Digiday ran a piece titled, “How to Not Blow it at Your Ad Agency Interview”. The article had top agency execs sharing their biggest pet peeves and red flags when it comes to interviewing prospective new employees.
While most of the entries were pretty helpful, there were two instances that were all too familiar to me, and not in a good way. I bet they’re familiar to some of you, too. Here’s the first, from a New York agency Managing Director:
We often set people a real brief to respond to and ask them to take a few days or a week to work on something and come back and present. It really helps see how people think about a client problem and act in a client situation Direct.
I wrote about this extensively in my post, “Everyone Needs to Get Paid”. Read it for my personal point of view on this type of we-just-want-to-see-how-you-think approach. Here’s the CliffsNotes synopsis: It’s morally and ethically wrong for someone to ask you to work for free, especially if you’re in a vulnerable position, financially or otherwise. Work product shouldn’t be free. Everyone needs to get paid. Run, don’t walk, from anyone at any brand or agency who uses this as a gate item to a gig.
The second entry that caught my attention was from a Boston agency Chief Innovation Officer:
Another thing to never ask is anything to do with how late do we have to work, or do we have to work weekends. You are instantly telegraphing that you’re not committed to do whatever it takes to get something done.
My feeling here is that the candidate is likely communicating that she’s looking for some work/life balance. She’s telegraphing that she’s not looking for a job with a firm that has such poor process that they demand their employees work crazy hours (i.e., nights, weekends, holidays, etc.) to deliver on promises that probably shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
I’d like to think that both the Managing Director and Chief Innovation Officer responsible for the comments above are well-intentioned and really fabulous managers.
Here’s a shocker – unfortunately, everyone you interview with won’t be so well-intentioned and may even be really, really bad managers. So do yourself a favor – don’t be a passive participant in the interview process.
Prepare yourself for each interview as if you were conducting the interview. Then, make sure you get your questions answered, which might include their position on work/life balance and how they feel about your thinking around not sharing intellectual property for free.
Leave a comment with your thoughts, questions, or ad agency/brand interview stories. I’d love to hear from you.