Shearer: Job Interview Advice For Creative Talent

By Norm Shearer, Partner/Chief Creative Officer, Cactus, Denver CO

Over my career as an art director, then senior creative, Creative Director and now partner and CCO of two companies — I have done a lot of interviews with prospective new hires.

I have also taught for over a decade as an adjunct at my undergrad alma matter at Colorado University and guest lecturer at dozens of creative programs and schools across the country where I have met thousands of eager students and have helped give advice on finding that elusive first job.

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to job interviews, and in effort to help avoid being one of bad or uglies, here are nine well-chosen tips for landing that creative job you want, whether in advertising, marketing, design or entertainment.


1.  DON’T FORGET:  Your first interview is all about the work and how you present yourself.  Don’t show up to an interview – no matter how in-formal, even if informational – without your portfolio and ready to walk people through your work and your projects. You aren’t there to just shoot the breeze, even if it’s your aunt’s best friend from college. Take it serious and be prepped to be on and dialed in with questions and eagerness to learn and ask questions and present yourself.

2.  HAVE A PERSONAL WEBSITE that contains your resume, contact info, a bio and 2-3 projects in which you can speak to the problem you needed to solve; how you solved it, and the results or expected results.

3.  EMAIL ISN’T DEAD despite what Millenials may think. Don’t rely on LinkedIn messaging or any social media platform. Email still remains the number one way to correspond with those looking fo hire. Of course, it never hurts to ask, ‘what’s your preferred method to communicate?’

4.  SNAIL MAIL STILL WORKS wonders and believe it or not can set you apart from the majority of the competition. I can’t tell you the difference a hand-written thank you note makes after an interview or a networking event. It has literally sometimes been the deciding factor between adding someone to a follow up round of interviews. Your Mom was right, always send a thank you note. Stay ahead of the competition and send both snail mail and email.

5.  SHOTGUNNING RESUMES DOES NOT WORK. Make sure you are truly qualified for the role and have the right submission materials. No one is going to respond, let alone interview, a junior art director for a senior art director opening.

6.  USE INTERVIEWS and especially informational interviews to build your network. Of course you go to an interview to get a job, but it’s also a great opportunity to build your network for the rest of your career. Treat every person you meet like a contact for the rest of your career. That job interview may not pan out, but it can still be productive if your mindset is you’re there to make a new connection to an interesting person that you can learn something from. Grow your network and become someone others refer to.

7.  SEEK OUT INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS.  That company you love might not have an opening at the moment, but if you approach earnestly and ask meet in the hopes ‘staying connected for future opportunities or other introductions you could help make for me,’ you might be surprised how receptive they may be. Aim for 2-3 introductions from every info interview. Sometimes the best way to that dream job is to simply be curious and present.

8.  KNOW WHO YOU ARE MEETING with and do some research. Know their work. Know the the companies work. It signifies to the interviewer you’re serious. Also, come prepared to offer some thoughts about you love about the work and observations. Unfortunately, not knowing about the work of the creative your meeting with or the company renders you instantly forgettable and irrelevant.

9.  THINK ABOUT QUESTIONS you want to ask. This may seem obvious but it’s crazy how many young people look at me like a deer in headlights when I ask them if they have any questions about the agency, or the role they’re interviewing.


Good luck, stay persistent and remember that eagerness, resilience and respect usually can go farther than talent or connections when it comes to landing that big creative job.