Creative director can either make or break any marketing or advertising company. Leading a team of designers, marketers, and copywriters, you will try to synchronize the personalities and work of your subordinates, in order to come up with campaigns that reflect the brand of your clients, and help them meet their business goals.
You can have a huge impact in this job, and you will typically earn a six figure annual salary. But before it can happen, before you can realize all your creative (and other) dreams, you have to succeed in the interview, and beat a tough competition, because this is a popular job title, and you will compete with many skilled professional for the job.
Let’s have a look at 13 questions you may realistically face in your interview, and how you can make a difference and win this job contract.
Can you please tell us something about your previous working experience?
In most job interview, this is considered an icebreaker question. In an interview for a job of a creative director, it is the most important question from all. You should have a portfolio of your best works ready. To see something once is better than to hear about it a thousand times, and without having a portfolio, you can forget about succeeding in this interview. So make one if you haven’t done it yet.
Now, showing them nice pictures and billboards, or banners and landing pages you designed for your clients during your career in the business is not enough, and alone it won’t make any difference for you. The key is to explain a few things while going through your portfolio with the interviewers:
- The goal of each campaign–what the client tried to achieve. It can be strengthening their position on the market, rebranding, introducing a new product, or simply improving sales and brand awareness.
- Your role in the process. Did you design the creatives, or have you led the team of people, setting only the general direction? What was your role, and what value did you bring to the campaign?
- Results. At the end of the day, companies do not live from beautiful campaigns, or empty promises. You should explain (and ideally with numbers) whether or not you met the goals with the campaign, and if you did not, why.
Another important thing to remember is that creative director is primarily a leadership role. And while it is necessary to be very creative, and to have passion for marketing and design, it is pivotal to demonstrate that you can lead a team of other designers and creatives, because that will be your main goal. While talking about your past works, explain also how you managed and led other people in the team.
What is your vision for our marketing (advertising) company?
This is the second most important question in an interview. Because you should have some idea about a general direction for the company, the way you want to develop their brand, the way you plan to lead the campaigns and teams.
And this isn’t about marketing only. Because your interviewers are businessmen, not marketers. They probably have their vision already, and wonder whether it matches with the things you can and want to bring onboard.
You can talk about acquiring new clients, entering new markets, or strengthening the position on the exiting markets, or perhaps becoming no. 1 adverting or marketing company in the city, county, country–whatever is realistic and you dare to dream of.
Another alternative is referring to technologies, and general direction of the campaigns–you can suggest some innovation, new approach to designing things or to evaluating results, which should bring in more clients and money for the company.
And if they happen to struggle (which can be the reason why they try to replace their existing creative director with a new one), you can talk about a new brand building strategy, or about bringing new designers and creative minds onboard. Your vision in this case is to change a lot of things, and help them get back on track.
Do not be afraid to be ambitious in your vision. They do not hire you to keep the status quo. They hire you to improve things.
Tell us about your least successful campaign or work.
Everyone who worked in marketing or advertising for a few years had at least one campaign that flopped terribly. The time when you wasted thousands or millions of dollars, without achieving any results for the client, remember?
Many variables come into play in advertising, and even the most skilled and famous creative directors and marketers make mistakes. The interviewers observe a couple of things in this case:
- Can you admit making a mistake? Can you take the responsibility for an unsuccessful campaign, or do you blame other team members?
- Did you learn anything from the experience? Did you do your analysis, and looking back, can you name the things you did wrong, or underestimated, the reason why the campaign flopped?
- How do you handle such a failure? Do you dwell on it, or can you regroup quickly, and move on, perhaps trying to come up with a new campaign and make up for the losses?
Show them that you are ready to bear the responsibility for bad campaigns, that you always try to analyze what went wrong, learn your lesson, and will eventually move on, because you can’t afford to dwell on failures in such a competitive business.
Special Tip: Download all questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Describe a time when you demonstrated leadership in work.
As I already mentioned, this is a leadership role, and they do not want to hire only an excellent marketer. Therefor you can expect at least one or two questions that relate to your ability to lead a team.
You can talk about a variety of situations here. Perhaps you faced a tight deadline with a campaign, and fell back with the schedule. Everyone had to stay in work for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, in order to finish the work in time. And you managed to motivate the designers in your team, you went by an example, coming to work first and leaving last, and eventually you met the deadline.
Or you had conflicts in your team–on a personal, or professional level. People did not cooperate together, or different designers pursued different lines within the same campaign, and it was slowing everyone down… You had a one on one with each team member, and tried to understand the core of the problem. You eventually addressed it, and people cooperated together again.
Or even something more difficult--you had to fire someone. You liked the person, they had some potential, but they did something that couldn’t be accepted, because it caused a lot of harm to the company. And since there’s no place for emotions in an effective management, you decided to terminate their contract. You made the decision as a leader…
Regardless of the situation which you narrate, you should convince them that you are ready to step into a leadership role, go by an example, and make hard and unpopular decisions.
Other questions you may face in your interview for a job of a Creative Director
- What does quality mean to you?
- How would you describe our brand? Try to describe it with three words only.
- If we hire you for this job, what will be the first thing you will do in work?
- What does integrity mean to you?
- In your opinion, who is our main competitor, and what can we do to outclass them?
- Do you have any experience with hiring new staff members? How will you proceed if you were supposed to hire new graphic designer for your team?
- What do you want to accomplish in our company, while working as a creative director?
- What role does monitoring and reporting play in your work?
- Tell us one thing about yourself that you wouldn’t want us to know.
- Tell us about a time when you had to make a decision without having all information you needed.
- If someone asked you to illustrate an excellent work of a creative director with a particular campaign, what campaign will you choose for your illustration?
- Tell us about a time when you had to use logic to solve a problem.
- Describe a situation when you successfully used persuasion to convince someone.
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Interview for a job of a Creative Director belongs to difficult interviews. You will typically compete with other skilled professionals for the job, most of them having years of experience under their belt.
What’s more, you will face a variety of tricky questions, and you will have to demonstrate your knowledge and experience (typically with the help of your portfolio), understanding for the brand and vision of your prospective employer, and also your leadership skills and creativity.
This is a tough nut to crack, and unless you devote enough time to your preparation, you won’t make it. Try to learn as much as you can about the employer–successful campaigns, the team they have in place, the overall direction they try to pursue, both in marketing and as a business entity.
Get your portfolio ready (if you do not have one yet), and try to prepare at least a short answer to each question I outlined in this article. It may still not be enough, and someone else may get the job, but at least you will know that you tried your best… I wish you good luck!
May also help you:
- Salary negotiation tips – Get as much as you deserve, or even more. Leverage your negotiation power in the interview, and walk away with an awesome employment contract, ending up earning more than you ever hoped for…
- How to overcome interview nerves – This is a big day, a big interview, and you may not get many similar opportunities. It is completely normal to experience some anxiety, but you should learn how to get rid of it, or at least how to control it in an interview…