Kelly Wenzel, chief marketing officer at Centro, on how to land a job as a digital media buyer

One of the hottest jobs in NYC right now is a digital media, or ad, buyer. According to Kelly Wenzel, chief marketing officer at the Manhattan-based branding and ad firm Centro, the city is the heart of the U.S. media economy. Buyers work in the city’s 10,000 marketing agencies with annual budgets as high as $20 million to buy digital ad space on websites and smartphone apps for their clients, she said. While smaller ad agencies employ anywhere from five to 50 media buyers, national firms can have as many as 1,000. Buyers typically work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and have starting salaries of around $50,000. We chatted with Wenzel about how to get into the field.

What are the degree requirements to be a media buyer?

They need to have a college education but what the degree is in does not matter — and this is what’s exciting, is that [employers are] really open to all backgrounds. I think what’s more important is the attitude and the characteristics of the individual.

What kind of work experience would qualify?

You’d look for experience that showed that they were organized, detail-oriented, that they demonstrated creative thinking. Math skills do help because it can be an analytic role and you’re managing a budget so you have to decide how much to spend. If you can demonstrate sound problem-solving skills. And were you working in an environment that is really team-oriented, that kind of experience is always good. It’s a generally collaborative role, so generally people skills are important.

What personal qualities are a good fit?

A great attitude, people who are curious, motivated, really hungry and ready to learn. Digital is an exciting space because it’s always changing. Every time you turn around there’s a new app or a new device and brands are really trying to take advantage of that, and you as a media buyer have to stay on top of what are all the ways that you can reach your [audience]. Someone who’s interested in pop culture and where the world around us is going. You are responsible for the smart investment of your client’s money, obviously it helps if you have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.

How much does advertising reflect what’s shown in movies and TV?

Advertising is such a vibrant industry, of course it creates a lot of material for entertainment. The movies focus a lot on the creative side of the business and how we come up with brilliant ideas for brands. It misses that there’s an entire workforce behind how these clever campaigns actually get seen by people. That’s what media buyers do! There’s also a lot of emphasis on TV, when in fact, digital is booming. We’re all spending more time online than ever before and brands want to take advantage of that opportunity. Which is a great thing for NYC, since we still sit at the heart of the advertising world.

Where can a person interested in the field look for job postings?

The first place to start pretty much always these days is LinkedIn, Glassdoor is also a fantastic site. Glassdoor is a list of companies and it will share what positions are available and it will also tell you what the employees have to say about the culture at the company. Industry organizations are great for networking and job postings, for example I’m on the board of Advertising Women of New York, or there’s the American Advertising Federation. And then there’s also trade publications like Mediabistro or Ad Age, all of them have job listings on their websites.

How should a person dress for an interview for this position?

I always advise people to dress up. The environment in most media agencies is going to be casual to business casual. It’s always important that you make a good first impression and one of the ways you do that is by looking professional. Dress smart.

What kinds of ideas might they be asked to offer in an interview?

You should have done your homework on the company and you should know who their clients are. A quick internet search could tell you what their clients are doing and where they’re advertising, what their campaigns are, and you should come prepared to talk about them. Be prepared to share some thoughts. They’re probably not going to ask you for strategy right then and there, more what they’re going to be looking for is have you done your homework, do you understand what my agency serves. They’re going to ask you questions that demonstrate how well you work with others and how you problem solve.

How important is a candidate’s online or social media presence?

It’s important. Almost every hiring manager today looks at your social media presence and they’re looking for whether or not the candidate demonstrates maturity or professionalism. It’s not going to be the biggest factor but it is going to be considered.

Any advice for recent grads looking for jobs (in any field)?

The first thing I would say is do your homework. It’s always more impressive when a candidate sits across from me and I can tell they’ve read about my company, they’ve read about me, and all that shows me is they’re taking this seriously and they know the power of preparation. The other thing that I would say is always have questions. When a candidate doesn’t have questions that signals disinterest. Candidates with questions and curiosity show a high level of engagement.