After months spent building my portfolio, I’ve landed an interview for a junior copywriter role at a well-known agency. How do I fend off the competition?
This is an interesting question. As agencies trim their budgets and the creative industry is flooded with young writers able to publish their work online, competition for junior roles in agencies is fierce.
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As with writing copy, the key to being successful is to understand your role in the creative process, and what the audience – your target employer – wants from you.
Here’s what a typical agency team want to see in junior writers.
This is a big one. A junior copywriter has everything to learn from the senior members of creative teams, who will have years of experience crafting copy under their belt. The creative thinking that goes into award-winning campaigns isn’t down to talent alone. Experience and critical judgement is the killer ingredient.
Junior copywriters should be ready to put their ideas on the table and seek out feedback for their work. Failure to recognise your place in the agency pecking-order means you’ll find it tough to climb the professional ladder. So be humble; stroke your creative team’s ego. They deserve it.
2. Strategic thinking
Copywriters are not poets. At least, not in the workplace. It’s our job to sell widgets using words. We need to know what our clients need from us and how this fits into their broader business goals. After all, this is how our work is judged as being successful, or otherwise.
Love of words is a given for any copywriter. Instead show your marketing chops. Demonstrate an ability to ‘helicopter’ your thinking. Up high, you’ll be able to see your clients’ marketing goals in their broader context. Down low, you’ll be clear on the action a piece of copy must drive readers towards, whether that’s picking up the phone or subscribing to an email newsletter.
3. Industry knowledge
As in any sector, the world of copywriting is constantly changing. Today copywriters need to produce large volumes of copy in short timeframes across an ever-growing range of formats. Agencies need to be confident you can turn your hand to any media. Being able to talk about the creative landscape is one way of persuading them you can, especially if you have no experience working in a particular field of writing like social media, or advertorial.
4. Show-and-tell ability
Providing evidence of your own copywriting skills is a must, across short and long copy styles. But so is demonstrating your understanding and appreciation of work by other writers. Bring examples of killer branded copy to your interview and be ready to talk about why they work on a creative, strategic and emotional level. This will reiterate your professional humility and provide a jump-off point for a more interesting interview.
5. A sense of humour
Agencies are high-pressure environments, and no-one wants to work with a twat. Being approachable, open and able to joke with others shows that you’re able to take – and give – criticism.
This is perhaps the most important part of being an agency copywriter, for two reasons. Copywriting is an iterative, circular process requiring constant feedback to get the job done. And effective writing is founded on empathy. If you can’t connect with the people in a room, you won’t be able to connect with them on the page.
Callum Dunbar is Head of Copy at Future Content, working with FMCG giants, technology startups and boutique hospitality businesses on website, print, advertising, social media and (almost) every other type of copy.