Here’s a story about my first job interview. After months of sending out resumes to agencies from New York to LA and getting rejection letters from agencies from New York to LA, I finally got an interview with a small agency in Florida. They were looking for a junior copywriter. Perfect. They didn’t come any more junior than I was.
The first thing I did was go to JCPenney and buy a suit. It was a brown corduroy suit. It came with two pairs of pants and a vest. It cost $25. I was convinced if my portfolio didn’t get me the job, my suit would. I flew down to Florida for my interview.
The Creative Director at the agency was a woman. She was a cut-to-the-chase, all-business kind of person.
I started to tell her about my degree in advertising with a minor in marketing when she cut me off.
Her: So, you want to be a copywriter?
Me: Yes ma’am.
Her: Don’t call me ma’am. I’m not that much older than you are.
(An extremely pregnant pause.)
Her: Why do you want to be a copywriter?
Me: Well, when I was in high school I wrote…
Her: Think you could write an ad for our biggest account?
Me: Sure. I guess. I mean, absolutely.
Her: Go write me an ad.
Me: You mean now?
Her: There’s a typewriter at the receptionist’s desk. Go write me an ad and come back here in 30 minutes.
The agency’s biggest account was a grocery chain. The agency had created a character called The Robin Hood of Savings. He wore a Robin Hood costume and rode around town on top of one of the chain’s grocery trucks. His mission? Correct grocery price injustices wherever he found them.
I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, but in 30 minutes I was back in the CD’s office with a script. She read it. I waited. She read it again. She looked up at me.
Her: Ever consider a job in Traffic?
Me: What’s Traffic?
Her. We may have an opening in Traffic.
Me: I don’t know what that is. Would I be writing?
Her: No. You’d be trafficking our workflow.
Me: Trafficking your work flow?
Her: Yes, trafficking our workflow.
Me: Well, I would need to think about it. I really want to be a copywriter.
Her: Of course. Well, think about it.
Me: Yes. I will. Thank you, ma’am. Sorry, I mean…
Her: (Standing to shake my hand.) Well, have a safe trip back.
Me: I got a new suit.
Her: The receptionist can validate your parking on the way out.
Me. I got it at JCPenney.
Her: I see. Well, good luck.
That was the first and last time I talked to her. She was a nice woman. I had failed my writing test, but I did learn three valuable lessons. One, I didn’t write well under pressure. Two, I didn’t want a job in Traffic. And three, on my next job interview, I would wear the second pair of suit pants instead. They matched my “suede” vest.