Having spoken with some key clients over the past month there seems to be an emphasis on skills and ability followed closely by cultural fit.
Agencies regardless of level want someone who can hit the ground running, who knows their stuff and can demonstrate this in quick time. Clients what someone who has had exposure to their business sector and understands how a business uses market research as just one tool to make decisions.
Interviewing and References
Most companies now will have you undertake a practical test module and or psychometric testing in some form prior to finalising an offer. References whilst still required are more far reaching with clients using LinkedIn and other social media platforms to check you out, so be aware what you put on Facebook or other social media as this could impact their decision to hire you.