Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Employee Orientation: An Opportunity Often Lost

I’d like to propose that ad agencies rethink the way they conduct employee orientation.

New employee orientation gives every company a chance to establish a positive attitude and create enthusiasm among all its new hires, no matter who or what level they are.

Unfortunately, most orientations are totally process oriented. As conducted at most companies, orientation is all about rules, regulations and procedures - how many vacation days are allowed; how many sick days; dress codes (if any) and health benefits. Insurance options are explained in detail. Policies about expense reimbursements, supper money and other important procedural details are discussed. All of this is necessary and contributes to the smooth operation of the organization. 

But at most companies, there is a whole critical aspect missing from the nuts and bolts of new employee on-boarding.

Orientation should be a critical time to teach the core values of the company.  It is a great opportunity to create excitement, a sense of purpose and enthusiasm among all new employees.

All new new hires should see the agency's most current creative work.  It is also a great time to provide history (Ogilvy still gives out David Ogilvy’s seminal work, Ogilvy on Advertising) and explain philosophy and services to clients. All employees should be given a tour of the full office; if a company has a great conference room or editing facilities,  employees should see them and be impressed by these features. This should be done for every level of employee from the most senior executives to the support staff. What a wonderful way to build morale and create a sense of community.  After orientation, people should go home excited about their new employer.

If possible, new employees should meet department heads, be addressed by senior leaders of the agency and told what to expect. This doesn’t have to be done every week, but it is important for the long term that all employees have a sense of belonging. All too often I meet mid-level executives who have never met or even seen the senior executives of their company.

This kind of orientation should be mandatory for all employees. Too many people get hired,  are thrown right into the thick of things and are actually excused from their on orientation.  It shouldn't happen.
There is one other aspect of orientation which could and should be done and is rarely part of any orientation that I know of. The process should enable prospective employees to understand the expectations and the culture of the agency.

It is a perfect time to explain to account people and creative people what is expected of them in their functions. I remember joining a wonderful agency a long, long time ago. It was called DKG (Delehanty Kurnit and Geller). DKG was one of the great creative boutiques during the sixties and seventies. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that account people were expected to make great relations with their clients in order to create rapport which would enable us to sell great work. We were even told, “We don’t tell our clients how to make their products so they shouldn’t tell us how to make ads.” That was the marching order given to account people.

Creative people were told to respect account people, get the objectives and strategy from them and then do great work. Partnership was encouraged among account, creative, media and production.  We were indeed a family. The business is different now, but the point is that after that orientation, everyone knew what the agency stood for and it gave direction for our behavior.  And I felt proud to be working there.

Most employees tell me that orientation seems to be a necessary evil at all agencies. What a shame. It could be the perfect opportunity to reinforce a new employee’s decision to join the firm.

Please share with my readers the nature of your most recent orientation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: How NOT to Negotiate.

If you have ever hired anyone or been involved with a negotiation, you will get a kick out of this posting. It is word-for-word true. It is also totally outrageous and it just happened.  This is an aspect of candidates which recruiters occasionally see, but rarely let their clients know it is happening.

Here is the background: A client agency has been looking for a very senior account executive; the background required was very specific.  We found someone after a two month search. He was making $55k, working in Connecticut. The job was here in New York. He was good enough that he was generously offered $75,000. What follows is the verbatim response I received in an email after he had received the offer. The red highlights are my comments or clarifications so that you understand the context. This is the stuff that recruiters generally don’t show clients.

I want to make something clear: I did not send this email to my client.  I edited his demands and what I discussed with the client.  This letter is his counter to their original offer.

Here is his email:

Paul –

First, please convey to XXXX that I am excited about the opportunity and feel privileged to receive the offer. Before I could accept this offer, I need answers to my questions below and address some outstanding items upfront.

Please do not contact XXXX with these questions until we walkthrough [sic] the individual items tomorrow afternoon.


