Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Adventures In Recruiting: She Almost Got A Job

When you are sent to interview on a specific job, you must interview wholeheartedly for that position.  If the company believes you are right for something else, they may have, they will tell you.  This story illustrates that point.

A candidate recently interviewed at a really good agency for a senior account supervisor position.  She was doing great and would have gotten the job.  But then she gave the absolute wrong answer to a question.  Here is the huge error she made.

This candidate was on her final  interview with the president of the agency. If the interview went well she would have been hired.  She was with the president for almost an hour. She felt comfortable; there was good camaraderie between them and she was able to joke with him.  She could tell he really liked her.  Then he very casually asked where she saw herself in five years.

She is one of the few ad agency executives who started out in public relations and moved into advertising.  She was interviewing for an advertising account position on a specific account.  So how did she answer?  She told the president she really wanted to go back to PR. 

Not smart when you are interviewing for an account job.

Her answer came out of the blue.  They had not discussed PR at all and there was no context for the response..  The president told her that he had just made a proposal to a client to obtain their PR and corporate communications efforts.  For the next fifteen minutes she told the president how and why she could do the public relations job. The president was more than willing to consider her for this assignment should they win it.  But, as a result, she completely talked her way out of the account job.

And, of course, if the agency does get this public relations and corporate communications assignment, the president told me he would seriously consider this candidate but would like to meet other corpcom and PR people.  She, naturally, thought the interview went perfectly and he would hire her one way or another.

What she should have done was to tell him that she wanted to advance in the account management arena – after all, that is what she was interviewing for – and, because of her background, she would love to find a way to possibly combine her two disciplines sometime in the future.

There is an old Hans Christian Andersen parable about a dog crossing the river on a bridge with a bone in his mouth.  He looks down and sees his reflection and thinks he is seeing another dog and another bone.  He wants the bone.  He starts barking and loses the bone in his mouth.  When he looks down, the other dog no longer has a bone either.

That is exactly what this account supervisor did.  The best advice I can give is to make sure you interview for the job you went for. Farther down the line she could have revisited the PR opportunity, especially after she was hired and had earned personal equity within the firm.

Incidentally, the agency, not surprisingly, did not get the PR account.


  1. Paul:

    Thought you might like this one: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131230082800-52594-how-to-interview-your-next-boss?trk=tod-home-art-list-small_3

    1. Thanks for sharing. I have written about this many times.


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