Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Make Sure You Interview For The Job You Came For

A candidate interviewed at a wonderful creative shop for a senior position.  She was doing great until she blew the interview.  Here is the huge error she made.

This candidate was interviewing with the president of the agency; it was her final interview. If the interview went well she would be hired.  She was with the president for almost an hour. She felt comfortable; there was good camaraderie between them and she was able to joke with him.  She could tell he really liked her. 

Then he very casually asked where she saw herself in five years. She is one of the few ad agency executives who started out in public relations and moved into advertising.  She was interviewing for a traditional ad agency senior account management position.  So how did she answer?  She told the president she really wanted to go back to PR.  Not smart when you are interviewing for an ad agency traditional account job.

Her answer came out of the blue.  They had not discussed PR at all.  The president told her that he had just made a proposal to a client to obtain their PR and corporate communications efforts.  For the next fifteen minutes she told the president how and why she could do that. The president was more than willing to consider her for this assignment should they win it.  But, as a result, she completely talked her way out of the account job. Sadly, she had no idea what she had done.

And, of course, if the agency does get this public relations and corporate communications assignment, the president told me he would seriously consider this candidate but would like to meet other corpcom and PR people.  She, naturally, thought the interview went perfectly and he would hire her one way or another. She was shocked when she did not get the account job. I had to explain to her that she blew it when she discussed a job she was not there for.

What she should have done was to tell him that she wanted to advance in the traditional account management area – after all, that is what she was interviewing for – and, because of her background, she would love to find a way to possibly combine her two disciplines. 

The best advice I can give is to make sure you interview for the job you go for.  Farther down the line she could have revisited the PR opportunity, especially after she was hired and had earned personal equity with the firm.  There is an expression, "Be Here Now" which means that you have to have your mind on what you are currently doing. 


  1. I feel for her, but I also kind of want to give her a good dressing down. Like duh, this seems such a rookie mistake. I'd have thought someone senior enough to have an hour's time with the CEO wouldn't move off course so effortlessly.

    1. One of the tough parts of recruiting is that we cannot control our candidates. I suspect that what happened is that the connection she felt with the President lulled her into a false sense of security. As a result, she went off on a tangent and it cost her the job. Unfortunately, it happens fairly frequently.

  2. Just for the record ... "Be here now!" is not just an expression. It's a direct quote from George Harrison, of Beatles fame. The rest of his quote was ... "because it's not like it was before." And nothing ever is. Bill Crandall


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