Allan McKay's Tips: Job Interview Preparation and Gaining Visibility
Crafting an Online Image for Your Interview Preparation
First of all most people don’t realize that the “interview” usually begins BEFORE you even walk through the door. That’s because most places are going to research you and your work prior to sitting down to talk to you–if not before the interview, then definitely before they decide to hire you.
Some company investigations can even extend into your social media spaces like Facebook. I had a friend who was applying for a job recently ask me about this exact issue. She told me she was considering taking down all of the Facebook photos that showed her “drinking and partying” with her friends. She didn’t want the company to get the wrong impression, and she asked what I thought about the move. I told her quite frankly that I thought it was a bad idea!
It may fly in the face of conventional wisdom to suggest to my friend she leave the possibly incriminating photos on Facebook, but I’ve learned that some photos can be an invaluable process of showing who you are. It’s also essential to interview preparation. Think about this: what would your Facebook page say to a prospective employer if you had only pictures of yourself, or with your dog, or maybe frisbee golf alone? Employers want to know that you’re a good cultural fit, that you’re a social person, that you have friends, that you enjoy life, and…yes…maybe even someone who enjoys cutting loose at a night club. These are normal activities and actually communicate that you have friends and are a social, likable person.
Pictures of yourself doing only “appropriate” things alone does not communicate these aspects of your personality very well. Instead it says maybe you don’t have many friends, maybe you’re uptight, judgmental, etc. Now this is not to say you should keep just any old thing up on social media sites. I mean if you populate your site only with images of raging keggers or all-night party fests, then the employer is going to think, not unreasonably, that you lack self control or have a substance abuse problem!
What I suggest instead is to create a balanced PR campaign for yourself on social media sites. Along side the tasteful photos of you having fun at clubs with your many friends, have others that convey a more serious tone like time with family or images of your work.
The point here is that companies aren’t looking to hire anti-social, overly-introverted people who shy away from social interactions. Nor at they looking for out of control, gregarious party hounds. What they want is a well-balanced person who has control over themselves and their lives. Promoting this part of yourself on social media will translate into having control over one’s work and, ultimately, that you can produce for the company.
I think a lot of people misunderstand why it’s important to be careful of your online presence. However, something I will touch on in a later episode is how to hack your social presence to communicate exactly what employers are after. This is extremely powerful approach, and you can even go as far as to do a complete overhaul on your Facebook and other sites to communicate exactly what you want. Your first impression to employers is made before you ever step foot in the door, and social media is part of what shapes it.
They Should Already Know Who You Are
As always, building your brand is an important area. How powerful would it be if when you applied for a job, the studio had already heard of you? That’s going to be a powerful trigger since people generally gravitate to the more familiar thing. You may be thinking that I’m talking about being a world famous artist with a stellar reputation, but I’m not. Becoming known isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t need to be ‘up there’ working at major studios. Even within smaller urban areas, there’s usually some type of conference, user group meeting or similar event going on. Just attending and meeting new people can help make you more visible in the arts scene, build your reputation, and increase your chances of meeting a future employer.
Even a short introduction could be an opportunity to make a memorable impression for a future interview. You never know who you will turn out to be an “in” for getting that next job. Reminding someone at an interview that you’ve already met them at such and such conference will likely trigger a positive emotional response for them (if it was in fact a positive experience!). If they’ve already met you from a previous discussion, this puts you in at a definite advantage.
You can go even further with making yourself memorable by volunteering or even speaking at an event. You would then be part of the event rather than just an attendee. Simply showing up at a conference is one thing, but being a contributing or organizing member of one shows you have initiative and a commitment–both important characteristics employers look for.
Throw a Promotional Party
Once an artist I know back in Australia was trying to break into the 3D industry, so she posted her work all over the local 3D forums, news groups and mailing lists. Then she took her self-promotion strategy a step further and decided to organize an promotional party. The intention was to gather together a group of industry professionals to network with. The party was a huge success for her, and she met a lot of great contacts.
I’ve hosted many of these similar events all over the world, and it’s great to see how much business gets generated, not just for myself, but for everyone attending. I’ve seen many great business deals come together. Organizing such an event may seem like a huge undertaking, but they’re actually pretty simple to do.
I begin by finding a venue such as a local pub or similar setting where you don’t have to book a room. That way there’s no overhead or cost involved; you just tell people to show up at a particular time for the event. Next I start advertising the event on forums, news groups, mailing lists and websites. Spreading the word is key.
It’s also a good idea to see if you can get sponsors for the event in exchange for advertising. Local hardware and software companies are good places to start asking if they’ll chip in $500 for the event’s bar tab, food, and/or door prizes. If you’re successful, you can advertise these along with the event to get more people to come. At the event make sure everyone signs up for your mailing list, so you can send them more information and future announcements. The easiest way to do this is have them drop their email address or business card into a bowl or hat (which is what you draw from to decide the door prize winner!)
Also, remember to take photos of the event and upload them to a Facebook page. Show recognizable faces from the industry having a great time and socializing. This will only attract more people and returnees to the next event. After you throw several promotional parties, you can add to your resume that you are the “president” or “manager” of that industry event, promoting yourself as the glue that brings the industry together.
Of course all of this preparation is designed to do one thing for you: create opportunities to network industry professionals. So go mingle, introduce yourself, make yourself memorable, pass out your own business card, etc. If you walk into an interview and sit across from someone you met at one of these events, they’re much more likely to remember you, to like you, and to hire you. What’s more, you’re much more likely to feel at ease and more confident at the interview if you’ve already spoken with the interviewer.
Such events also help create feelings of reciprocity. You’ve done something for them (i.e. inviting them to a bar for free drinks, door prizes, etc.), so they will feel more inclined to do something for you.
All of this might seem like you’re just having fun, but it’s not. There’s a strategy here that’s all about entering through the side-door. You aren’t going through typical channels to get a job; instead, you’re hustling for it, and I promise that it will eventually pay off. The fact is, the more connections you make, the more visible you become, and visibility is the key to getting your foot in the door. Consistent face time is very powerful, and indirectly hosting an event can fast track you to many opportunities that aren’t typically within your reach.
I’ve touched a little in this post on the importance of interview preparation and building visibility for creating better career opportunities. You should sculpt your online presence to create the image you want employers to see: a well-balanced, social, and talented professional. Make yourself visible within the industry by getting involved and becoming active. If there are no meetup groups, conferences, etc., then create your own! It may take a little effort at first, but the payoff will be worth it.
Use little known opportunities to become more visible. For example, here’s another great tip: If you have specific sites or material you want to showcase for email recipients, put the links in your e-signature. You can include at link to your blog, an event, or your Vimeo, CG society page or other places that feature your work. As I mentioned earlier, including in your e-signature that you’re the “president” or “coordinator,” for an event is one of many, many ways to give yourself some clout. But more importantly your recipients are likely to click on these types of things to find out more about you. Plus, you’re leading them to the type of online presence you’ve already created. Now go out there and network, network, network!!!