Our friends over at AMC here in Manhattan gave me a sneak peek at tonight’s series premiere of “The Pitch” — the ad agency head-to-head battle series. Tonight’s show features a work-around-the-clock Vegas agency against a Clio-award-winning New York ad veteran.
What draws you into the show is the live pitch that the two agencies do against each other to win new business, with a real account being awarded at the end of each show. It’s intense, there are incredibly tight deadlines, and the two teams are playing for real stakes.
And watching the show, I thought about how you might feel going in to the interview.
Do you fret uneasily — maybe even ungraciously — about the competition? Do you worry about being over the hill? Are you pretty sure you’re not good enough?
As one competitor on the show says, do you fear that “try not to embarrass yourself” is the best you’ll be able to do?
Well, here are ten things you can do to chill out and relax a little before, during and after your big “Pitch”:
1. Show up with a “good” level of knowledge after doing a “reasonable” amount of research. You’d be surprised at the number of people who haven’t looked at the company’s homepage, Googled its name, and checked out the stock ticker, before showing up for an interview. In tonight’s show, for example, I liked how one ad guy actually went and took pictures of the client’s business “in the wild.” It shows interest.
Likewise, you might be surprised at the number of people who overdo it and show up with eight pages of questions — single-spaced — and start off with an inquiry as to why margins in the Southwest region have declined by 10% since seven years ago despite favorable currency rates. There is such a thing as overdoing it.
2. Be on time, unflustered, with a clean, well-presented copy of your resume. Sure, this sounds like “Interviewing 101″, but you know that you’ve violated this rule at least once in your life because you didn’t leave the house ten minutes earlier than you “thought” was safe. Do yourself a favor — it’s far better to be wasting 10 minutes in the lobby than stressing out in transit.
3. Dress the part — businesslike and professional, no matter how party-rocking the company is. Except in cases where the culture is aggressively anti-corporate, a coat and tie or string of pearls never makes you look bad. Even the super-groovy adman in “The Pitch” pops a necktie for his big presentation — you should too.
4. Be kind to every employee you meet. As a matter of fact, be kind to everybody within 2 miles of the interview building — the receptionist, the parking lot guy, the janitor and the intern. When I ask our receptionists how a candidate behaved, it is shocking to hear the number of people who think good manners and kindness are only to be trotted out in the interview room.
5. Remember JFK? (Or remember what your parents told you about JFK?) Ask not what the company can do for you, answer instead “what can I do for this company?”
6. This ain’t “Real Housewives” or “Biography” — “The Pitch” is about winning a business battle. Same thing with a job interview — it’s a time and place for you to explain and sell your ability to do the job. Stick, mostly, to the business side and how you can solve the problems your future boss is currently facing. Don’t go into a half-hour long disquisition on the relative merits of Mozart and Beethoven, the reasons you love or hate (but mostly love) the Yankees, or the intricacies of your college rivalries. The interviewer does not want your life story, they want to know your business capabilities.
7. “Bad mouth thee, bad mouth me.” Whenever you trash-talk your former or current employer, guess what the interviewer thinks? “Oh boy, if we hire this guy, I’m next on the firing line!” Never, ever say a bad, mean or unkind thing (especially if true!) because that just shows off your ability to be an ingrate, gossip or ne’er-do-well.
8. Save the money talk for last. You should get a range from the recruiter or HR person before going in (“in the interests of saving everybody time, I would need to know what range this position is budgeted for, before considering”) and side-step the grilling about your current compensation (“I think we’re talking about what I’m worth in the future, not what I was worth in the past for a different role, with different responsibilities, at a different company — am I right or is that off-base?”). Don’t bring it up in interviews until after they know how excited they are about working with you, because that’s when they’re most likely to get excited about paying you more.
9. Thank the interviewer for their time and ask (a few) good questions (especially my “single best question to ask in an interview“). A great all-purpose question to ask at the end: “Is there anything else I should’ve asked about this role or my future boss that I haven’t asked?”
10. Send a thank you email. Thank the interviewer again and reiterate (very briefly) what you discussed and how you can contribute. Three sentences is a good length. Five sentences maximum. Walk out of the interview with a note taken on one specific thing you discussed: “I enjoyed our conversation around the changes in the mobile ecosystem and how my background could be useful in designing the advertising strategy for the Big Mick in McDowell’s upcoming national campaign.” This helps the interviewer remember why they like you when time comes to make the go/no-go decision on hiring you.
Now one of the biggest differences between a job interview and “The Pitch” is that you’ll find out right away who wins tonight on “The Pitch.” I enjoyed the show and the competition a whole bunch, so tune in tonight for the two-hour premiere at 9pm/8pm CT for the big fight!
And I hope these tips will help reduce some of the anxiety or nerves you feel during your “pitch” in the interview room. Have a great week, Readers…
I’m rooting for you.