You've spent countless hours on your resume. You've made sure every bullet starts with an action verb. You've obsessed over formatting and font choice. Is your resume ready to help you land a job in advertising?
I was in your shoes not too long ago, and I've reviewed a quite a few resumes, interviewed quite a few candidates, and learned a number of valuable things along the way. I've included general guidelines that may help you navigate your way through the interview process to land a great job below.
Four things to avoid:
A bland personal statement: If you decide to include one, it should be meaningful and add information. It should not just declare your interest in getting a job at a given company. I already know you're looking for a job at my company because I have your resume in my hands. Use the personal statement to add some color by sharing a larger aspiration or an interesting angle.
A resume that is more than one page: Show me that you respect my time and that you can prioritize the most important information by keeping your resume to a single page. Do not try to squeeze your one and a half page resume onto one page by expanding the margins or shrinking the font size to microscopic levels (nothing below size 10!). Your high school internship at Panera Breads is not what's going to make or break your application. Trust me.
A list of your relevant coursework: That "Introduction to Marketing" course you took in college is not relevant, so save some space and keep it off. If you have interesting marketing/advertising projects or competitions you've participated in as a result of your course work, those would be great to mention during the interview to demonstrate your creative problem solving or teamwork skills.
An overly creative resume: I once received a resume that had a huge blue circle in the background that made it completely impossible to read. Resumes are usually e-mailed or printed on a black and white printer, so some of your creative flair may be lost, or worse, obscure the valuable content – the words. Never sacrifice clarity of the information on your resume to express your creativity. Attach your work separately. Include creative samples in a portfolio for art director or copywriter positions and attach separately any presentation or case study you create for account management or strategy positions. Keep your resume clean and clear.
Four things to emphasize:
Responsibility and follow-through: Showcase your experience in getting things done. You regularly face with significant challenges, either in your schoolwork, extra-curriculars, internships or personal life. How have you taking on responsibility? How have you navigated through new challenges? What was the result of your actions? You'll face many situations that will require responsibility and follow-through as you navigate your new job, so it is critical that you can demonstrate these capabilities during the application process.
Creativity and resourcefulness: Working in a creative industry certainly requires creativity, but I am referring to something else: creativity in your approach to problem solving. At your first job, you will face very few situations that you know the answer, or even how to approach getting the answer, when the question is asked. The people that succeed are the ones that don't wait to have their hand held while their bosses take them through every step of the process. Instead, they take initiative leverage their resources and find creative ways get the job done. Demonstrate this on your resume and during the interview and you will stand out.
Interesting and fun: Stand out by including some interesting and fun information about yourself. Are you a certified SCUBA diver? A trivia master? A foodie? An athlete? Include some of these tidbits at the end of your resume – it's a great way to make an interview more personal, to show some of your side passions and to connect with your interviewer.
Follow up: Always send a note thanking the interviewer for his or her time. If you had a good conversation, your follow up can include personal notes or an article that is relevant to the discussion. If your contact is in HR and oversees many different opportunities, it is worth your while to keep in touch with them every month or so. Don't just send an e-mail with "Hi, any jobs yet?", but rather check company news, new work, new clients, new awards, etc. that may translate into a job opportunity for you. (tip: new business win = job openings!) Also, please do not send gifts to your interviewers. Not appropriate.
About the Author
Ori Zohar is the Director of Digital Innovation at Integrated Media Solutions, a New York City-based media agency part of the MDC Partners network. Prior to this role, Ori worked in Communications Strategy at Universal McCann on the MasterCard and ExxonMobil accounts. Ori was also part of the New Business team at UM, who ushered in a group of U.S. and global clients including BMW, Chrysler and Burberry, helping UM win 2009 U.S. Media Agency of the Year. Ori is the Board Member and President of the Young Professionals at the ADVERTISING Club, an organization for all communication professionals in New York.