Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Digital The Be All And End All?

I was surprised to learn that one of my candidates, a bright, articulate and forward thinking young account executive, had left one of the major Procter agencies after only about 14 months as an account executive.  She had been working on one of the definitive P&G brands and I understand she was well liked, respected and moving ahead quickly.  The agency tried to keep her, but a recruiter had approached her to work at a small digital agency on a package goods account.  When I asked her why she did it, she responded that “digital is the future” and she felt that she had to learn digital while she could.

There is no question that digital is here to stay.  And it is really important.  So working at a digital agency is probably a good idea at some point.  But to give up on Procter prematurely was, in my opinion, a huge mistake.  There is a huge difference between the marketing disciplines of package goods, especially P&G, and the executional tactics of digital.  P&G training is the best there is.
If this account person had given it time, she could have had both.  To rush into digital is a mistake.  There are plenty of great package goods accounts where digital is an integral part of the marketing and any account person who works on those accounts gets ample digital over time.  The account person I am referring to should have waited another year or so and then would have been in demand as a marketer, not just an account person.

Creative people may be different.  Many of the television art directors and writers still turn up their noses at digital.  They shouldn't.  Digital will become a part of their life, if it hasn't already.  There is still no substitute for the excitement of a great commercial on broadcast television, but with the advent of social media, the internet will catch up fast.

What is fascinating and ironical is that, the digital agencies are now trying to become more “general”.  The general agencies are moving more into digital.  Over time, it will all even out.  Digital is and should be an integral part of advertising communications.
My candidate’s statement that “digital is the future” is only partially correct.  I believe that a better statement would have been, “digital will become part of mainstream along with broadcast and print.  Good advertising people will learn it all and become far more media neutral than they are now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Many Companies Fail To See The Best Candidates

I have to be delicate in this post in order not to insult anyone.  No insult intended.

I like to believe that I am among the most honest and straight-forward recruiters.  I always ask my candidate’s permission before I send out their résumé (I ask permission even among those who give me carte blanche to just send it out).  I double check to be sure they have not previously been submitted or have gone there within the recent past. 

Way too often, when I send a candidate on a contingent basis, I hear the dreaded words, “We already have him/her from another source.”  Sometimes candidates will swear that they never gave anyone permission to send their résumé to that company.  Nevertheless, when that happens, at most companies, it means that they will not see the candidate submitted to them and, unfortunately, it often means that they will not see the candidate at all, even if they are perfect for the job.  I hear this story all the time.

This happens because the vast majority of corporately generated contracts contain a clause that actually works against the company.  The agreement states that should a conflict arise between recruiters, the first one to have sent the résumé will be given credit.  This encourages less than scrupulous recruiters to simply email résumés.  The recruiter is under no obligation to follow up (either with the candidate or the company) and generally rely on the company to call them if interested.  If they have not told the candidate they are submitting their resume, then they are under no obligation to call the candidate to say there is no interest.  I have written this before.  But by just sending the résumé, they are playing the odds that for six months they will be protected (most contracts give recruiters half a year of protection) and perhaps the company will call them to see the candidate. 

Unfortunately, what happens to the candidate is that most of the time they go into limbo even if they are great for the job. If the recruiter doesn't call, the resume is simply logged in to a corporate data base and the résumé often just sits there.  Then, sometime later, when there is a legitimate job, the candidate doesn’t get called by the first recruiter (who may or may not have the assignment) and the second recruiter, who may have a perfect “fit” for the candidate, gets nowhere in trying to submit them.

Companies do this because it is easy to administer and requires no thought on the part of the HR department.   Logging in the résumé with a time stamp is absolute and not open to discussion.  Most companies deal with too many recruiters.  Rather than making great relationships with a just a few, they deal with, in some cases, dozens.  This produces no loyalty in either direction.  It makes the recruiters into suppliers rather than partners.  And it turns candidates into commodities.

The truth is, and I know that every legitimate head hunter agrees, the recruiter who causes the person to be interviewed should be given the credit.  What this means is that a good recruiter should actually work for an introduction.  Recruiters should be challenged by their clients.  They should be asked, even when the résumé has obvious connections to a job, why they are submitting a candidate and why the recruiter believes that the candidate would be right for the culture of the company.  I have a couple of clients who do this.  I know that they listen to my logic and they listen to the nuance in my voice to insure that I am committed to the candidate.  They make me work for my introductions.  I respect those clients and, I believe, they respect me.

If I submit a candidate and they are not accepted, another recruiter should be free to introduce them for a different job within the same company. If the candidate gets seen, I have no reason to complain – I did not cause them to be interviewed.  If I send a candidate who is not right for a job, I should be told why so that I can tell the candidate the issue.  But if my candidate is not seen, other recruiters should be free to send the same person for a different job. The decision to see or not see a candidate should never be made on the
résumé alone.

