15 tips on what I look for in a new hire.  

Posted by Dreamented in , , ,


(OR: One man's opinion on how to survive the sucky economy by finding and keeping a job you actually want.)


No one will deny that the job market sucks right now. But no matter how bad it gets out there, you can always find companies that are hiring. The biggest problem, of course, is that the more people that are looking for jobs, the more competition there is for the job you're looking for. Which means today, more than ever, you can't afford to blow an opportunity. 

With so many resumés and portfolios coming across my desk these days, I thought some people might find it useful and helpful to get an idea as to what goes through my mind when I’m sorting through literally hundreds of resumés, trying to decide who merits an interview – let alone a job offer. The old days of formal resumés and stuffy interviews have been pushed aside for more progressive, enlightened ways of finding the right person for a job. So while these are specific to our agency and advertising in general, imao, many are still relevant across the board and are just good, solid practices to keep in mind. 

The Resumé
  1. Write like a human being, not like someone who just read "How to Write a Resumé to Win Friends & Colleagues." Too much content sounds like bragging. Too little seems like someone's got a thin one. Hard to judge, but that in and of itself is also part of what makes one stand out more than another - if you can properly edit your own resumé, you're half the way there. ;-) Be human. I can't say this enough. Do not come across as a machine. Pepper in a little personality. Don't be flippant or disrespectful, but few creative gems buried in the text can be very rewarding to a reader who's just gone over 100 different boring resumés. They are also memorable.

  2. Do not write cover letters that are generic with "fill-in-the-company-name" areas in them. They are usually very easy to spot, and are the very first reason why I toss a resumé aside. If you don't take the time to write something specific to a company (me), then I don't believe you're really interested in my company - instead, you're just mass-mailing multiple companies. Not good. Don't spam me. Write something that shows you actually went to our site, and in a perfect world, show how your experience is relevant to our client list.

  3. I'm always looking for someone who understands what's real and what's fantasy. ie, everyone wants to talk about big, exciting brands like Nike, Apple, Coke, etc - but the truth of the matter is, only a handful of people will ever really get to work on those kind of accounts. In the real world of advertising, we deal with a lot of un-sexy stuff: brochures, email campaigns, research... I look for resumés that creatively show me that someone gets this and embraces it. Tell me what's relevant to me - most importantly, how hiring you will not only make my life easier, but also how you might become a revenue generator, as in this economy, someone who brings skills that are billable/sellable is huge.

  4. I find it helpful to have a simple objective listed at the top of the resumé, as it's always good to know what someone really is striving for, rather than feeling someone will take whatever job their resumé fits into. I've been told by many other (my lead AE for example) that they disagree with this and find most objectives to be very superficial. So if you do choose to include one, make sure it doesn't come off as generic - add a little personality into it if you can. And when interviewing, be specific as to what you want to do, what your short-term goals are, and where you see yourself growing into down the road.

  5. Design you resumé like you care - whether you're a designer or not. It matters. Sloppy resumés present you as a sloppy employee. If you don't care about your own sales piece, why would you care about someone else's. If you can't design, find someone who can. It doesn't have to be a One Show candidate, but at the very least it should be crisp, clean and VERY well organized. There's a simple hierarchy as to what I look for in a resumé, and the design should allow the eye to hit these points in order: Name, Companies worked at, Titles at those companies, Years worked there, General job description, bullet points of RELEVANT stand-out specific accomplishments for each job. Your resumé has one purpose and one purpose only: to get you an interview. Trying to make it do anything more than that is only going to complicate things.


  6. The Portfolio/Work

  7. Although I don't see it done too often, I find it very refreshing to know exactly what someone's role was on a particular piece of creative. In this business, a lot of people get their hands involved on things - so if someone else art directed a brochure and then you laid it out and saw it through production, say that. In my own portfolio, I list EVERY name along with their role on each piece I show (CD; AD; CW; Prod; etc) just to make sure there's no confusion. Don't take credit for something you didn't do, as it's a very big letdown for me to have expectations of you that you ultimately can't live up to. It's better to see a lot of your own spec work than a bunch of work you really didn't have a real hand in. Remember, 5 great pieces of your own are far superior to 25 pieces of someone else's.

  8. Spec work is welcomed and encouraged, as it shows a level of proactivity that is highly desired in someone. But remember, spec work comes with a higher level of scrutiny, since you have the final say on its layout, content and presentation. There's no one to blame if it's not perfect in every way. Treat spec work as if it's a direct reflection of your own creative ability.