• What is there [sic] bonus structure? [like most agencies, scant or not at all at the AE level, including the     agency he is working at]
o Individual performance or company performance?
• What was the average bonus in 2009 for equivalent positions?
• Do you think there is room to push the salary up$ 5K to$ 10K? [remember, he was making $55k]

• I would accept this offer, if they were open to locating this position on the West Coast [the agency does not have a west coast office]
o Working from the West Coast would clearly separate this position from the opportunity at [xx who I am also talking to]
• I'd be open to considering an agreement where I spent the first 6 to 9 months in NYC before relocating to California

• Change title to Account Supervisor
o I want to demonstrate growth in responsibility from my current role in future opportunities

Start Date
• Upon acceptance of offer
o Due to the sensitivity switching business [to a competitor of my current client] I will be terminated when I notify my current employer I accepted the offer

Vacation Days
• Can you explain the monthly accrual? Do I have to work 6 months to obtain 1st week of vacation?
• Increase vacation days to 15

Performance Evaluation
• I would like to add a 6 month review

Mobile Phone & Service
• I expect I will be required to switch phones and service
• I currently have a business and personal device paid for by my company
• Phone service to include two new smartphones and unlimited voice and data services

Professional Development
• Professional development allowance to maintain up-to-date on [the field]
o Subscription to [names of journals and trade publications] (Approximately $1,600 per year)
o Registration and travel for two industry conferences (Approximately $1,500 each).
• Allowance will provide key learning from the industry and increase job performance
o Resources that currently exist within [my current company that I will have to compensate for, [approximately $5-8,000]

Employment Status
• At will employment status [is unacceptable] I want a 6 month severance if terminated for any reason other than poor performance or negligence

Decision Date
• Time to accept the offer once the questions outlined above have been answered [a week or two, but then he told me that the other offer he was considering might be over a month away].

I look forward to discussing these items with you tomorrow afternoon. I will call your mobile in the late afternoon/early evening.


Now here’s the best part. He was given the account supervisor title. He was given almost none of the other demands because of his arrogance (many were not told to the client).  Ultimately he rejected the job. His reasoning was as outrageous as the negotiation: he decided he would wait three or four weeks to see if the other job he was talking on would work out although he did admit he was one of four finalist candidates for that job. 

All this from someone who is not yet even a senior account executive!  I have handled CEO negotiations where the demands were fewer.   I would love to hear any stories you might have about ridiculous demands from candidates.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When You Need Career Advice, Be Sure To Ask The Right Person

When I was an account person, nothing was more annoying than what some clients did after an agency creative presentation. They would show our ads to their support staff and ask the staff’s opinion about our work, often getting responses which were way off base from people who  knew nothing about advertising, the product or the issues facing the brand. But they freely gave advice and opinions.

The analogy holds when seeking advice from any source.  When you need advice, make sure you ask people qualified to give it to you.

Most of us seek advice from friends, parents, co-workers, spouses or our significant others. That is fine as far as it goes. We ask them about dating, marriage, careers, life.

But be careful when it comes to getting career advice.

Most people give advice based on personal experience. Friends give advice because they are friends and don’t want to disappoint you. But your friends will get you into more trouble than your enemies, simply because they mean well. Parents give advice because they know you well and have perspective on life. But parents are often out of touch with the nuances of your profession and career. Presumably, spouses and significant others know us best and can guide us in the right personal direction but they rarely understand the intricacies of whatever decision you are asking about.

People will tell you what they know based on hearsay or their own experience. Someone who had a good or bad experience in a job three or five years ago is only qualified to tell you about their experience. They cannot tell you about the current situation. The people they worked with or knew may no longer be there or may have nothing to do with what you are asking about. Nonetheless, they will give advice anyway because you asked them for it.

When people ask me about whether they should interview at a company, most often I tell them to explore it. Interviewing is about gathering information. In the quest to obtain new employment, many people forget that the interviewing process is about getting enough information to make an informed decision. I can often tell candidates about the people who work at a company, about reputations, about who seems to do well and those who fail. That’s because I am an expert in the business.

