It’s no secret that I love my job. Take one look at my Twitter or Instagram accounts and you’ll see what I mean. Given my frequent declarations on social media, it’s also not surprising that I often get asked about career advice from friends and acquaintances. Everyone wants to feel passionate about their job and I’m very lucky to have found that fairly early in my career.
Let me start out by saying that I am not a recruiter. I’m simply a marketer who has had the pleasure of talking to many people and interviewing plenty of candidates over my past two years at NewsCred. From interns to senior product marketers, I’ve talked to many folks who either want to get into content marketing or make a career jump from a semi-related field.
Regardless of position or title, much of the advice I’ve shared holds true no matter how senior you are. If you want to become a content marketer, here’s my advice for you:
Cover Letters – It’s Not About You At All
Some of you probably rolled your eyes at the words “cover letter” but the fact is they still exist, and we still read them. Especially when you’re reaching out cold to a company, you have to make sure your cover letter is on point. How do you do this? Do not make it about you – at all. Sure, we want to see if you’ll be a cultural fit for our team, but even more we want to know what you would bring to the table if hired.
This is an especially common mistake with entry-level applicants. Too often interns and entry-level candidates will write a few hundred words about how they “really want to further their career in marketing” and how “NewsCred will help get them to where they want to go in their career.” This is where you need to channel your inner Jerry Maguire and flip your thinking from “show me the money” to “help me help you.”
When writing a cover letter, an email to a hiring manager, or anything in between you need to make it all about your value-add to the company. Make it clear why you are the best candidate out there and how you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and jump right in. Call out some ideas you’ve been thinking about, or discuss what you would change in your first 30, 60, and 90 days at the company. If you can convey how you’d immediately make an impact, nine times out of 10 you will get a call from us.
Millennials – Stop Making Us Look Bad
Millennials get a bad rap in public perception for being entitled, lazy, and complacent. Obviously this is a gross generalization and I won’t even mention millennials who are doing amazing things in various industries.
However, I’ve come across my fair share of millennials who sadly do perpetuate the stereotype. They come in dressed like they’re ready for happy hour and sit though an interview with their phone on the table. Sure, it’s fine to keep your phone on the table if you’re waiting for an interviewer, but the second that person comes in the door your phone needs to go away.
Worse yet is the lack of team playing that I’ve gathered from candidates. Of course you want to highlight your accomplishments outlined in your resume, but that’s the thing – your accomplishments are already listed on a piece of paper for us to go back and reference. Instead, talk about how your contribution to a multi-month project with your team, or how you worked across different departments to get a better understanding of the business. In general, the more times you say “I” instead of “we” demonstrates lack of teamwork and willingness to share big wins.
Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t mention the flip side. I interviewed someone with 20+ years of editorial experience who took one look at me and said, “Oh great, another millennial.” Yes, the NewsCred office is young, but never go into an interview assuming the person you’re interviewing with is a) a stereotypical millennial or b) someone who would report to you. You will be sorely mistaken on both.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
While content marketing has been around for a long time, the phrase ‘content marketing’ is a fairly new term. Not a single person at NewsCred graduated with a degree in content marketing as we know it today – in fact, most of us come from vastly different backgrounds and fields that led us to where we are now.
When speaking with someone recently, she stopped dead in her tracks and said, “I hope this doesn’t put me at a disadvantage, but I have no experience in content marketing.” This presents a two-fold issue. First, even if you’re thinking that something might put you at a disadvantage, never admit that to your interviewer. Secondly, content marketing experience is really about the sum of your parts.
For example, prior to NewsCred I had account management and digital strategy experience from a boutique PR agency, and copywriting and editing experience at a content startup before that. While neither of my titles explicitly said “content marketing,” the skills I learned at those organizations are exactly what we look for in candidates – the ability to write, interface with customers and prospects, and think strategically about both macro and micro campaigns.
Act Like a Marketer
Beth Comstock, Vice Chair at GE, famously said, “You can’t sell something if you can’t tell something.” As a marketer this couldn’t be more true, and the same goes for an interview. Tell us your story, we’re genuinely interested to hear it! We want to hear about how your first startup failed but how it made you a stronger person, or how working with a famously difficult boss made you gravitate toward improving customer experience. Or perhaps, tell us about how your first job at 16-years-old was to get mall shoppers to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp in the food court – that’s a true story from our own VP of Marketing, Alicianne Rand.
Marketing is all about the spin you put on something. Have no Google Analytics experience? That’s fine, but show us that you want to learn and you’re willing to go the extra mile to do so. Don’t fully understand how to develop a content strategy? Discuss a recent Forbes article you read on the topic instead.
The more you prove that you can think on your feet, the better you’ll fare in the interview process. We know that not everyone is perfect, but if you demonstrate confidence, drive, and grace under pressure you will succeed no matter where you interview.
Thank You Notes – You Have 24 Hours!
By far the biggest let down after having an amazing interview with a candidate is a lack of follow up. It’s like going on a series of awesome dates only to be ghosted in the end. (I haven’t been there, I swear…)
To be quite frank, if you do not send a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview you just shot yourself in the foot. There is absolutely no excuse for not sending a thank you note* to your interviewer(s). Yes, you took time to come into our office, but we also had to take time out of our back-to-back meeting schedule to speak with you as well. Even worse, if we give you a business card that clearly states our email, and you still don’t follow up it is an automatic disqualification. You would be surprised how much this happens, even with candidates we loved!
*By thank you note I mean email. As in an email that will take you less than 10 minutes to send. Bonus points if you send a legitimate note via snail mail, but make sure you still follow up immediately via email so your interviewers don’t think you disappeared.
If you’re ready to hop on the content marketing wagon, go for it! Just make sure you follow the advice laid out above. And if you think NewsCred might be the place for you, be sure to check our careers page for our latest open positions.
Alexa Biale is a Brand Marketing Manager at NewsCred.
Originally published on May 11, 2016 10:00 AM, updated Nov 8, 2016