Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adventures In Recruiting: Great Quotes Over The Years

I thought it would be fun to share some of the more absurd things that both candidates and clients have said to me.

No Words Can Explain
When I told a candidate about a potential job, “Do they have private offices? My lease is up soon and I may have to stay at work for a while.”

Said by an HR director at J. Walter Thompson when giving me a job order to replace a departing account person who was going to Margeotes, Fertitta, Weiss (one of the best and most successful of the small agencies in the 1990’s), “Imagine, leaving here to go to an agency whose name you cannot pronounce.” Unfortunately, she was serious.

Sore Loser
Said by a candidate who did not get a job after four weeks of intensive interviewing and going back too many times to count: “Well, I didn’t like them, anyway.”

Sore Loser, Too
Said by a candidate who did not get a job at Chiat/Day in their earlier days, “I guess it is a good thing.  I don’t look good in jeans.”

The reason given by an account supervisor who wanted to leave Chiat/Day after only a week (I had not placed her there), “I have to do my own Xeroxing.”

She Doesn’t Get It
The entire email sent by a candidate who instead of returning my call to tell her about a potential opportunity wrote, “I no longer require your services.”

An HR Director Who Didn’t Get It
“The trouble with you recruiters is that you want feedback.  I don’t have the time for that s­­%@t---”

A Hiring Manager Who Didn’t Get It
Said after  I sent three really great candidates, “I don’t want to use you any more.  You only send me two or three candidates and I need to interview at least ten or twelve people.” Quantity over quality.

When I first was recruiting in the 80’s, I worked out of my living room.  I was interviewing a woman while my wife was in the bedroom.  I swear this is true: “What can I do to get you to get me a job?” said she as she was unbuttoning her blouse. Well, it was the 80’s.

Get Over It
When I asked a candidate about a potential job, she asked me if a certain gentleman worked there.  When I answered yes, she told me that he was an “ass” and she wouldn’t work at any company that would hire him.  When I asked her why, she said, simply, “I was once engaged to him.”  I guess that is as good a reason as any for passing up an opportunity.

For Real?
The reason I use you is because you know the business.  That saves us the trouble of writing job specs and descriptions. Compliment yes. Direction no.

The Wife As Unseen Client
“I can’t hire her. She is way too pretty.  I will have to travel with her.  If my wife ever met her, she would castrate me.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Vacation Days Policy for Executives Is Insulting

In almost every placement we make, I have to negotiate vacation days. Most people plan real vacations months in advance, so when a new job comes up, time off has already been scheduled. It is almost never an issue; most companies accept time off for their executives, even if that time off is within a short time after they start work.

Executives are paid by the year.  They are expected to get their jobs done. Period. As long as they accomplish their work, most companies actually don’t pay attention to vacation policies, or at least they shouldn't.  Almost every executive I know works far more than a 40 hour week.  In fact, sixty or seventy hour weeks or more are not uncommon.

So why do companies actually enforce vacation time? 

One senior vice president I know had scheduled a week's vacation and sent an email and included his human resources manager.  He out actually received a notice that he was not yet entitled to take this time off.  He had started his job about four months prior and had worked for most of that time seven days a week, including a lot of travel. The notice he received said that he was not yet entitled to vacation time because he had not been employed for six months.  The executive was furious at the note, as well he should have been.  Whoever sent the note looked only at his days out of the office rather than looking at his total time worked.  They also didn’t look at the person or the job he was doing and what he had accomplished.  They merely looked at just the numbers. It was highly bureaucratic and insulting.  Of course, he took his week off without any issues.  But it shouldn’t have been an issue at all.

Most executives are truly responsible.  They work hard and, occasionally, play hard.  Someone who travels weeks at a time, works until midnight and spends weekends in the office, is certainly entitled to time off.  There should be no one week, two week or three week rules for these people.  They take what they need to keep their batteries charged and stay refreshed.  No one should be counting their days out of the office; and if they do, they should be compared to hours worked.

If an employee is getting his or her work done, then there should be no formalized vacation.  Those rules make executives feel like clerical employees and are demoralizing and unnecessary.

If companies want productive and motivated executives, they have to be treated like trusted adults.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Procurement Has Become The Bane Of The Ad Agency Business

I was startled recently, to learn that Procter and Gamble made news by posting on NASA’s web site that they were looking for ways to cut production costs and they would take ideas from anywhere, hence NASA.   A P&G spokesperson said that the entire production process had not changed in fifty years. He is, of course, correct. Clearly, P&G is desperate to find ways of cutting the cost of  print, television, video and content production. 

Procurement has now invaded all aspects of the advertising agency world.  Certainly, they have become involved with staffing, time and profitability. Now they are very much into the creative process.  I can’t help but think that while cost control has become a central part of every kind of business, it is particularly onerous in the advertising business - which should be about intellectual property and creativity.   

Unfortunately, ad agencies must share some of the blame for procurement becoming involved with creative and production.

In my advertising career, as an account guy I was helpless to prevent my various agencies from using the most expensive production suppliers. It was one area where account people really had no say in most agencies, even the most account driven shops.  Controlling costs was not part of an account person’s job.  When estimates appeared to be too high, occasionally if an account person was trusted by his or her creatives, he or she could negotiate for lower costs, but this was rare.  Creative directors, for the most part, insisted on using suppliers they knew, usually the most expensive photographers, directors and other production suppliers, all in the name of creativity and quality.  Clients, however, did exert some control and often pushed back when confronted with estimates that they thought were high.  This process still exists today.

I have written that we are seeing more and more of the advertising process being outsourced by clients or even brought in-house.  Today, clients are starting to outsource production to save money.  WPP, smartly, has Hogarth as its production shop. And while there is some push-back by the WPP creative agencies, more and more of WPP’s clients are mandating the use of Hogarth.  And Hogarth is also being used by non-WPP clients as well, because they believe that they are doing a good job of maintaining quality, while lowering costs.  The other holding companies are attempting to do the same thing.

P&G is correct in that the process has not changed in decades.  It is time that agencies take a leadership position.  My fear is that if they do not get ahead of the trend, it will get worse and ad agencies will lose complete control of the creative process.
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