Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Adventures In Recruiting: The Person Who Cried On An Interview

I just heard this story from a candidate and I thought I would share it.  At the very least it will make you smile.  It is like a scene out of Mad Magazine's, "Scenes we would like to see."

An account supervisor was interviewing at an agency for a notoriously difficult account.  She had been all through her interviewing cycle.  She had seen human resources, the management supervisor, the account director and now she was interviewing with the group director, probably her last interview. 

While she knew that this was a difficult account, she was very interested in the job and thought it would be good for her career.  Each person she had seen painted a rosy picture of the account while briefly mentioning that the client was demanding.

This last interview was the icing on the cake.

The chat lasted about forty-five minutes.  About a half an hour into the meeting the account supervisor asked this group director about the degree of difficulty of the account.  The group director smiled and said that she did not want to hire anyone under false pretenses.  She then began discussing he client.

The client, she said, was very demanding.  If they want you to come for a meeting called at the last minute, you had better be there within fifteen minutes, even a Friday evening at 5:30.  The client could be abusive at times.  If things were not 100% to the client’s liking or expectations, she could expect to hear a ten minute not very pleasant harangue.  

The group director told the account supervisor that she really wanted this person to join the team but wanted to manage her expectations.  The client could often be abusive.  The turnover on the account was high. As she continued to talk about the client, the account supervisor saw that the grouper was getting somewhat emotional.  Her eyes were red and watery.  The more she talked, the more emotional she became.

Finally, the dam broke.  Involuntarily the group director started streaming tears.  Finally, she blurted out, “This account is horrible. But we as a team stick together and it keeps it bearable.”

The account supervisor was dumfounded.  She did not take the job!


  1. Good for her! There's a fine line between a demanding client and an abusive client, but when that line is crossed you must decide if it is worth it for yourself.

    In the latter 1980's I worked at Grey on the Bristol Myers business. I had built up a reputation internally and was somewhat sought after. One day, the SVP on the P&G account asked to meet with me. I went to his office and after a few pleasantries he said that if I wanted to join his account he could make it happen. (Needless to say, P&G was the crown jewel of the agency)

    I told him that I was extremely flattered and grateful for the offer, however, I knew several of the P&G account people and they weren't happy people. None of them had a life outside the office. It was not only routine, but expected that you worked until 8 or 9 pm every night, not just during busy periods, but all of the time.

    I said that I thought that kind of work was reasonable during crunches, but anyone who worked like that all the time either did not know how to do their job very well or had an unreasonable job. In either case, it wasn't for me.

    He looked at me like I had 3 heads, thanked me for my honesty and sent me on my way. To the best of my knowledge, he never told anyone of our conversation.

    1. That is a nice story, Mark. It says a lot about you and your sensibilities and priorities. Better to say no up front than to be miserable later. Sadly, there are many account people like the SVP who simply think that working 14-16 hours a day is the way it should be.

  2. Yes, Mad Magazine's "Scenes we'd like to see," but for those too young to remember that (is that still a feature?), this could play as a scene in Mad Men!

  3. To Mark Robinson's commentary about Grey and P&G ... In the early '80s I was invited to interview at Grey on its P&G account and even though I was very happy where I was working on a top-spending national brand at a top-ten global agency, I went through the multiples at Grey just out of curiosity.

    A day or two later I told a creative friend about my adventure and he told me to forget about it. I asked why and he summed it up with a familiar expression on-the-street about Grey at the time ... "If you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming in on Sunday."

    And that was the end of that. LOL, Bill Crandall

  4. I once had an interview at an agency for a senior account position on three accounts. When I inquired about the accounts, I was told that one was about to go into bancrupsy, one was about to fire the agency, and the other only dealt with the principal. Needless to say, I declined to pursue the position further.

  5. @Anonymous: You were smart not to take the job. At least the agency was honest. I hope that you didn't take a job where the ability to spell correctly was critical.

  6. I had a similar experience interviewing for a respected large agency on an account where each member of the Account team literally used our time together to bash the client AND each other. When it is our jobs as Account folks to be on the front lines guiding, selling and protecting work, I'm sometimes so shocked at how much an Account team neglects to those same exact things for each other - to me that's as key to our jobs as any other part. Not to sound preachy, but that was such a memorable experience. Needless to say, when I received a quick offer from the HR contact, I turned it down, and gave that feedback explaining they wouldn't find anyone to take that job until they did some soul searching, team building or could figure out how to sell themselves with a little less honesty, at the very least. Interviews are not therapy sessions.

    1. @Anonymous: When I was an account guy, I used to say to my people that they could bitch to me about the client and each other, but that I did not want to hear it in the halls. Unfortunately, the key to what you were talking about is "team building". All too many agencies don't bother to do that. By the way, I wrote a post a couple of months ago about ways agencies have saved accounts; one of the best I heard was in fact team building with both the agency and the client. When everyone is happy, it is much easier to recruit.

  7. Back in the mid/late '80's I accepted a position as an Account Executive at William Esty on Cheseborough-Ponds. CP had recently been bought by Unilever, but I was assured that there were going to be no agency changes. Needless to say, 45 days after I started, Unilever realigned all of the CP business to Unilever agencies, and Esty was out. Learned my lesson to do a lot more homework in the future!

    (Love your blog BTW Paul!)

    1. Thanks, Helen. In fairness, sometimes agencies aren't told by their clients. Other times, the most senior people at the agency know but they never tell the troops; when that happens, they still allow hiring, which I will never understand.

      However, I always liked Esty and thought it was a better agency then the ad community gave it credit for being. Mostly, they were jealous of their one office and a billion dollars in billings and only about seven or eight accounts.


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