It is essential to consult an expert when getting career advice.

The other day an EVP who had recently been cut back asked me about an account director’s job he was interviewing for. A friend had turned him on to it. What kind of friend would turn a $250k executive on to a $150k job? One who knows nothing about either the job or his friend. This person was only just out of work, still on severance, and had no business talking on this kind of job. It was personally demeaning and left him wondering about his career and his choices. The person who made the introduction was really trying hard to be a friend. But I discovered long ago that friends mean well but don’t always do or say the right thing.

A common scenario is that someone is told about an opportunity at a company. Before they agree to interview, they ask their friends about the company. Some may have worked there. The friend may have had a good, bad or indifferent experience, but will happily tell their friend to go or to stay away based on their own experience. Even if their job had nothing to do with what their friend might be interviewing on. I always tell candidates – you can grow up with someone, you can go to high school and college with them, you can even date the same people, but no matter how close you are, you are not them. It is important that you understand where people are coming from when getting advice.

If you want to know about a company, for instance, ask an objective recruiter. There isn’t a big agency where I haven’t interviewed literally dozens (hundreds?) of people who have worked there. Because of my many years experience, I understand what they are about and who can succeed there. I know advertising.

But then again, don’t come to me and ask about your sore throat. I may have opinions, but I am not a doctor.

I would love to hear your stories about getting bad advice to share with my readers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

When Looking for a Job, You Have to Manage Your Search

Last week I wrote about what to put in a résumé. This week I thought I would write on how to control your résumé during a job search,  Controlling your résumé is a euphemism which means how to be in charge of your own job search. Everyone, at some point in their career, will look for a job.

A recruiter cannot do it for you. Your friends cannot do it for you. You have to run your own search.

Last weekend I received a résumé from someone who I have known and who trusts me. He authorized me to send his résumé to as many people as possible. I emailed him back and told him that that was a bad idea and that I would call him with every idea I had to get his specific permission to send his paperwork.   He (and you) should always know where your résumé (and/or portfolio) is.

You have a right to know where your résumé is
There may be places you do not wish to work. There may be people you don’t want to work with. There may be accounts you do not wish to work on. It is perfectly reasonable not to have your résumé sent to those places.

I once had a candidate who declined to interview at an agency. It turns out that the head of account management was a former lover. I guess it ended badly. But it was her right to keep her résumé private.

Target your search
When you are asked on an interview where you have been looking, it is often a trick question. Its purpose is to determine how directed you are. If your answer is BBDO, Strawberry Frog and Mother, there is constancy in your interviewing – you are seeing all creatively driven agencies. If your response is BBDO, Publicis,  Goodby and Taxi there is no obvious thread other than that they are all good agencies.  However, because there is no obvious connection among those places, it may be interpreted that you are not directed in your career.

You do not wish to be overexposed
Don’t allow multiple submissions to the same place.

If you have previously interviewed at a company or if your résumé has been recently sent either by a friend, by a recruiter or by you, don’t allow it to go there again for at least for six months to a year. The last thing you want the hiring manager or human resources person to say is, “not him/her again”, or words to that effect.

I have even had people say to me, “Her résumé shows up here every six or eight months. What is wrong with her? Why is she still looking?”

No recruiter should send your résumé without your express permission
In line with the above points, keeping control of your submissions  is to your benefit.

You should be aware of what happens when your résumé is submitted to any company. At most firms, the HR department keeps a database of all résumés received. They are logged in as they arrive. The logging process happens before anyone decides to see you, which they may agree to or not, depending on your background, currently open jobs or the available time of the person designated to interview you. Receipt of résumés is rarely acknowledged.

If the recruiter who sent it did not ask your permission, they may not tell you it went there and, since the company did not acknowledge receipt or may decline to interview you, you may never find out you were submitted. After all, if you aren't asked for permission, there is no need to tell you that you won't be seen.

And there your résumé will sit.

