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Making the right impression at a job interview

14 Nov 12:00 by Richard Walters

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Making the right impression at a marketing job interview can determine your future career.

A word of warning – do not go looking for a job at one of the world’s most popular airlines if you’ve got a niggling doubt about an empty boast on your CV. “Believe me,” says Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, “you’ll be found out.”

“In interviews, I will literally try to catch people out and I do so because it’s worked in the past. It reveals that people are not quite as truthful as they make out and in marketing, if that’s the kind of person you are, I don’t want you on my team. Your story needs to be secure, without holes and told truthfully.”

Aside from honesty, a little old-fashioned conversation goes a long way when you’re sat on the other side of Jacobs’ desk.

“The more senior I have become,” he says, “the more I understand what an interview should really be about. At first, I was as nervous as the interviewee and I think my interviews were pretty formulaic as a result.

“So now I look for something else in candidates – the confidence they have when they walk in the room, the ease with which they can turn from casual conversation to interview mode and, especially if they’re senior, whether they come across as likeable.

“Rapport is essential, which means that social skills are key to any hire. You can’t just have the best qualifications. To be a good marketer, you have to be able to hold a conversation.”

Simon Sproule, marketing and global communications director at Aston Martin, says he looks for passion and enthusiasm. “We are selling something, so we need people who are good storytellers,” says Sproule. “Interviews can be gruelling, but I want to know is this person articulate, interesting and good at telling stories?”

What’s key here is to do the basics well; they’re well-worn pieces of advice that are often overlooked. Critically, do your homework. It’s worth doing plenty of research on the person likely to interview you, especially in terms of finding out what he or she is currently exercised about.

Anthony Fletcher, chief executive of Graze, a business that delivers healthy snacks by post, says he likes to ask interviewees questions that he is currently grappling with to see how they think, but also to analyse whether they’ve done their homework on his current thinking and the company’s status. He takes people to Graze’s warehouse and then gets a taxi back with them. “In the taxi you often get stuck [in traffic]. If you change the environment into something more informal, you often learn more about them,” he says.  

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