Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Going On When A Recruiter Rejects You....

Most of us have had the experience of contacting a recruiter and having them deny a request for an interview or not sending you on a job which you know they have and which you feel qualified to get.

Years ago I contacted one of the major search firms only to receive a letter of rejection telling me they did not accept unsolicited resumes.  Six months later they called me for an opportunity and told me my résumé was in their data base.  Ha!  So much for the big and sometimes phony search firms.

However, in fairness, occasionally recruiters justifiably reject potential candidates.  I believe that in the case of the big national search firms it is often done to protect their aura.  But they always keep the resumes, per the above.

With a single industry recruiter like me, I decline candidates when I honestly believe I cannot help them - ever.  When I agree to see people, it is because I see something “placeable” in their background.  Once I accept a candidate, I believe that there is no such thing as a wasted interview unless they turn out to be inappropriate for my practice.  Once I see people there is a good chance I can place them, even if not immediately.  Recruiting is like a jig saw puzzle:  The pieces have to fit just right.

Over time, I have helped people whom I could not place when I first saw them, but many years later had an appropriate opportunity for them.  I recently placed someone I met more than twenty years ago.   On the other hand, I do receive referrals and résumés from people whose backgrounds are inappropriate for me to help.  The problem is, when I say no I feel guilty and when I say yes, I hate myself (This line is courtesy of Manual J. Smith, Ph.D., who wrote a wonderful book about being assertive, with that as its title.  It is great reading for all.)  

This past week, I received a résumé from a person who has been in the advertising business for more than 25 years.  In fact he had his own ad agency.  Unfortunately, when he sent me the list of accounts he had worked on, they were not accounts that either I or my clients would or could relate to.  I am sure this gentleman is an excellent advertising person.  But his background is not what my clients are looking for from me.  I said that I would keep his résumé on file (I will) but that I would not see him.  My refusal generated a series of emails from him begging me give him a few minutes.  As guilty as I felt, I steadfastly refused.  It just would not be productive for either of us. 

Clients hire recruiters for two reasons:  First to expedite the hiring process and second to find people they cannot necessarily get to on their own.  Generally the people they are looking for have particular skill sets, experience in relevant categories and, a specific personality type which we know that the company hires.  When a client gives me job specs, they expect to see people who match those requirements.  Occasionally, when I know the client well, I can prevail upon them to see someone who is off-spec, so to speak, but who I believe can do the job. But this happens only rarely. 

A corollary issue is when I receive a call about a job I am working on.  A candidate may hear about a search I am conducting from friends who I have called.  Sometimes, the caller is, in my opinion, inappropriate for the job I am working on. It breaks my heart when a really good person hears about a job at an agency and asks me to submit them and, from experience, I know they will not fly either because of their background, personality or the specifics of the job spec.

Years ago, I got one of those calls.  The candidate’s résumé was perfect for an assignment I was working on.  However, he spoke with a deep New York accent and could not have been more wrong for the specifications I had for a mid-western personality.  Of course he was angry with me for not sending him, confronted me and told me so.  He had another recruiter submit him and, naturally, he did not make it past the first round of interviewing.  To this day he will not accept my calls.

I am very conservative in that way.  I believe my clients pay me to save them screening time and to find a selected few candidates who are appropriate.  (Of course, there are a number of HR managers and hiring managers who simply want volume.  I don’t recruit that way, but that is another blog posting.)

I am fully aware that people who are really unhappy or desperately out of work just want to get out there and interview. With anyone.  In my opinion, seeing a company for the wrong job may preclude the candidate from getting the right job at that firm.  What happens is this: say, to be obvious, a non-automotive person is sent to interview on a car account.  Somehow he or she gets seen.  But because they have no category experience, an inexperienced screener marks their résumé as, “inappropriate”.  Sometime later, they are submitted for something which would be appropriate for them at the company, but someone looks in the data base and sees the “inappropriate” comment and rejects the candidate without understanding the context of the comment.  It happens all the time.

The point is, if ever you are rejected by a recruiter, try to determine the reasons why.  It may save you time and be to your benefit in the long run.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vacations Increase Productivity

It is the new year.  Everyone should be making a resolution to take more vacation time. 

