Greetings From Virginia

How I Struck a Rapport With an Agency (and Got a New Job) by Being Real

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Mansi Trivedi Mansi Trivedi
In February, I read a post from the VCU Brandcenter Alumni Facebook group introducing a "new" agency with job openings: Modea, a shop that prides itself in bringing innovative thinking to the table. I hadn't heard about them before, nor was moving to Blacksburg, Va., on my radar. But I spent the first half of the day researching the agency, their client list, their process and services. I appreciated the work and the thinking behind it. It got really interesting when I discovered and perused their Facebook page. I applied for a job via e-mail shortly thereafter.

I tweeted about an agency that was doing it right. Modea had used its website to communicate its brand but used the Facebook page to communicate the agency's culture. I spent the next 24 hours waiting for a reply to my e-mail. They responded and called me for an interview. I had two rounds of interviews in which I shared my interests, my history, career path and my goals. Then they asked me what I was most passionate about. I was surprised by the question because the agencies I'd interviewed with earlier hadn't asked me that. It was a simple question, and I was glad someone was asking me this. First I mumbled a little under my breath, but then I realized how comfortable I was while talking about it. I told them about my love of storytelling and technology.

I was invited back for another round of meet and greet. My daylong itinerary included lunch, dinner and drinks. It was amazing rubbing shoulders with two smart entrepreneurs, who, after some challenges, held strongly to their dream. Modea is neither an agency nor a think tank. It is an idea-churning society. During my interview process, I met real people, not just employees. I was exposed to the agency's culture rather than just its process.

Two days later, I got a phone call. I was taken through the offer letter and asked for my thoughts. I said yes. I updated my LinkedIn profile page, looked up Virginia's weather and packed my bags.

Tips for Interview Success:

Don't bring your resume to an interview; bring yourself. I talked with the founders about Bollywood and about cooking Indian food. Resumes can be read and referenced, but interviewees want to know the real you. If you are applying to an agency where the culture is as important as the business, don't be shy to talk about things about which you are most passionate.

Be humble and honest. I discussed what I'd learned from mentors at my previous agency. Sure, they'd let me go, but I am still thankful for all the things I learned while there. Be humble, because the reason you got all those awards and accolades was not only your talent but also the people who made it happen for you and the people you learned from. Be honest about things you did and things you didn't do. It's okay to not know something; that just shows that there's room for growth.

Don't rehearse the standard lines. It's good to be well prepared during the interview, but don't use buzzwords to score points. We often forget that after the interview comes the job. Be authentic and real.

Think about why you really would want to work there. If it's the company vision, let them know. If the reason is the town, tell them. If it's a combination of both, even better. For me, aside from their enthusiasm for the industry, it was the culture and the fact that I felt it was a good fit for me.

Ask questions. Don't ask questions only to show that you're interested. Ask them because you really are curious. Asking questions is the first step to building a relationship.

I'm sure there are many more elements that go into successful interviews; I would love to hear your thoughts and additions to this list based on your personal experiences.