Jacob says: 'I'm a girly swot and want to do well'
I hire people who make me look good

Kathryn Jacob is the chief executive officer of Pearl & Dean, the cinema advertising company.

What did you want to be as a child?

A pathologist; I liked the idea of finding things out.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I had no idea.

You studied English at Cardiff University. Why that choice?

English is the archetypical degree when you have no idea what to do. But I liked reading books and you didn't need a Latin O-level to do English at Cardiff.

Was it worth it?

Yes; it taught me to be extremely self-reliant.

How did you get into media sales?

I saw a lot of companies at the university milk-round and really enjoyed the interview with Thompson Regional Newspapers. I was sent to Newcastle as a graduate trainee and eventually went into advertising and sales. The best part was the training; we were taught everything about how to sell and how to put an advert together. The worst was that people called me Lady Penelope as they thought I was dreadfully posh.

How did you work your way up?

I went to work for The Daily Telegraph, as the first woman in the display department, then for IPC, and then Virgin Radio, where I became commercial director. I'm open to change and new ways and ideas, and I always hire people who make me look good.

Do you consider yourself to be successful?

Yes, in comparison to what I thought I'd be.

What are your tips for interviews?

Do some research on the company – a lot of people don't do that – and be engaged. We interviewed someone for a sales executive position recently and he was texting his friends during the interview! We also had a woman who, when asked about the last film she saw, said she thought cinema was a waste of time. My advice is to have a reason why you want to work for a company, be clear of your expectations and don't lie about your experience or you will get that bottom-crunching feeling and be found out.

And your CV tips?

People don't always read over their own CVs, and there's too much cutting and pasting. I don't like people who refer to themselves in the third person, it's slightly delusional. Avoid spelling mistakes. And don't begin a CV with "Hiya".

What motivates you?

I just love what I do and I work with brilliant people. And I'm a girly swot and want to do well.

Who are your heroes?

Stevie Spring, who runs Future, the special-interest media group – she's the big sister I never had. And my husband, who is the brightest person I know. He pushes me and has faith in me. He thinks I could run the United Nations.

How do I get to where you are?

Go to university, because it should teach you to be self-reliant and self-motivated. It also proves that you are inquisitive. Then get a job in media sales.