My Take on What it Takes

March 12, 2010

Whenever I get a chance to speak to college classes about our industry, inevitably I’m asked what I’m looking for in entry-level hires.  Despite all of the changes in advertising and PR over the past decade, my answer has not changed. So, as graduation season begins to approach, and with it the surge in internship inquiries here at Fast Horse, I humbly offer:

“Five Things I Look for In Entry Level Hires.”

1. Smarts.  Smart people thrive in an environment where we are expected to become an expert in a new client’s business virtually overnight.  We don’t have a Wunderlic Test for our candidates like the NFL does for its incoming draft class. So, we have to look for intelligence in other ways:  Correspondence. Interviews. Writing test.  GPA. College or University reputation for academic rigor. Personal interests. References.  All of these can give us clues about whether our candidate is a quick study.

2. Initiative.  One of the early pieces of advice I got from a senior person at the agency where I spent the first 12 years of my career was: “Take control of your career. Nobody is going to hand you anything.”    I took that to mean that I should take control of my career because nobody was going to hand me anything. Turned out to be true.  Agency life is fast paced.  Feedback can be fleeting in the whirlwind. So can opportunity.  You have to seek them out.  If you do, you’ll be rewarded.  If you don’t, you’ll be passed up by those who do. Show us how you’ve taken initiative in your life.  In your previous jobs. As a student. As a roommate. As a Maid of Honor. Whatever.  We want to know that you’ve got the fire in the belly.  Not just to land the job, but because that’s who you are.

3. Creativity. It’s what we sell. It’s our competitive edge.  If you have it, you’ll do well here. The ways to show us your creativity are endless.  Select several.

4. Curiosity.  A curious person discovers things.  Those discoveries can take an idea from good to great.  They can lead to a new business opportunity.  They can inform a new marketing approach. Curiosity is the thing that allows us to drop kick something out of that cliched “box” we’re all trying to get out of.  Your hobbies will give me a clue.  So will the books on your night stand. (Don’t worry, I’m not coming to your house.)  As will your travel preferences. Your favorite web sites.  You get the drift.

5. Something Else.  Can you put check marks on the four boxes above?  Splendid. What else ya got?  See, because the truth is that this business attracts a lot of people who exhibit the above qualities. The “something else” can be the difference between getting the job offer or a call asking you to stay in touch.  What’s that something else we’re looking for?  You tell me.  Study my agency. Study my competitors.  Study my clients. What can you offer us that could eventually make you indispensable to us?  Then make sure you find a way to tell me about that as early as possible.

We need to continue to attract the best talent out there.  To compete for that talent, we need to create a compelling and rewarding career opportunity.  I know it goes both ways. And it’s part of what gets me out of bed every day. Questions about any of the above? Lay ’em on me in the comment section below, or at the Fast Horse Experience on Facebook.