Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Never Take A Final Interview For Granted

This post is written for hiring managers and companies.  It deals with a critical part of the interviewing process – the final interview with the most senior person in the interviewing chain.  It should never merely be a formality or a matter of courtesy.  It is an essential part of the process.  Its purpose should be to determine the “fit” of the candidate within the group and within the organization.

It is the job of every senior executive to insure that the culture of their company remains intact.  While the final interview should also be a double-check to insure that a candidate meets all the important criteria of the job specs, the most important aspect of this particular interview is to insure that the candidate is right for the agency. 

About a year ago, the president of an agency told me that she had just rejected two account director candidates (not mine).  As a result, she knew that the two group account directors who had approved them and passed them on to her for final approval were angry with her for rejecting them.  Her rejection was based on two factors, one having to do with seniority and one having to do with where these prospective employees fit within the company.  The president’s logic was that she felt that the agency’s account directors should be capable of stepping up to the plate at those times that the group director was unavailable.  She did not feel that these people had either the presence or the seniority to do this even though they were perfectly capable account people. 

Most important, she had questions about these two candidates that overrode the issue of seniority.  She felt that the two rejected candidates did not embody the culture of the agency – smart, passionate and committed.  They were, in her opinion, just competent account people, good for handling the problems of today on their accounts, but perhaps not right for their long-term growth within the agency.  I applaud her decision.

In hiring people, it is critical for an agency to insure that people are competent in terms of the job specs.  But if they are to grow within the agency, they have to be the kind of people who are right for the culture.  Simply put, creative agencies should hire writers and art directors who can produce according to that agency’s standards.  And those same agencies should hire account people who understand how to work in that kind of environment.

Finding those kinds of people can be difficult.  The old Chiat/Day (before TBWA) used to have account candidates go through nine or more interviews.  They saw other account people (both senior and junior), planners, creative people, anyone of whom could “ding” the candidate.  (My record was a candidate who did 17 interviews there before being hired.)  While this may be somewhat cumbersome, it insured that their passionate and committed culture remained intact.   Except for the extreme number of interviews, I never had an issue with this process.

In interviewing and hiring, it is easy to lose sight of the culture in favor of a short-term
“fix”.  I call this my theory of ten percent.  It goes something like this:  Two people go into business together.  They can agree on 99% of all issues.  The company grows and it is time to hire.  They try to find an employee who is just like them.  It is difficult.  After much interviewing, they find a candidate who is 90% of them.  The three of them work together for a while. Time goes buy and now the new person is going to hire someone to work for them.  After a long search, the third person finds someone who is 90% of himself/herself.  And so on.  By the time of the third and fourth hire, those candidates could be thirty to forty percent of the original owners, clearly diluting the culture.  It is the responsibility of the senior people to insure that the people they hire are as close to the core company philosophy as possible.

This is a challenge of all big companies, especially those which are so large as to have multiple groups within.  And it is the responsibility of all senior executives to insure that their group culture remains consistent and intact.

This assumes that the philosophy and culture are clear, communicated and understood by everyone within the interviewing chain.  All too often candidates and hiring managers forget that the final interview of the candidate they have chosen to hire may not be a lock. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, so many agencies get caught up in the final interview without looking at the bigger picture, and the wrong "successful" people get hired. The hiring person should also set forth the skill set that will be needed in the future as well.
    And I applaud for the canditate who did 17 interviews.


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