Vacations are essential for your physical and mental well-being.  Anyone who thinks to the contrary is doing themselves, their clients and their employers and the people who work for them a significant disservice.

I recently interviewed a successful, well-placed executive, an EVP at one of the big agencies.  He confessed to me that he was too busy to take a vacation and had not taken any more than a couple of three or four day weekends in the past six or seven years.  He told me his accounts were too busy and his clients would not permit it.  He did not realize that I was questioning whether this was someone I would want to represent.  I asked him if his clients took vacations and he told me that was besides the point because, after all,  he was a supplier.  I asked him about the staffing beneath him.  He was very well staffed but felt he was indispensable.

No one is indispensable.

First of all, if he is so indispensable that his staff cannot cover for him, he either has the wrong people working for him or he is a poor manager.  It should be every manager's goal to be able to be out for a while and to know that the day-to-day business is covered.  Second, no one who he works for or with really cares if he takes a vacation (although I bet some of the people who work for him would love him out of their hair). Promotions are a reward for good and efficient work, not for staying in the office.  Undoubtedly, this person's boss takes vacations.   Most good managers encourage their people to rest and take time off.

Among busy people, there is never a good time for a vacation.  However, maturity teaches that there is always another meeting, always another presentation, always another production.  The thing is, you just have to announce that you are taking time off and then you have to do it, no matter what.  One of the great ironies, and every one of us knows this:  If you make a status report for yourself before you take some time off, when you return, when you look at the status, most projects will be pretty much where you left them.  Things just don’t change that much in a week or two.

Besides that, every good executive is or should be in touch with their office during vacation.  These days with Blackberries and worldwide phones, it is easy to be in touch with the office while relaxing. (I am always leery when I get auto-responses to emails or voice mails that say people will be completely out of touch.  It is very un-executive like.)

One of the benefits of vacations is productivity.  We all also know that some of our best ideas happen when we are in the shower, when we are on our way to or from work or even in the middle of the night.  This has something to do with beta waves or some such complicated explanation.  The truth is that ideas come when we are relaxed, often when we are not directly thinking about the issues.

Taking a long weekend here or there is good and necessary for people who work twelve and fourteen hour days routinely.  Taking a week or two is better. If you have good ideas in the shower, you will have great ideas sitting on the beach, going to museums or eating at a great bistro in Paris.  I have always observed that when I return after a week or so off, I become a much more efficient and creative recruiter.  The first week or so after I return is always good for my business.

The French are not crazy when they shut down business in August and everyone takes off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Plan B", Part II

While I received a few comments on my blog post about having a career “Plan B”, most comments came directly to me or through Facebook or LinkedIn. I thought I would address a number of issues and questions which came up.

The most common question I received – including two phone calls – was, “I don’t know what I want to do.  How do I figure it out?”  Of course, I cannot determine other people’s interests and certainly not their passions.  My advice?  Dissect your life.  Make a list of the things you like to do including hobbies.  I remember my dad, who owned an agency and who was also a world traveler and photographer (I guess you know where I get it from), starting a travel newsletter which he wrote for travel agencies to send to their good customers.  He didn’t make or lose money, but it paid for his traveling. 

The only thing I can say is that passions don’t just happen.  They grow over time.  I had a fellow in here recently who was in his late thirties.  He wanted to know if he should be thinking of his own “B” now.  I told him that when I was in my thirties I went through a long period of questioning. (I think everyone should read Gail Sheehy’s seminal work, Passages to gain perspective.  It is as fresh today as the day it was first written.)   It took me a long time to decide that I really liked advertising and wanted to stay in it. I decided to recruit – when I told my friends they all thought it was a natural extension of my personality.  And recruiting for advertising was a great way for me to stay in a business I loved without really being in it any more.  But it took me many years to get to that decision.

Another common comment was that people are so busy now they do not have time to think about what they want to do next.  Honestly, that is nonsense.  You must make time for yourself.  You cannot lock yourself in a room and think and expect to have a breakthrough.  It doesn’t happen that way.  Thinking about your likes and dislikes and determining your interests and passions happens over time. It happens on vacations (you must take vacations – in fact, I think I will write about the fools who think they are too indispensable to take time off), it happens in the shower, it happens while you are out with friends.  But you have to let yourself think.  And when you have ideas you must write them down.  I love my Blackberry for that.

