You’ve dreamed of working at a marketing agency – the stylish offices, the fun company culture, the cool brands you get to work with are all appealing factors.
But there is more to agency life than the perks. There’s the long hours, the fast pace, the continuous learning and reiterating, the requirement to wear many different hats, and often the defeat of having your projects picked apart by clients.
For those who thrive on an energetic work environment, meeting deadlines, and honing their creativity, working at a marketing agency can offer a career that is productive and rewarding.
So, if you want to get hired at a marketing agency, there are a few things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
Here are some tips from Steve de Niese, founding director at Melbourne-based marketing agency Assemblo:
Resume design is important
You’re going for a role within a creative industry, so it’s wise to show some creative flair in your resume design, said de Niese.
This particularly applies for graphic design and creative roles, as it can demonstrate immediately what your capabilities are, in addition to showing that you’re a good fit for the job.
“If you’re going for a creative role, you want your resume to look good. Even if you’re going for a creative-adjacent role, like an account services role, having a nicely laid out resume shows that you can recognise quality of design,” he said.
Personalise your cover letter
It may sound obvious, but it’s not enough to only submit a resume for a job application.
With instant LinkedIn applications the norm these days, sending a cover letter that is tailored to the role you’re applying for is an easy way to get your application noticed.
“When the candidate has done their homework into your business, that is really compelling,” said de Niese.
By all means, you can engage with the hiring manager or director via LinkedIn in the first instance, but following up with a personal cover letter via email shows that you’re tenacious and really want the job, adds de Niese.
Big agency vs small agency: understand the difference
Marketing agencies can vary in size and scale, so it’s important to understand the difference and where they sit in the marketplace.
At a big agency there will often be more corporate structure and hierarchy in place, and roles usually focus on one or a few clients.
Conversely, a small agency will have less structure, you’ll likely work across a bigger range of clients and projects, and you’ll often need to be more hands-on.
Knowing what kind of role you’d like, within the context of how your role will be positioned within the agency structure, could determine whether you should apply for a job at a big agency or a small agency.
Offer an action plan
Instead of merely stating how your skills and experience meet the requirements of the job, mention an action plan in your cover letter or discuss it in your job interview.
An action plan will outline what you hope to achieve in your role, how you can bring value to the marketing agency, or how you would get started in your role.
“This shows an incredible amount of initiative and drive, and demonstrates to me, as the owner of the marketing agency, how this person will not only fulfil their role but also bring value to the agency overall,” said de Niese.
Relevant experience is important
If you’re applying for a role at a marketing agency, relevant experience is going to be important. In most cases, agencies will want candidates to have experience at other marketing agencies, or in other marketing roles.
If you don’t have prior marketing agency experience it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it is worthwhile addressing why you don’t have that relevant experience, said de Niese. For example, you’re looking for a career change, you’re moving into a new industry but can bring transferrable skills, or you want to move from client-side to agency-side.
“Relevant experience is so important. And be explicit in sharing that information. For example: ‘When I was at role X, I achieved X outcome’. It backs up your experience, and makes you look like you know what you’re talking about,” said de Niese.
Make sure your qualifications are relevant
Many professions at marketing agencies will require a formal education, such as a university degree. Obviously, this will depend on the role you’re applying for, but some examples may include a Bachelor of Design for graphic designers, a Bachelor of Business (marketing) for broader roles like account management, or a Bachelor of Communication for content and copywriting roles.
For graduates, internships and work experience placements at marketing agencies is the way to go. If the agency cannot offer a formal internship, ask if you can shadow someone to get an insight into what the role entails. Also, attend networking events to meet marketing professionals, and consume marketing-related media such as industry publications and podcasts.
For those who are mid-career and looking to acquire current qualifications, consider completing a certification. A certification may help bridge a gap between the experience you have and understanding the broader context of projects you work on.
Some examples include:
- Google Analytics certification: As the most widely used web analytics platform, it’s helpful to understand the ins and outs of the program. Try the Google Analytics for Beginners course, or their other certifications.
- HubSpot Academy: For inbound sales, inbound marketing, and sales team management, these certification courses by HubSpot are spot on.
- Social media: There are loads of certifications available across digital advertising and community management but a good place to start is Hootsuite or HubSpot.
- Photoshop courses: From Photoshop Fundamentals to Web Design for Beginners, these free courses at Udemy will give you a good grounding for design basics.
- SEO: Search Engine Optimisation is becoming increasingly important across a range of agency roles, from content managers to digital strategists. The Moz Blog, including their Whiteboard Friday series, is a great resource to stay up to date, and they also offer SEO certification courses.
Follow up after the interview
This may also sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people follow up after a job interview, said de Niese.
After you’ve had your job interview, follow up with an email to thank the hiring manager for their time and mention that you look forward to hearing from them about the next round of interviews, or the next step in the hiring process.
“A great way to follow up is by mentioning a point discussed in the interview. Perhaps you mentioned a specific case study or a piece of research in the interview – following up with a link to that case study or research is a great way to keep that conversation going,” said de Niese.
Following up after the job interview also demonstrates how much you’re genuinely interested in the role, and that you’re prepared to go the extra mile compared to candidates who sit back and wait for a response.