neverending battle” as they look at things differently. “A company that takes marketing seriously is one where marketing is working hand-in-hand with sales.”
Similarly, Jeff felt that asking about the marketing-IT relationship is an excellent question to pose. He said that the IT department “had better be on board” with marketing in order to move along marketing initiatives.
More specific to the role at hand, David said that asking “What’s your indicator of success?” for the first 30 and 90 days after hiring can be eye-opening. Lindsay responded that asking a question such as “Where do you see the company in 10 years?” shows that a candidate is curious about being at the company for a long time. “Over the long term, how are you going to be competitive?” is a brilliant question to ask, he said. Neil also mentioned asking about overall business challenges, not just marketing challenges. “It can lead to a really engaged conversation,” he said.
Don’t forget to ask about the culture.
Part of interviewing is looking for “cultural fit.”
Lindsay quit his first job out of college after four months because the culture wasn’t a good fit. “You have to be passionate about it,” he added.
Anne said that the importance of looking for cultural fit can’t be overstated. “Always look for cultural fit or else you’ll be miserable,” she said. “I hated working for a global company – it took six months to do anything.”
David responded that with larger companies, there may be frustrations with how long decision making takes, but there are resources available that don’t exist at smaller companies. At smaller companies, you must have a tolerance for things shifting quickly, while at larger companies, you need to have a tolerance for bureaucracy, the panelists instructed.
After an interview, don’t be shy about following up.
“Resumes are to get an interview, interviews are to get hired,” said Anne. “If you don’t get hired, just ask the interviewer why.”
Neil agreed, and said that asking ‘why’ keeps the dialogue going between you and the interviewing company. “It’s Marketing 101: understanding the customer [the interviewer].”
David also agreed, saying that you have nothing to lose by asking, and in fact you could gain a new contact that could lead to networking and possibly a job in the future.
Part of interviewing is making a good first impression, and that includes your social media presence.
As Anne said, “Everyone is looking at your social media.” David instructed that all candidates should “be professional…Be careful about the image you put out, as you’re marketing yourself.”
Jeff suggested creating lists on Facebook to post content for friends or family. “All your wild and crazy stuff – keep it as private as you can,” he said. David felt that everyone should have two Facebook pages, one for yourself and one for hiring managers.
Regarding LinkedIn, Neil directed all candidates to keep their information correct, and when posting information to their networks, “don’t blur the lines between personal and professional viewpoints, as that’s a red flag.” He advised keeping everything balanced, and that will show good judgment to potential new employers.
No networking event would be complete without a discussion of…networking.
“Networking may be the most important marketing tool that you have,” said Anne. She told the audience that she applied to her first job via a newspaper ad, but didn’t hear back after she sent in her resume. She used her network to get an interview thanks to a contact she knew. “You need to work that network!”
Lindsay says he does his best to “help people out the way I was helped out. Find companies you like and do informational interviews. Ask, ‘Can I just sit down and learn a little about what you do?'”
Anne added that informational interviews are a great resource if you don’t like your current position, and would like to hear more about different aspects of marketing. Quite simply, Jeff said, “Offer to buy someone a cup of coffee.”