Interview Etiquette

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Do not text your recruiter

I have already covered this topic but felt the need to reiterate as candidates continue to text us. Today, for example, a candidate texted me to cancel an interview one hour before they were supopsed to be with one of our clients for an interview. I nearly missed ithe text which would have resulted in a bad situation when the candidate did not turn up for his interview with the client this morning. Last minute interview cancellations are bad enough but sending the cancellation via text is extremely unprofessional and potentially detrimental to the client-candidate relationship as well as to the candidate-recruiter relationship. Texting your recruiter about any topic is a huge “no no”. It does not get captured by our database so our correspondences go unrecorded and it is just very unprofessional for many different reasons. So don’t be surprised if we stop responding to text messages as, from our perspective, this is a cardinal sin amongst candidates. As an aside, even if we are friendly and have hung out in the same social circle one time and are now working together in a professional capacity, still do not text regarding anything work related.

When it comes to salaries, don’t shoot for the stars

Candidates often make the mistake of expecting and asking for salaries which are far too high as a next step in their careers. Unless you are being overpaid (which is sometimes the case), we do not suggest that you should make a lateral move but rather ask for an increase when you make the move from one company/role to another. It is always encouraged to rise up the ranks both in title and salary as you make transitions in your career. However, candidates sometimes get too big for their britches and ask for way too high of an increase when negotiating their terms with agencies. Perhaps you did not get the raise you were expecting during your last review—this isn’t the fault of your next employer. Perhaps you took a year off to travel and this has affected salary increases—this isn’t the fault of your next employer. Maybe you’ve even been performing at a level above for the past year and feel extremely disgruntled in your current role—this isn’t the fault of your next employer either!

I realize that many times you feel overworked and underpaid, but part of our job as recruiters is to guide you regarding salary and keep you grounded and objective. As recruiters, we not only know the “going rate” for particular levels of experience, types of experience, and industries/roles in general, but we also know our clients’ budget ranges and what they are able and willing to pay for particular positions. We obviously want to negotiate the best and highest salary for you, but we will always be honest in terms of what we feel you should and can realistically ask for during offer stage.

I’ve been faced with the difficult task of bringing candidates back to reality when it comes to salaries, in hopes that they will agree with me and not box themselves out of a great opportunity because they want to negotiate a higher salary or strongly feel they deserve more. There is usually someone with a similar skillset and comparable years of experience who is asking for less, so it is in your best interest to listen to your recruiter when it comes to salary negotiations and follow his/her advice so as not to appear too expensive, unrealistic, or money hungry.

Being a dreamer in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you really need to come back to reality when discussing and finalizing salary expectations with a potential employer. While salary is important, the most crucial thing at the end of the day is to secure the position that is truly the next best step in your career. All the money in the world can’t buy the happiness you feel when  going to a job you love every day, and monetary success will most likely follow this feeling of personal and professional contentment.

Make time to prep with your recruiter before an interview with a company!

A very important part of the recruitment process at our agency is prepping candidates before an interview with one of our clients. It is sometimes difficult for us to get in touch with candidates in order to prep them which is always extremely surprising to us that candidates would want to show up to an interview with a company unprepared. Candidates should set aside five to ten minutes to prep via phone with their recruiters before an interview. And don’t leave this until the last minute when you are jumping on the subway or in a taxi to the interview – we are busy too and may not be available. What does an interview prep call include? – Critical details such as the name, title, and any other details regarding the person(s) with whom the candidate will be meeting. This would have already been provided to you in an email, however we will be able to offer insights into the people that you will be interviewing with. In some cases the recruiter has been working with the hiring manager for a long time and is very familiar with the managers interview style and demeanor. – Advice on how to best position the candidates’ experience (i.e. reason for wanting to leave current job, reason why this agency is the next best step). – The appropriate dress code for the interview based upon the particular company and role (trendy vs. corporate). – Specific strengths and skillsets for the candidate to highlight in order to be relevant to the role at hand. And MUCH MUCH MORE. A prep call between a candidate and a recruiter prior to an interview is essential and extremely helpful in not only preparing the candidate, but also in providing a sense of confidence and ease.

