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June 21, 2018

Doing this one thing will absolutely make me hire you.

I’ve been on both sides of the hiring table for creative roles, and I can’t say I’ve ever met somebody that enjoyed the interview process.

There’s a ton of reasons why the process makes everyone involved uncomfortable: it involves judgment, the stakes are high, and it requires you to leave your comfort zone. There are countless articles dedicated to helping candidates overcome those challenges. But the real reason the interview process makes people so uncomfortable is something a little more subtle: the interview process is filled with uncertainty.

The interview process is filled with uncertainty.

Think about it. As a candidate, you’re justifiably painting a prettier picture of yourself than the real you and interviewers know it. That’s why most interviews are spent with the hiring manager trying to see through this veneer and find the truth. As somebody who’s interviewed a lot of content folks, I can assure candidates that nearly every interview strategy, format, or tactic used by an interviewer was created to get a candidate to slip up or reveal something true. This is an enormously stressful situation for both parties.

But there’s a way for candidates in creative roles to avoid this uneasy dynamic entirely and jump to the top of the hiring list.

Show Your Work

If you break down the interview process for any role, but especially a creative one, you’re really just trying to prove to the hiring manager: “I can crush this role for you.”

For some roles, you have to sidestep into showing your merits with the way you respond to questions or exercises. But creative roles have the luxury of being able to show the actual work to the company they want to join. When you do this, you jump right to the top of the hiring list because the company doesn’t have to wonder, they know you can do the job.

My #1 piece of advice for applicants? Simple:

More Than Just a Portfolio

I should be clear: showing me the work DOES NOT mean just sending me your portfolio. Well, it doesn’t mean only doing that.

QUOTE: When I say show me the work, I mean to spend a few hours creating content for the company you are applying to.

When I say show me the work, I mean to spend a few hours creating content for the company you are applying to.

  • If you’re a writer, write 2–3 blog posts for the company you are applying to and add them to a special page on your portfolio.
  • If you’re a designer, create an infographic based on one of the company’s recent campaigns.
  • If you’re a strategist, conduct and audit of the company’s current content and create a document of their finds.

Before a hiring manager even clicks on the content, you already stand out on the boring backend of applicant tracking systems:

And once you get into the actual interview process, the interviewer will likely be dying to talk about the pieces you put together. No subterfuge, you back-and-forth. Why would they bother? They already KNOW what hiring you 

will be like. All that’s left is to convince them you’re not a serial killer and then sign on the dotted line.

Is it going to take time? Sure. But if you aren’t willing to spend a day performing the functions of the role you’re applying to… you may want to reconsider.

Everyone wants to look committed in interviews, like they’re willing to go the extra mile. But the best way to demonstrate this is to actually go the extra mile! The last job I applied for I spent a full weekend auditing their existing content, designing and infographic, and writing a blog post, all tailored to the company I was applying for. I could tell they were going to hire me before the end of the first phone call! Actually SHOWING them what hiring me would look like took all the stress out of the situation and made the hiring process more enjoyable for both sides.

It’s going to take a little extra time, but I guarantee the feeling you’ll have when you submit your application with custom work examples attached is worth it. There is no substitute for the confidence of knowing you’ll standout from the competition and likely head into your first interview with the company dying to meet you and talk about the work.

Take the time. Show the work. It will get you hired. I promise.

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