Every recruiter does not get every assignment. So when a different recruiter has an appropriate job for you at that agency, you will receive a call, give your permission to be submitted and await a call back for an interview. But if your résumé has been sitting there, unnoticed, the reaction to  its receipt, even if you are perfecly qualified, will be, “we already have the résumé.” My observation over years of recruiting is that often, that is the end of it for the candidate, even if they are perfect for a job. A good recruiter will inform you that your resume is already there so you can try to get in yourself or through the previous recruiter.  But if you don't know who sent it, you may never be seen.

The way you handle your résumé is indicative of how you might handle the job
When your résumé is submitted through multiple sources it can cause a negative impression of you. If you can’t manage your search process, how will you manage the details of a complex job? 

And, possibly worse, it may indicate that you are desperate.  No one wants to hire a desperate person.

I would love to hear your stories and details of errant submissions or refused interviews because your paperwork was submitted without permission.  My readers can benefit from your experience.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Your Resume

An edited version of this article was originally published in Ad Age on June 29, 2009.  There isn't a week that goes by that I don't send it to someone.  I thought it would be worth reposting on my blog:

What I am writing is résumé heresy. It flies in the face of those same old tips you have always heard from résumé writers and advisors. But if you understand how your résumé will be used when it is received, you will be able to create a résumé which works well for you.  Instead of just focusing on the format, but concentrating on its use instead, you will not only save hours of needless rewriting, it just may help you land a job.

1) Your résumé won’t be read until you go on the interview. If then.
It is a fact of life. Corporate recruiters and headhunters alike are busy. They glance at résumés to see what you are about and decide to see you – or not. Most won’t look at them again until they are sitting there with you. So make your résumé eyeball friendly. Remember, a résumé is an ad for yourself.

2) Interviewers and potential interviewers actually want to know very little about you.
In advertising, all anyone wants to know is, where you worked, how long you were there, what you worked on, and, importantly, whether you were promoted.

These facts can be highlighted and shown easily. It is what executives, human resource professionals and recruiters look at to determine if they want to see you. Until they see you they are not interested in your accomplishments. They simply want to know whether it is worth their while to interview you in the first place. These simple facts give clues as to the kinds of cultures you have been at and the experience you have had. For instance, if an agency is looking for a fast food person, they look to see if you have relevant experience. A highly creative agency might want to know that you have worked on award winning account

3) Skip the details.
If you are staying within the same profession/discipline, the small details matter little. People spend hours on their résumés, often changing the wording numerous times – I have received as many as six versions of the same résumé, sometimes all on the same day, each with only a word or two changed. Because of points two above and four below, the phrasing matters little, especially since few people will actually read them.

4) Résumés are used as an interview guide.
Understanding this is the secret of an effective résumé. Don’t describe your job – everyone knows what an account supervisor or a copy group head does. Do highlight the things you have accomplished that you want to be asked about. Make sure you include anything that makes your experience unique. While you are being interviewed they will see and ask you about the things you emphasized and highlighted.

5) Your résumé may be unintelligible
Terms and unfamiliar brands can work against you. Typos can kill your candidacy, but so can unfamiliar words, phrases and terms. Beware of client speak. I once had a résumé which talked about the “module” which the candidate had created. It turned out to be his client’s term for a marketing plan. Beware of client speak – few people outside of your current agency or even your current account may understand what you are talking about. And, if you have been working abroad, don’t assume that most people in the U.S. know that in Europe Tide detergent is Ariel.

6) If you have a date gap, it will be noticed.
If you have been on maternity leave or raising children, those are valid jobs and should not be left out or people will not understand the skip in dates. This time should be listed just like a regular job, especially if during it you worked freelance or part time. Professionals can spot a gap immediately. If you have been out of work don’t cover it up with vague dates which are a dead giveaway.

7) References available upon request is a useless phrase.
I have no idea where this came from, but it is useless and no one pays attention. When a company wants your references, they will ask for them.