Candidate Desperation is a Turn Off to both Recruiters and Clients – Do not be a stalker

It is wonderful to be eager about finding a new position during the job hunt and to really fall in love with a company or a role. Also it is completely fine for a candidate to follow up with a recruiter to see if a client would like to schedule an interview or has provided feedback following an interview. However, there is such thing as TOO MANY follow ups. As a recruiter, my job is to liaise between candidate and client and to manage the entire process from start to finish. While some recruiters are not great at following up, our agency prides itself on being very good about keeping candidates in the loop. However, in the case that there is no update to provide, a candidate will most likely not hear from us. One of the worst things a candidate can do is to continually follow up as it is a turn off to the recruiter and it does make a candidate look a bit desperate. Candidates should trust that a recruiter will follow up with them and provide updates throughout the search anytime there is information to provide. A recruiter will often stop reaching out to a candidate with great opportunities if the candidate goes into stalker mode. A lot of our in-house recruiter friends discuss with us that they have stopped approaching stalker candidates about roles for these reasons.

LESSON: Do not stalk your recruiter. Trust that he or she will keep you in the loop and update you throughout the process.

Agency Candidates – Express Interest for the Agency as a Whole and Not Just for a Particular Account

A mistake that candidates often make which can completely ruin their chances of getting an offer from a company is to express interest and enthusiasm solely for the particular account/brand on which he or she would be working and not for the agency as a whole. It is great for a candidate to show passion for the particular brand which he or she would be managing. However, as I have blogged about previously, a candidate should be careful to not pigeonhole himself or herself by appearing open to only certain types of  accounts. Often times the way to get one’s foot into the door of a great agency is to accept a role on a brand that might not be the “dream” account with the possibility of transitioning onto different accounts while at the agency—this is very common

That being said, a candidate should also be sure to express interest in the agency as a whole during the interview process. It is a turn off to a potential employer when a candidate seems to be interested solely in the brand and not the agency — as the agency could lose the account at some point in the future (worst case scenario) or the candidate could be moved onto a different account based upon staffing needs. These are all likely scenarios so candidates should express enthusiasm for the actual agency during an interview as well.

I met with a client recently who absolutely loved a candidate that I had presented but said one of the reasons he will not receive an offer is that he didn’t express interest for the agency, only for the brand on which he would be working. This is a shame as this mistake can be easily avoided.

Here are some ways to express interest in an agency during an interview:
<li>Make it clear that you are familiar with the agency/have done your research prior to the interview</li>
<li>Give an example of a campaign the agency has produced which inspired you</li>
<li>Give some reasons why the agency would be great for you as a next step</li>

Why candidates need to make themselves available for interviews with companies

A majority of the candidates with whom we work are currently in jobs. Thus their schedules tend to be very busy and availability (especially during work hours) rather limited. Setting up interviews with these candidates can be very tricky as they do not want to raise suspicion in their offices and often times they have to put their current role first (attending internal meetings, etc). This makes complete sense as they do not want to lose their jobs!

That being said, candidates should make an effort to not be too difficult when a recruiter is trying to schedule an interview with a potential employer for them. Their lack of availability can signal indifference or even an absence of real interest in the role at hand. This is not the type of vibe or energy they should give off before meeting the hiring manager.

Even if it takes some major juggling or  a white lie (doctors appointment, cable guy visit– note we do not advocate lying but you know what I mean here), candidates should realize that the client is not doing them a favor by requesting an interview and should do their absolute best to be accommodating and flexible in order to keep first impressions very positive.

Interview cancellation and/or rescheduling etiquette for candidates and clients

There is proper etiquette for candidates and clients to follow when canceling and/or rescheduling interviews. It is bound to happen- a candidate wakes up with the flu or a client gets stuck with a last minute internal meeting– and the interview has to be cancelled. This is totally understandable, especially in these creative industries where schedules change and firedrills occur all the time.

