Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Adventures In Recruiting: Asking The Wrong Question On A Final Interview - By The Interviewer

This is one of my favorite recruiting stories and I can’t believe I never wrote it.

Many years ago when the prevalent senior title in the ad agency business was Management Supervisor, I had a candidate interviewing to run a significant account at a mid-size agency.  She had been all through the agency.

She had met the group EVP on the business, the creative director, the research director (agencies used to have that title). Everyone loved her and she was about to get an offer.  Prior to the offer, she was asked to meet the Vice Chairman and told it would be a necessary courtesy.

She had a very pleasant fifteen minute chat with this gentleman.  At the end of her quarter hour, he looked at her and told her that he thought she would make a great addition to their staff.  As a courtesy, he asked her if she had any questions.

She thought for a second and said that she really didn’t have any, but she said to him, “Gee, maybe I should see the agency reel.”  This was a perfectly reasonable and normal request.

With that, the CEO exploded.  Here is what he said, as best as I can remember.  “Reel?  You want to see our reel?  Why would you even ask that?  You should know this agency by now. We do shit!  Our work sucks.  We don’t compete on the basis of our executions. We compete because we are strategic and smart.  If you want to see our work, you don’t belong here.”

That was it.  

I thought at the time that he was crazy.  I still do.  I confronted him and he told me that he thought it was a dumb thing for her to say to him. I told him that I thought it was a perfectly fair thing for her to say (in those days, before the internet, every agency kept a reel and proudly showed it to candidates), after all, she should know about the agency’s work .  He told me I was the wrong recruiter for them and I never worked for them again.

Several years later they were purchased and merged out of existence.  This vice chairman was "retired" but is still around consulting with agencies, primarily in the new business arena. Go figure.


  1. in all honesty she should have asked to see the reel before or during her first encounter with the agency, right? but what a crazy chairman and a great story!

    1. @anon: I actually agree with you. Nonetheless, it was a surprising conclusion.

  2. Hi Paul,
    I would say she asked the right question and was fortunate not to get that job, :-). Crazy anger that starts at the top works its way down, not inspiring.
    Best Wishes,

  3. Sorry, Bob. I can't tell you. But neither of them. Actually both of these agencies, although hardly creative, were very proud of their work.

  4. Oy. That could be several ppl I've worked w/in this business. And if not in reference to the reel, than something comparable.

  5. I don't care the agency; who was the guy?


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License