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For our new employee spotlight series, we’re speaking with employees throughout the company to get their unique perspective about working in the Marketing Research industry.

In our first installment, we profile Mary Jo Emery (or MJ as we all call her!), Vice President of Sales. MJ joined The Bernett Group earlier this year, but has been in the industry for nearly 30 years. Her perspective is an insightful one and a great way to kick off this new series!

Q: What about working in marketing research energizes you?

A: My favorite thing about this work is that we are able to help organizations understand how people will behave. Where else can you predict human behavior? I am a methodology wonk and believe that if we adhere to the prescribed methodology and deliver clean data, then our clients are able to delve in to actionable data. That to me is amazing.

Q: You began your career as an interviewer. Can you talk about the lessons you learned that you carry with you?

A: As an interviewer, one of the first things you learn is how different people are. I experienced many “eye opening” moments that made me realize that everyone is unique, and so is each conversation. Like so many things in life, being an interviewer depends on being able to connect meaningfully with another person – someone that is usually a complete stranger. As one of my mentors described it, interviewing is a “whole body experience.” The best interviewers understand this.

Q: What’s one word you’d use to describe this industry?

A: Controlled-chaos

Q: Could you share an anecdote about a project you enjoyed or learned a great deal from?

A: Early in my career I was asked to field a 45-minute survey. That is very long for a telephone interview and the survey topic was super sensitive; it was a parenting study about spanking. We were dreading it. But to our surprise the responses flew in.

I was a supervisor then and we were short staffed so I hopped on the phones to help out. It was the most beautifully written survey I had ever seen, before or since, and I felt the respondents being drawn in to the importance of this work. It was clear as we went along that the respondents were really interested in the topic; we didn’t have any of the usual concerns about someone dropping off mid interview.

I tell this story to my clients in the hopes that they will keep this in mind as they craft their scripts. Someone has to listen and respond to these questions and it helps us do a better job if they are mindful of respondent engagement and fatigue.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone that’s starting out as an interviewer today?

A: Take a deep breath, open your heart, smile… and dial.