2009 saw the media spotlight firmly focus on China's growth and resilience and the opportunity this presented its neighbours in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Little has been made mention of the turmoil felt by the average job seeker as both domestic and international companies shifted to accommodate the changing economic dynamic.
Like most industries, the marketing and design sector experienced it's fair share of uncertainty as budgets were squeezed and a greater degree of transparency and return was demanded. As a result, marketing and design employers now require more flexibility from their employee's and a differing combination of skills and experience than ever before. Job descriptions today increasingly include the need for 'digital' exposure, demonstration of ROI, value justification, buzz, impact analysis, success metrics, customer engagement, real-time, attribution to quote a few.
The first six months of 2010 have emerged with a very different employment landscape. Across Greater China we are seeing the campaign for talent being augmented by the need for marketers and designers to be closer to their audience, more nimble in the creation and execution of ideas with the ability to clearly demonstrate the commercial value their solutions deliver.
Today, the key themes that jobseekers still look for centre around leadership, brand positioning, a clear mission, innovation, a merit-based environment, remuneration and the opportunity for personal development.
Questions regularly asked include:
How long should my CV be and what should I put in it?
Before writing a resume you should take into account that your CV should not tell your life story but merely act as a career map. It's best to stick to the facts surrounding your employment history, roles and responsibilities, education, interests and notable achievements, aim to keep it to between two and four pages in length. If you are a creative professional, avoid trying to demonstrate this visually through your CV, let your portfolio speak for itself. Most importantly, make sure your CV is clear, easy to read and in doc or pdf format.
What should I include in my portfolio when I go for an interview?
If a portfolio review is required, rather than send your entire book to a prospective employer, phone up in advance of the interview and ask what examples of work the interviewer would like to see, or pick three to five pieces that you feel showcase the breadth of your creative ability. Avoid personal interest pieces, scam ads or work that has not been published. Above all, no matter how tempting, never show or claim any work that you have not been involved in and be transparent about what your involvement was.
What sort of questions should I ask at the interview?
It is extremely important to prepare questions in advance and ask when given the opportunity. Try to stay away from standard questions that you can find the answers to on a company website. Focus on the role, how you can add value to it and demonstrate your interest in the company and opportunity. Some general questions that work well include:
- "What are the key factors that make someone successful in your organisation?"
- "What do you see as being the core objectives for this role in the first six months?"
- "What would you like this role to achieve in the first year?"
- Based on our discussion, what concerns do you have about my suitability for this position?
It is always a good idea to look for news stories or notable mentions about the company or interviewer and frame some additional questions from there. For example:
- "I noticed from an article I read recently that the company opened a new division last year, how is that going?"
- "I really enjoyed your latest viral campaign, how did that go and what future plans do you have in this area?"
- "If you don't mind me asking, can you tell me a bit about how you've built your career with this company?"
Questions do need to be in moderation and you need to gauge how many to ask carefully as you don't want to over do it. Most importantly, if you are interested in the job, don't be afraid to say so.
What should I do to prepare for an interview ?
Research, research, research. There is nothing more off putting for a future employer than an interviewee who knows very little about the company or the job. The Internet is a fantastic tool and as a bare minimum you should thoroughly read through the companies website and any corresponding information you can find such as press releases and biographies.
Most interviewers will ask the stock standard question, "So what do you know about us?" Those candidate who are able to briefly sum up who the company is? what they do? why they are different? will stand out immediately.
Try to get as much information on the job as possible and be prepared to answer competency-based questions. In most cases, the interviewer will ask for situational examples of where you have encountered a challenge and how you have overcome it. Don't worry, honesty is the best policy and if you don't know the answer to the question, say so.
The last year has been tough, can I expect an increase to my salary?
Depending on the role, responsibilities and your current employment situation it is feasible to negotiate an increase today. However, before setting your expectations in stone, it is advisable to look at the entire opportunity potential and not just the financial earnings.
Most companies are very reasonable in regard to this and if you are going to add value to them, they are going to provide a package that fits the role and that incentivises you to join. Be careful not to expect significant increases and remember the harder you negotiate the higher and faster the expectation will be on you to deliver on the objectives of the new job.
Duncan Cunningham is the regional director, Greater China for Aquent LLC. Now based in Shanghai, he has spent the last eight years advising the marketing and design sector across the region on all aspects of talent acquisition and retention.