Back in the mid to late nineteen eighties, there was a nice small agency called Doyle Graf Mabley (subsequently bought by Chiat, before TBWA, I believe). They had one of the hotel accounts, Sheraton International.
A management supervisor there gave me an assignment to find a junior account supervisor. They wanted someone who knew print production, was strategic and smart. They would promote an account executive. They also wanted someone with an MBA from one of the top B schools to mirror their principal client.
I sent her three really good candidates. Each of them called me after interviewing with the management supervisor and each of them had then been passed on to the president of the agency. Subsequently, the management supervisor told me that the president had rejected all three, but with no reasons given; she asked for more people. I was surprised and perplexed since each of my candidates met the specs exactly, so I called the president.
Some of you may remember Charlie Fredericks. Charlie had been president of Wells, Rich, Greene and had also been a senior executive at several other well respected agencies. He was a really good guy. He knew the business well and there was no B.S. about him.
Charlie told me that he loved my candidates, but that they were over-qualified. He asked me about the specs I had been given. When I got to the part about the MBA, he said, in a way that only Charlie could say it, and in his big, booming voice, “No. No. No." He then went on to give me his job specs: find an account executive who loves creative, who has a traffic or production background who had been at one of the big agencies. He said, “Find me someone who has just been passed over for promotion. You know them. Someone who gets it done, is great at execution and detail. Screw the MBA and the strategy. I will promote him or her. This is about Sheraton International. It is about changing the logo for the same ads in different markets.”
He went on to tell that he would do the first interview and that he would handle the management supervisor.
Now that is what I call a great job spec. With a minimum of words, it was brutally honest, clear, to the point and very actionable. I knew exactly who he wanted.
That afternoon, I found someone who was exactly as described by him. She was hired the next day. She worked there for several years and was very happy.
The lesson here is to know exactly who and what you want when looking for a new hire.