  9. Don't design/write spec for big-time clients like Nike, Apple, MasterCard, etc (ie, point #3 from above). Its very easy to execute creative off of someone else's idea (I can't tell you how many spec MasterCard spots/scripts I've seen for the "Priceless" campaign). All that shows is that you can plagiarize someone else's idea well. Unless you're a senior AD/CW, most likely you'll be writing/designing smaller, more pedestrian items. Again, brochures, email templates, catalogues, financial reports, etc. Don't exclusively show those kinds of pieces, but make sure they are well-represented, as those are the reality of the position you're likely looking at. Many people can create great image-driven advertising. Not a lot can do copy-heavy, offer-driven creative. It's not the sexy side of the biz, but it's about 75% of it. Show that you understand it and embrace it. And you'll be incredibly marketable.

  10. To be a really strong candidate (to me), you need to be able to see a brand all the way through its various tactics. I'm more interested in 10 pieces from one brand - showing all kinds of tactics based around a campaign - than by 10 various tactics from 10 different brands. I want to see smart, consistent thinking - and understand how you translate a great print ad into a brochure, a splash page, a banner ad, a billboard, an email blast and a promotional event.

  11. For AE's, it's incredibly helpful to show how you've handled briefs, as every agency has a different way of managing jobs, and the brief is the key to everything. Also, demonstrating how you've grown the company's work flow from current clients is an easy way to show how you can immediately help with the increase of revenue for the company. In other words, if a client asked for one thing (ie, a logo design) and you were instrumental in logically and strategically explaining and selling why it needed to be expanded into 4 more jobs (ie, a naming exploratory, complete stationary design, signage, and a re-thinking of their website), that's music to anyone's ears.


  12. The Interview

  13. Cold calling is a no-no. Cold-emailing is fine, but don't expect a response. And as far as follow-ups go, a nice handwritten note will go a lot further than a bunch of calls or a generic, easy-to-send email. Cards often get kept. Emails do not. And if you believe that calling 10 times in order to get an interview is going to make you remembered in a fond way, you are sorely mistaken. Our people have a lot to do as it is - answering calls from everyone who wants a job would be a full-time gig in and of itself. Don't do it. Be respectful of the people and process. It will reflect well on your character.

  14. Be on time. In fact, be a little early. Don't show up early, but be in the general area 10 minutes or so early - so that you can literally walk in right on time. Those who show up even a minute late are sending a message that this is what should be expected if they are to be hired. Be on time. I cannot stress this enough.

  15. Be relevant and be up-to-date. Interactive & New Media are huge right now. Don't oversell it, but make sure you show how you are involved with this new movement, as it's not going anywhere, and those who don't adapt will perish. Your portfolio is the first place that you'll be judged on this - if you're going to build a website for it, make sure its simple, easy to navigate and smartly designed. Its often one of the first exposures someone will have to you and your work - make a good first impression. If you can't do it right, then post clean, well-laid out pdfs. Those are better than a website built by someone who doesn't build websites.

  16. Come with questions that show you've done at least a little homework. It's imperative to remember that you are not only being interviewed to see if you fit the job, but also doing the interviewing to see if the job fits you. Sitting there and answering questions is only half of the interview. Asking challenging - yet respectful - questions to better understand what you're possibly getting yourself into not only gets you remembered, but also respected. If you're a Yes-Man/Woman in the interview, then that's the kind of person I'll expect you to be on the job - and that's not good. Because while I want people to do what's expected of them, I also don't want an agency of robots. Clients hire people, not agencies. It's the personalities that define our companies. Which leads me to my last thought...

  17. Most of the time when I'm interviewing candidates, I remember interesting things about them as opposed to details about their careers. Loosen up. Be yourself. And let the things that make you who you are come through. In the end, we're looking for someone to fit into our culture and contribute from day one. So if you're into the music scene, talk about it. If you're a foodie, speak up. I'll often remember an Account Executive who spent a week camped out at Woodstock 2 better than one who's dressed in a nice suit.

Remember, this is just one man's opinion on things I look for in people who connect with us for potential work. Results may vary depending on who you talk to as well as what your own personal style is like. The most important thing to remember - imao - is to sell who you are, not who you think someone wants you to be. Stay positive, try not to look desperate, and never play hardball unless you're prepared to get hit by a pitch. There are a lot of talented people out there looking for the same job you're interested in. Do your best not to give them any reason at all to move your resumé into the "thanks but no thanks" pile without completely prostituting yourself and in the end, you'll be a happier person throughout the process.

Good luck.

This entry was posted on Mar 22, 2009 at Sunday, March 22, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

4 comments

This was very good! I will certainly pass it along!

March 22, 2009 at 6:51 PM

Great post Jim. Really helpful ideas and suggestions.

Tim

ps - i created the "Just Do It" campaign. You may have heard of it;)

March 24, 2009 at 7:58 AM

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your tips.

March 24, 2009 at 12:42 PM
Lindsey Todd  

Excellent insight! Thank you - I will share with my colleagues.

April 6, 2009 at 1:56 PM

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