Late last year I wrote a couple of posts focusing on gaining work experience and why work experience is important. Some of the feedback and comments I received on the posts was amazing, so it seemed the next logical step after work experience, was to offer some tips on how to get into marketing – or at least maximise your chances. I spoke to Caroline Knights from innocent to find out more.
I tried to have a think about the types of areas I would most like to have known when I was first starting out in my career, from applying for the role, to attending the interview. Once I had my list of questions sorted, I spoke to Caroline who is the Head of Talent, Learning and Development at innocent smoothies, to gain some professional, company insight.
How did you get to where you are now?
I studied Psychology at University, purely because I loved the subject, not necessarily because I wanted to be a Psychologist. Following my degree I travelled for 6 months and then came back to the UK at a time where the job market wasn’t great for Graduates.
I was desperate to get a people-facing role in an interesting company and I was very lucky to get an interview at innocent where I met the team. Karen, my boss, took a chance on me even though I had very little work experience – I guess this is what companies do when they focus on potential over experience. My first role was a Reward Specialist where I looked after the core stuff like payroll and benefits and from there I got the chance to move into more generalist HR and eventually became a People Partner (HR Business Partner). That role allowed me to build up a really in-depth view of how the business works, the teams and roles within it so when I moved onto my current role (Learning, Development & Talent Manager) I had the perfect foundation.
So far I’ve learnt that your career is not linear and the key is to do your absolute best in your current role whilst picking up as much learning and experience as you can along the way (some of which won’t be thrilling but will certainly be useful). Approaching work like this inevitably opens some unexpected doors later down the line.
Getting past the first step: what do you look for in a CV?
As a recruiter you of course see a lot of CV’s, so something clear and concise is most important. I won’t even look at a CV more than 3 pages because it tells me the person’s communication skills aren’t up to scratch. You don’t need to do anything ‘wacky’ with your CV to get noticed.
The main thing is to make sure it’s relevant for the person looking at it. Take the time to tailor your CV and cover letter to every role so that the recruiter sees the most relevant information first about you. My favourite CV’s are where people write in a straightforward and natural style and give really clear examples of what they’ve achieved, not just a list of experience. Of course, it always helps if the application arrives with some chocolate muffins.
Second stage: what do you look for in an ideal candidate?
An ideal candidate for Marketing typically has a blend of being a naturally creative thinker alongside being organised and analytical. We realise this is a tall order so sometimes we have to choose one over the other, depending on the role. Often people think that Marketing will be lots of ideas sessions but in reality there is a lot of execution which means being a great Project Manager. Being able to articulate your thoughts clearly and come up with great ideas are still critical though.
Of course we look for a lot of the same things for Marketing roles as we look for in all our candidates – smart, up for it, leads themselves, able to deliver the results and work brilliantly with the rest of the team.
What are your “must haves” from a candidate?
For more junior roles we’re focused on potential, whereas senior roles will be weighted towards having relevant experience. The number one thing for us, no matter what level the role is, will be that the person lives the value of innocent. This will always be what drives our recruitment because we know that the people we hire now will be the ones that look after the legacy.
If we’re looking at an application and it feels like a good fit values wise, the other most important things are what I’ve mentioned above. For me, the person’s ability to take the lead in a situation and not wait to be asked (whether its at school, work or in their personal interests) is always a good sign that they’ll get on well here. In some roles, certain experience is essential (for example, working in a food and drinks company). Also because we’re a small company, often we need to hire expertise because we don’t always have time to build it in-house.
What are your “nice to haves” from a candidate?
Nice to haves are often experience-based things or qualifications that might help them in the role. At innocent, you get stacks of development on the job so if we hire high potential people qualifications become less relevant than potential quite quickly. That said, it really does depend on the role.
What do you hope they would bring to the role?
We hope that the person can provide top-class support to whatever needs to be executed, a keen eye for detail and the ability to juggle lots of things at once.
We also hope to see new ideas and some fresh energy coming into the tea too, to stop us getting stuck in our ways.
Do you have any advice for those looking to get on the Marketing career ladder?
My advice would be do whatever it takes to get some experience and relevant achievements on your CV. This doesn’t necessarily mean working for a certain type of company on a Marketing Intership, be creative and think about how else you can get experience. Cast the net wide and be prepared to do some less exciting jobs in the build up to finding a more interesting one.
Also have a think about what you can do in your personal time that might show a future employer who you are and what you are about. Everyone has a unique contribution to make, so work out what yours is and showcase it.
Key points to take away:
So now you’ve digested all that information, what do you do with it all now? Below are my most important key point that you should take away from this:
As Caroline stated, in her line of work she sees a lot of CV’s. Especially at a company such as innocent, because I think it goes without saying that competition to work there is high. But just remember that with any job you apply to, there are dozens of other people in the same boat as you, applying for the same jobs at the same companies as you. So to ensure you get that first foot through the door keep your CV clear, concise and don’t make it too long.
Try to tailor your CV and your cover letter too. How can you make it relate to the role you’re applying for? What’s the most relevant information you have to talk about and what are you biggest selling points? Make sure this gets mentioned so whoever receives your application gets to learn all the best bits about you before anything else.
When you do get to the interview stage sell yourself and mould yourself into the company. As Caroline said: “We look for candidates who are smart, up for it, lead themselves, are able to deliver the results and work brilliantly with the rest of the team.” Showcase these attributes.
Finally, as and when you come to leave Uni (or even if you’re making a career move) get some relevant experience. Use your time wisely. Show how your interests are relevant to the role and the company. What makes you different and stand out? Put yourself out there.
What are your thoughts about this post? Is there anything else you’d like to know? Let me know your thoughts, or give me a shout on Twitter.