Alfred North Whitehead once said, “Ideas won’t keep.  Something must be done about them.”  It is a brilliant quote that I learned doing an ad for Westinghouse.  Thinking doesn’t have to be constant, but it has to be continuous.  Ideas will come over a period of time.

I have a candidate who has turned his photography into a successful portrait business.  I have another who does drop shipping direct mail; he does it while working full time for one of the major agencies.

My favorite is a fellow I know well named Jack Bloom.  I hired him years ago to work for me.  He used to disappear all the time.  Years after I left that job, Jack told me he started an agency.  When he used to disappear, he was out shooting commercials for Potemkin Cadillac which he did on a freelance basis. While Jack had been director of advertising of Panasonic, he was a natural at doing retail.  Ultimately, he built a successful small agency and was the inventor of dial “one eight hundred m-a-t-t-r-e-s, leave the last s off for savings”.  He had a very successful agency of his own for many years.  His “Plan B” was to do just that.

Nowhere is it written that what you start out doing when you are in your twenties is what you will end up doing in your later years.  Advertising people are very lucky.  They get exposed to multiple businesses and learn all the good (and bad), which, in my opinion, makes them uniquely suited to succeed in second and even third careers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Quick Look at Ad Agencies During the Last Decade

It is a new year.  It is also a new decade.  I started thinking about some of the agencies which have come and gone and thought I would write some of my notables.  What are yours?

A lot of really good agencies, big and small have merged, re-merged and submerged during the last ten years.  Here is my list off the top of my head.  I am sure I have left some good ones out.

Interpublic merged Bozell into FCB and then merged FCB into Draft - maybe a good strategy but perhaps the wrong execution.  Somewhere in all this, a wonderful small agency, Berenter, Greenhouse Webster, which had been owned by Bozell, went out of business.

Jordan McGrath Case and Taylor (JMCT) was subsumed by Arnold in New York.

IPG bought Deutsch and allowed Donny Deutsch to become a celebrity.

Lintas was merged with Ammirati in the nineties, which did neither of them any good.  Scali, McCabe, Sloves  had previously been merged into Lowe, then IPG merged Lowe into Lintas.  And then Deutsch in NY got the remnants of Lowe.  Now all those brands (except Deutsch)  have disappeared in the U.S.

Bates was bought by WPP and then merged into Ogilvy and JWT.  Much of the Bates business is gone from those agencies.  The loss of Bates is an unfortunate thing.  It was a fine agency and much better than it was given credit to be in the U.S.

Publicis went on a buying spree.  The result was the merger of Bcom3 into Publicis and the subsequent closing D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles into Publicis and D’Arcy’s demise.  Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett remained unsullied.

JWT closed it venerable Chicago Office.

Wells, Rich, Greene disappeared.  So did Cliff Freeman, M &C Saatchi (in the U.S.) and Margeotes, Fertitta and Partners. 

Enfatico came and went. 

Emergence and success
There have been a few notable success stories.  Not many, to be sure.  But the successes have been spectacular and are well deserved.
Crispin Porter Bogusky came out of nowhere in the late nineties and then in the last decade emerged as one of the creative giants of the business.

Kaplan Thaler Group became a billion dollar agency or close to it. Also true of McGarry Bowen.

A whole bunch of agencies with clever names seem to be doing more or less pretty well – Mother, Taxi, Strawberry Frog, Modernista

Wieden and Kennedy remains independent and continues to be one of the great agencies.

The Martin Agency keeps getting stronger.
David & Goliath came out of nowhere to become a strong west coast contender.

Jim Heeken accomplished the impossible by reinventing Grey with very little disruption of its existing accounts.  Bravo!

Publicis seems to be doing well.  Ditto Omnicom. 

Mergers continue.  Corporately, it may be ok, but on an individual basis, does it really do any good for anyone?

Messner, Vetere, Berger, McNamee and Schmetterer (Messner), lost its New York identity to Euro.  Too bad, but I guess inevitable. 

Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners became KBS Partners.  Who are they?

Sapient merged with Nitro to become SapientNitro.  Are they an agency or an IT consulting firm?

All the media companies have consolidated and expanded.  They now have account people, strategic (not media) planners and some are adding creative.  Huh?

And so it goes…..

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