Companies should set up policies to insure that they are partners with their recruiters.  They should establish systems that are totally fair both to their recruiters and to their potential employees.  I think that if they did that, the recruiting process would be smoother and better for everyone. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We Are Going To Have To Accomodate Millenials And They Will Have To Learn To Accomodate Us

This is the first of a number of posts that I will do regarding executives who are under thirty.  They are different from their older compatriots.  They have different needs and different attitudes than the people they work for.  It really is a whole new world.

A few weeks ago, a twenty-something person came to my office.  I had been calling her for several weeks.  She told me she hated her job, didn’t like the people she worked for, but loved advertising.  As I interviewed her, I realized that she was successful, doing well financially and had been recognized by her management.  What was wrong with the picture?  I asked  her why it had taken me more than half a dozen calls and as many emails to get her to come in.  Her reply, typical of millennials, “You know how it is, I am busy.  And I figured that if it was important you would call back.” I went on to ask her why, if she was unhappy, she would not have called back quickly, even if she called well after hours and got my voice mail.  She had no real response.  

And therein lies the problem.  The millennials are different than you and I, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald.  For the most part, thy have a sense of entitlement, a sense that things should come to them.    This causes them to be somewhat unresponsive.   They object to having to work fourteen hour days.  They think that working weekends is a crock.  They believe that they are underpaid but are not willing as their predecessors have been to pay their dues.   

What is different about them, is that during the first ten years of their working career, they have shown very little propensity for change.  This means that as they become older and are in a position where they start to become management, they may make changes and improvements in the way they conduct business.  We have to be aware of this and watch them carefully because their thinking will is different.  It may be good for all of us.

On the other hand, and in the meantime, we will have to learn to accommodate them.  If they are stroked, complimented and recognized, they may end up being great performers.  While we do that, they are going to have to learn that they have to pay their dues, work hard (and late) and be underpaid until they mature into more senior executives.

We have to learn that they don’t return calls, so that if we want to speak to them, we will have to pursue them diligently.  Texting is better than email and emails are better than calls.  Nevertheless, they need to learn that they can advance their careers by returning messages, working late and paying dues. 

In the end, everything will even out.  But it is a two way street.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Never Bring Coffee On An Interview, Part II

I originally posted this in August of 2010 and it brought a torrent of comments and discussion.  I thought it time to re-post. and update.  I know that many of you will think I am nuts after reading this post. But bringing coffee on an interview may preclude you from getting your dream job.

It is one of those pet peeves. We all have them - your nice neighbor who leaves their kid’s tricycle in the middle of the hallway for you to trip over or the cab driver who is talking on his cell phone, and you think he is talking to you or, as one executive told me, the person who sends you an email thank you note and uses email abbreviations like u instead of you. These things shouldn’t bother you, but they do. Well, that is the way I feel about bringing coffee on an interview - and so do many others.

People bring coffee, soda or water into my office almost every day.  In most cities Starbucks and other coffee vendors are so ubiquitous that buying coffee in the morning is a given. It is so automatic that we don’t even remember that it is in our hand as we go up on the elevator on the way to work or an interview.  We just don't think about it..

But it is wrong. And I am not the only one to think so.

A few years ago, the recruiter at one of the major agencies agreed to see a candidate of mine at 8:15am. My candidate was an excellent prospect for the agency and the account she was interviewing for. When the interview was over, my client called me and told me she liked my candidate but wasn’t passing her on because she brought coffee on the interview. The HR manager thought she was rude for bringing it.  If the candidate had brought an extra cup for the interviewer or had called to offer to bring coffee, it would have been OK, but she didn’t. The corporate recruiter told me that about half the people who came to see her first thing in the morning brought their own coffee and she was tired of it.

Linda Kaplan and Robin Koval from the Kaplan Thaler Group paraphrased this story in their wonderful book, The Power of Small: Little Things Make A Difference.  The point they make is that bringing coffee is selfish, but offering to bring coffee (or just bringing it) for the interviewer shows that as a candidate someone is service oriented.  I agree.

Simply put: I wouldn’t bring coffee or soda to your house. Please don’t bring it to mine. None of us would go to someone’s home to visit carrying a cup of coffee or a soda. We might if we called first, but going to an office is somehow different. A coffee cup, a can of soda or a plastic bottle of water has become so much a part of work “attire” that we don’t think twice about it. If you are on an interview, drink your coffee or soda before you go, simple as that. It doesn’t matter if it is a recruiter like me or a corporate human resources person or a senior executive. Or even a client.

I once took my staff to make a sales call on a client agency. When we arrived one of my people had a Starbucks.  I made her leave it in the lobby.  She was furious with me.  When we got to the client, he offered us fresh brewed bean coffee and commented (without my prompting) that he hated it when people came to see him and brought soda or coffee with them.

Am I being petty? Maybe. But if bringing coffee has even a five or ten percent chance of turning someone off, why take that risk? You are supposed to be on your best behavior for an interview or a sales call – nothing should be taken for granted. If only a small percentage of the people interviewing you would be offended, why risk blowing a good job over those odds?

Besides, I always offer all my guests great fresh brewed espresso or coffee.If you are going on an interview and they don’t offer you something to drink, suck it up for half an hour and have some when you leave. 

What do you think?
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