GRAND RAPIDS, May 25, 2012 – In the past week, I interviewed major agency presidents, chief talent officers, and recruiters. I was surprised to see the following five points brought up by each and every person I spoke to. From all different cities, sizes, and positions within the company, each made it clear that these qualities are what sold them on a potential employee. Make sure you can clearly demonstrate your abilities in the following pointers to avoid becoming just an email attachment in a flooded inbox.
Billie Smith, senior vice president and director of talent recruitment sums this one up well. “The reality is that [advertising] is a grind,” she said. “It’s a tough industry, but it pays back in just as many rewards for those who have it in their blood. By passion they need to be well-read, understand what’s going on in the world, outside of their university/discipline, be curious about why things work and how, be able to articulate, and not just talking about advertising, but world events and news, and having an eye towards more.”
As a potential employee, you have to be able to show, not tell, your employer that you’re not just a failed artist looking to pay the bills with advertising. Saying you’re passionate isn’t enough. Years of doodling print ads on your high school and college homework is.
Show it—don’t speak it.
“You used to hire someone for a specific role in a specific department, in a certain division, but the lines have been blurred a lot recently,” said John Osborn, president and CEO of BBDO New York. “We need someone who can observe how people behave, extract from that, can engage target audiences, and can ultimately drive business. People who can take ideas and turn them into economic opportunities.”
As the outside world continues to chip and break away the pieces of a traditional ad agency, your ability to be horizontally talented, and not simply a one trick pony, will allow you to continue to be successful as this industry evolves.
Creatives should learn how to pitch, and account managers, how to paint.
Recruiter Brenda Wiley, of 24 Seven had this to say, “Right now there is a challenge of increased need internally for web analytics, online marketing, user experience, and more. There is a big demand for this type of talent. Digital talent in general right now is in demand.”
According to a new BIA /Kelsey forecast, digital revenues will grow from $21.2 billion to $38.5 billion. This means that digital skill is a big asset, and your ability to demonstrate that knowledge will be highly valuable.
This was by far the most strongly repeated comment that I heard from top executives. “I get tons of resumes and referrals; the hardest of all is getting a cold call resume,” said Osborn. “It helps if someone’s a referral as a point of reference, it’s best when someone has some kind of referral from someone I trust, and comes with someone’s personality, something that he or she is proud of.”
I also asked the question to all interviewees if someone looking for an entry-level position would first need internship or post-undergraduate work, and everyone gave a resounding yes. If you really want to stand out, a trusted referral and internship (which often will go hand in hand), will take your resume to the top of the list.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that internships aren’t just as competitive, as Billie Smith points out, “This year we’ll be bringing in north of 60 interns, and we get thousands of applicants, for every kind of year. Making sure that you stand out when you’re applying for that internship is really important.”
This is possibly the biggest pet peeve of recruiters. A great looking resume, good referrals, you come in and sit down, and can’t even pronounce the company’s name.
You should walk in with an understanding of the company’s history, recent news, account successes (and failures), and show that you are immersed in this industry.
Jean-Rene Zetrenne, chief talent officer at Ogilvy & Mather, recounts this story from his college days, “I had an executive who came into our PR class and I peppered this man with questions throughout the interview. At the end of class, he gave me his card and told me to give him a call. When I called him he brought me into the corporate offices in Gillette, he asked me what do you know about Gillette, and I started laughing because I was able to give him the first 40 years of the company. And that’s what leaves a mark on a person. We do the kind of work that you have to have this kind of passion. You have to make sure you come in prepared, or else shame on you.”
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