Forget about letters of recommendation.  They are nice to have. But honestly, on a first interview or in a cover letter, no one cares.

8) Many recruiters don’t like pdf formats.
PDF’s will keep your résumé looking as you intended. But their down side is that they cannot be easily annotated, date stamped or corrected. People are used to receiving emails where the format gets jumbled. Don’t worry about it. (You should always have a résumé with you, just in case.)

9) Skip the fancy paper.
Everything is computerized. No need to spend money on expensive paper which will only get filed or thrown away.

10) No one reads long cover letters.
Your résumé needs to speak for itself. You can’t talk people into seeing you. A short, powerful note says volumes about your candidacy. 

The above advice is basically for people who are looking for similar jobs to what they currently have. Changing careers is what most résumé advice you will read is really all about. It is a whole different challenge. If you plan on changing careers, I recommend you read John Lucht’s wonderful book, “Changing Jobs at $100,000 Plus”.

Finally, forget about résumé writing services.  If you are in advertising, what I wrote above is all you need.  Some of the worst résumés I have seen have cost tons of money and are impossible for an advertising person to follow.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gino's Restaurant We Will Miss You

Gino’s Restaurant closed last week. It makes me sad. And while this isn’t an advertising blog post per se, it is….

Gino’s Restaurant opened in 1945. It never changed. Gino’s has been part of my life since I was a little boy. My dad, who had an advertising agency, ate lunch there three or four times a week and often took me. As an adult, I would meet him there three or four times a month.

Gino’s, funky Gino’s. It had the most outrageous red wall paper with white and black zebras. It took no reservations, even for large parties (the maitre d’ had the uncanny ability to remember in what order everyone arrived without ever taking down a name). No credit cards (until last year). Waiters who were friendly, but always rushed, if not a little gruff. The same hand written menu that regulars barely looked at. The food ranged from fair to good, but was always consistent. Their prices went up only periodically, so that Gino’s remained a relative bargain. Regulars ate there every day – I know at least six advertising executives who told me that their fathers ate there as often as mine. For them and us, it was home.

What was it about the place? It was consummate New York. It was the ultimate mid-town, affordable comfort restaurant.

And for advertising people, Gino’s was a lesson in branding. Their consistency was their strength. On the day of their sixtieth anniversary my wife happened to have lunch there. They served the original menu at the original prices. Her lunch that day was about $5.00. Funny thing was, that menu was quite similar to what they served sixty years later. About thirty years ago they changed the wallpaper. Apparently, the zebra paper was no longer available. Their regulars went nuts and forced them to replace the new wallpaper with a custom made duplicate of the original. The red background was never quite right but their regulars accepted the slight change.

Gino’s never tried to be something it wasn’t. It wasn’t trendy. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. It was, just, well, Gino’s. Its consistency was its strength. And with the exception of adding credit cards last year, it never changed. It should be a lesson to every marketer. When you went to Gino’s you always knew what you would get and got what you expected. It was a perfect lesson in branding.

Gino’s is going out of business because the landlord apparently raised the rent to a point that they could not afford to do business directly opposite Bloomingdale’s. It has been in all the New York papers.

So when my daughter, Liz, called me last Monday to ask if I wanted to have a farewell dinner there, I said yes without hesitating.. Gino’s meant a lot to us on a personal basis. It was the last place her grandfather took her to. And in fact, it was where my dad requested to go while he was ill and was the last place he went out to for dinner. Liz and I each had our favorite things – Liz had fettuccini Alfredo and I had paglia e fieno with segreto sauce. (Now that it is closing, perhaps they will give out the recipe for that wonderful secret sauce.)

Liz and I reminisced about her grandfather, my dad. Gino’s was indeed special and had a special place in our lives. No wonder we each had a tear in our eyes as we finished our dinner.

Gino we will miss you. There is and was nothing like it.

I would love to hear your Gino stories.  Here is Liz Gumbinner's from her Mom-101 Blog: Liz Gumbinner's Tribute To Gino
Creative Commons License