However, both candidates and clients should do their bese to give as much advanced notice as possible and try not to cancel at the last minute as it can leave a bad impression on both parties.

Often a candidate has taken time off from his or her current job for the interview so a last minute cancellation could jeopardize his or her current role. Also when a candidate cancels last minute, it unfortunately can imply irresponsibility or rudeness in the client’s eyes.

The bottom line is that these last minute cancellations are often unavoidable. However, both parties should do their best to give advanced notice and proactively reschedule so momentum isn’t lost and interest is maintained.

Candidate Interview Tips: Don’t pigeonhole yourself during an interview on the agency side

As a recruiter, I encourage candidates to take time to think about what they want to achieve in their careers and what their ideal next step would be if they are looking to make a move. Candidates should consider the size and culture of company, type of organization and the brands they would like to work with.

While it is good to have focus and passion, candidates must be careful to not pigeonhole themselves during an interview with a agency by expressing an interest in working for only one type of category (only sports or retail, for example). If the interview is for a specific account, of course candidates should focus on why this account is desirable to them. However, many interviews (especially at larger traditional advertising agencies) are more general, and not soley focused on one account, as there are often multiple openings on various brands. In this case, agencies interview candidates to see where they would fit best in terms of accounts based on skillset, personality, and how they would interact with the team.

During these types of interviews with agencies, candidates should focus more on why the agency is a great fit and less on the particular types of accounts which appeal to them– as they do not want to rule themselves out of any opportunity. Keep it general in these situations and again express interest and enthusiasm for the agency and an open minded attitude in terms of the accounts.

Addendum: I am not suggesting that candidates with a passion for fashion should settle for an automotive account, but be very careful during a general type interview to appear open to multiple categories as you could end up getting your foot in the door at an amazing agency and ending up on the dream account!

The Importance of Client Feedback Following Candidate Interviews

It is much appreciated and very important that clients provide feedback following candidate interviews. As a recruiter, this feedback is really critical as we can help candidates to improve their interviewing skills through constructive criticism. Also it is always very encouraging to provide positive feedback from a client, even when the candidate has not been chosen for the role. This keeps the candidate interested in the company should future roles open and also boosts his or her confidence for future interviews. Clients should feel completely comfortable providing feedback to us, even if it is negative, as we relay it in a very eloquent and constructive way to our candidates.

Client feedback is also very helpful as it gives us even clearer direction in terms of the ideal candidate skill set and personality for the particular role. There are often very slight nuances that set one candidate apart from another or that make a candidate the perfect fit for an agency/position, so this type of post-interview feedback is critical to conducting the most thorough and accurate search on our end.

I realize that our clients are extremely busy on a daily basis so do not expect pages of feedback on each candidate. However, it truly is helpful to all parties throughout the process to be frank and forthright in terms of feedback on candidates that interview for specific roles.

Many thanks in advance to our clients who take the time to download us following interviews and help to guide us as we find the PERFECT candidate for the role!

A Classy and Smart Client Gesture

Today a client asked me to forward the below email to a candidate that she had really liked but had decided to not hire as she had met someone a couple of weeks ago that she had really liked as well (who had immediate availability). It is not often that a client takes the time to send a personal note to a candidate following an interview, especially when the candidate is not the one to which they are extending an offer.

This is very smart on the part of the client as, if the candidate really liked the agency following the interview, he or she will most likely be touched by this gesture and remain open to future opportunities at the company. It also shows that the client appreciates the candidate’s time and talent and establishes a personal connection between them from the start.

As a recruiter, I truly appreciate this client gesture and do encourage other clients to follow suit if they really like a candidate and see him or her as a potential asset for future roles.

“Dear XXXX,

Thank you for your time and interest in xxxxxx.

It was our pleasure to meet you, both xxx and I were very impressed with you and your experience as account executive.

After a difficult deliberation, we have decided to move forward with another candidate for the time being but wanted to reach out to let you know our appreciation and hope that our paths will cross again.

Kind regards,