Today, it seems as if in-person interviews are a thing of the past. The last in-person interview that I had was two years ago when I interviewed as a student worker at an HR office back in my hometown (Ocala!). While there are a lot of things to appreciate about virtual interviews, I kind of miss the thrill of dressing up to see your recruiter in person. With virtual interviews, some of the recruiters I’ve had are looking at multiple screens, blurring out a busy background, and keeping a poker face on. I don’t know about y’all but sometimes all these things just make me nervous because I feel they’re noting and analyzing everything little thing I do or say.
But I’m not here to crap on virtual interviews or recruiters. Virtual interviewing is not only convenient but it can be easygoing. Today I’m gonna share some common tips and tricks on how you can ace your virtual interviews and some common questions that I’ve been coming across in my virtual interviews.
#1) Do NOT have a script/notes on the side
I made this mistake when I started doing virtual interviews. Not only will the recruiter be able to pick up on your trick because they’ll notice your eyes swiftly moving back and forth, but you’ll sound rehearsed and won’t come off sounding as natural as you think. Instead, I write down all the questions that I think the recruiter may ask, I write very short answers, practice about two times and then put them away. For example, if the recruiter asks me, “Why do you want to work in advertising?” I write down one or two points (collaborating with others and I get to be creative) and then I talk out my full answer. That way I’m not trying to remember every word I wrote out and I can speak genuinely and naturally. This helps calm my nerves and it helps me think about what I want to say if the recruiter happens to ask that question.
#2) Rehearse your Introduction
I always tripped over my words whenever I would hear, “Tell me a bit about yourself.” I never thought I needed to rehearse my introduction because I would just talk about my clubs and basic academic info. But as I started being interviewed more and I started looking at other articles and interview prep tips, I realized that your introduction is one of the most important parts of an interview. Whenever I gave basic info about the club I was in, the classes I was taking, etc, I could tell immediately that my recruiters were bored, because they’d heard basic information like this before. Some of you may recognize this style as an elevator pitch. And from what a few people have told me, it’s not always the best model to use for introductions.
In case you don’t know what it is, an elevator pitch is a brief 30-second introduction where you introduce yourself, talk about an accomplishment, a club you’re in (or a school-based activity you do), and then you usually end it by saying what you want from the recruiter/person. I’ve used an elevator pitch at career fairs and in some previous interviews but it’s always felt rehearsed and a little forced. I think you should use the elevator pitch model sparingly. If you talk to someone at the Career Connection Center, they’re gonna tell you to have one and use it. I would say maybe at career fairs it can be a good ice breaker when you’re walking up to a recruiter. But as far as interviews go, I don’t use it. In interviews, usually, they’ll say, “Tell me a bit about yourself?” Rather than start with a rehearsed pitch, I start with a very short introduction (name, class standing, major), then I briefly mention the clubs I’m a part of (Ad Society, Elevate), but then I talk about my craft (copywriting) and why I want to work in advertising. And if I do mention a club, I talk about what I’ve gotten out of the club or what I’ve enjoyed about it. You want to talk about your achievements and accomplishments but you also want to show your personality and let the recruiter get to know you a little.
#3) Do NOT over prepare
After all the interviews that I’ve had so far, I believe without a doubt that you can never be completely prepared for an interview. As I mentioned before, I do write out some common questions that the recruiter may ask and I talk out my answers. But almost every time either the recruiter asks a question that I didn’t prepare for. Or they ask me one or two questions and then ask me if I have questions. So don’t spend hours trying to perfect your answers or trying to figure out which questions your recruiters may ask. I’m not saying to go in casually without practicing or prepping at all. But if you spend too much time rehearsing the same 3-4 questions that you think you might get asked and then you get to the interview and your recruiters ask none of them, you’re gonna be thrown off a little. It’s good to be prepared but prepare for the unexpected. You never really know how the conversation might start or where it will go.
#4) Have your portfolio ready to go
This is especially important if you’re in a creative discipline (copywriting, art direction, etc.). If you’re interviewing for a creative internship, they’re going to expect some type of portfolio or work that you’ve done so that can see how you think and come up with ideas. But even if you’re not applying for a creative discipline, it’s still good to have a portfolio that showcases your work. Before your interview, make sure your website is working, have it on a tab ready to go, and make sure it reflects who you are as a creative.
Bonus🌟 Have a professional but unique background
Now I don’t know if this applies to all of you because everyone’s living situation is different. You could be in a small dorm room or have a very decorative room in an apartment. So I get it if it’s hard the blur background filter is your go-to. But if you can, I’d try to have something decorative or unique in the background so it can show off your personality a little. For example, in all of my interviews, I’ve always had this orange and blue wreath that I had set behind me because I didn’t want to have a plain background and I thought it looked professional but also kind of unique. And in my last interview, the minute I hopped on one of the recruiters said, “Hi! Okay, we have to talk about that thing behind you.” I was laughing so hard on the inside because none of my other recruiters never said anything about it before. And the fact that she was so invested in it broke the ice and made me feel less nervous about being interviewed. So whether it’s a cool drawing or an appropriately decorated wall, consider having it as your background for your next interview.
And the last thing that I want to leave you all with is a few of the questions that have always come up in my round of interviews these past two years. As I mentioned before, you never know what question a recruiter is going to ask you. But, at least for me, recruiters have always asked me these questions:
Tell me a bit about yourself
Will, usually, always be the first question
What do you like to do outside of school/work?
Tell me about a time you faced a difficult/stressful situation. How did you handle it?
Tell me about a leadership role you’ve taken on and the challenges that came along with it.
What are your three strengths? What about three weaknesses?
Sometimes recruiters will ask you for one each, sometimes it will be three of each. But it’s good to have three strengths and weaknesses so you can be prepared.
What are you hoping to gain from this internship, program, etc?
Tell me about a campaign that you’ve seen in the past year. What did you like about it?
For any role (whether it’s creative or not), I was usually asked this question. Make sure you have at least three in mind and really think about why you liked them. Don’t just say something along the lines of, “It was really cool/interesting”
Where do you see yourself five years after graduation?
What type of agency do you see yourself working at? (Creative, Media focused, Strategy Focused, etc; Large agency, mid-size, small, etc.)
What do you like about account management, strategy, copywriting, art direction, etc?
The question depends on what role/craft you’re interviewing for
Can you walk me through your portfolio? *Usually applies to creatives*
Why do you want to work in advertising?
What skills can you bring to this agency (or this internship program)?
Have you heard of our agency before? Where did you hear about us?
Do you have any questions for me?
Yes! Always yes! I usually research the agency/org beforehand and ask about some of the campaigns they worked on. You could also ask about agency culture, or how remote working has impacted the agency. Or if there’s an intern project (if they haven’t already talked about their internship program).
No matter what role you’re applying for, whether it’s project management or art direction, whether it’s at a small agency or an in-house production, try to think of your interview as a normal conversation. I am always nervous whenever I have an interview. But take a deep breath and remember why you applied to the internship in the first place. It can be daunting but there’s a reason why they wanted to meet you virtually. They’re interested in you and they think you could be a potential fit. All you gotta do is show them who you are.