Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Advertising Story: How Carl Ally Won Piper Aircraft

I love this story.  It shows that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen,. I told this story recently and was encouraged to post it because it is a great story; right out of Mad Men. Carl Ally himself told it to me.  It is fun.

Ally & Gargano was a wonderful agency.  Bigger than a boutique and smaller than the big international agencies.  It was in business from the early sixties through the early 1990s. Originally called Carl Ally, it became Ally & Gargano in 1976. They were ultimately responsible for some of the great campaigns in advertising history.

Carl Ally was a pilot.  When he found out that Piper Aircraft was seeking a new agency he desperately wanted the account.  He tried writing and calling the client but to no avail.  Finally, out of frustration, he flew without an appointment to Piper’s headquarters, then in Western Pennsylvania.  He landed his plane at the Piper airfield.

When he arrived, he asked to see Mr. Piper, the chairman.  The receptionist asked if he had an appointment.  He said no.  Mr. Piper refused to see him.  Carl told the receptionist he would sit in  reception until Mr. Piper showed up.  He patiently waited all morning.  By lunchtime he had befriended the receptionist and asked her to give him a high-sign when Mr. Piper appeared.
At some point, Mr. Piper walked through the lobby on his way to lunch.  Carl approached him and introduced himself.  He was unceremoniously told he would not be seen.  Mr. Ally told him that he merely wanted ten seconds of his time, and could make his presentation in the lobby.  Mr. Piper agreed, probably out of politeness and with some annoyance.  He asked Mr. Ally to wait until he came back from lunch.

An hour later, when Mr. Piper returned, Carl Ally said to him, “I will only take ten seconds of your time.  Please walk over to the window with me.”  The window looked out on to the Piper airfield.  Carl pointed to his plane and said, “See that plane?”  Mr. Piper identified it as one of his and Carl said to him, “That is my plane.  We are the advertising agency that handles…(I forget what important and well known accounts the agency handled at that time, but it was an impressive list of accounts that everyone knew the work.).  I want to handle your business because I own and fly your product.  If any of the agencies pitching your account has an owner or senior executive that owns and uses a Piper product, you should give them your business.  But if not, we should handle your account.”

He was given the account on the spot.

For those of you who do not know the agency, you know their work.  Ally & Gargano subsequently created Fedex (Fast talking man), MCI, Volvo, Life Magazine and introduced Fred the baker for Dunkin’ Donuts.  But Piper was always Mr. Ally’s personal favorite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Something You Should Never Do On A Job Interview: Don't Put Your Interviewer On The Spot

Last week I wrote about things you should not communicate or do on a first interview.  This post is about something you should never do on any interview.  But it often happens.

There are a number of candidates who, in an effort to promote their candidacy, will end an interview by asking their interviewer to evaluate them on the spot.  Every professional recruiter has had this happen. And every one of us hates it. How uncomfortable it is when someone asks whether we like them or how they did.

It is awkward and difficult.  First, because most of us need some time to pass, even a half an hour, before we can evaluate and assess a candidate. It often takes a while to consider what was learned.  Second, it is actually rude.  It puts the interviewer on the defensive, even if he or she likes the person they just interviewed. Very few of us will say to someone’s face that they don’t like them or that they did something wrong. 

Putting a recruiter or hiring manager or any interviewer on the spot is totally uncool.

Recently, I had a candidate do a variation of this.  He asked a client at the end of the interview, “So, tell me, when you saw my résumé but before we met, what did you think about me as a candidate?”  Then, in the same breath, “How did the actual interview compare to what you thought before you met me?”  The interviewer was justifiably taken aback.  She felt as if she were being backed into a corner. She felt it was aggressive and bad-mannered. I knew when the candidate told me he had asked those questions that he would be dinged..

The candidate who did this justified his questioning by telling me that he was told that this was a good question to ask by the CMO of a major corporation.  I believe it was bad advice because it is a very aggressive, presumptuous and definitely in-your-face. And the answer is irrelevant. What difference is there between how they perceived the résumé vs how they perceived the actual candidate (remember, people only spend six seconds on a résumé before an interview, if they read it at all)?

Furthermore, I am not sure that anyone who is put on the spot like this would actually give an honest answer.  I doubt I would ever say to someone, “I liked you until you asked that question.”  The question, in any form, is aggressive. Doing this may also reveal that the person asking it is actually unsure of him or herself.  Confident people don’t need to ask how they did, except, possibly, former three-term Mayor Ed Koch; but he was sure of the answer anyway. It was also revealing in another way.  Is this something the candidate would do to clients he worked with?  A client should never be backed in a corner.

People do ask me all the time at the end of an interview if I will be able to help them.  That is a fair question and I don't mind it, but reveals that they don’t understand that recruiters work on assignment. Sooner or later, I may have an appropriate assignment for all the people I meet, even some I may not have loved or even connected with. Who I can help depends on my clients and their needs.  So the answer is always that I will be able to help them sooner or later.

On rare occasions I have told people at the end of an interview that I am not the right recruiter for them.  But this generally because what they want or need is not what I do and I don’t want to string them along.

The best question to ask at the end of an interview is to ask for the order.  In other words, tell the interviewer you are interested in pursuing the job or tell an independent recruiter like me you would like to work with them.  But don't put him or her on the spot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Things You Should Not Say, Communicate Or Discuss On A First Interview

We all know that there are certain things one does not discuss on an initial meeting – salary, vacation, hours, etc.  But there are other, more subtle things which can kill a job applicant’s chances of getting passed on.  And the shame is that good people make these mistakes all the time.

Let’s start with basics:  The purpose of any interview is to gather information about the company and the job.  Smart candidates learn to listen before they speak,  so that way they can find out as much as they can about the situation.  The objective of any interview is to get passed on to the next person.  The objective of the process is to meet the most senior person possible.  That person is generally the one who controls the job and the hiring – and that is the person who, if he or she likes you, can adjust the job to fit your needs, if possible.

So, on a first interview – and it doesn’t matter if it is with HR, the hiring manager or merely a friend of a friend or even the CEO – you should follow the old adage:  You have two ears to listen, two eyes to observe and one mouth to speak.  Look and listen twice before you speak once.

I have seen candidates commit hara-kiri because they said too much or gave the impression that they were too good or senior for the job.  I had a candidate recently who was interviewing for a director position but clearly left the impression with the HR person who was screening him that he was way beyond the job (he wasn’t).  He did not get passed on and only afterward confessed that he was really interested, but said what he said to insure that the HR director understood his seniority.  Ironically, he did not have to discuss his seniority, it was evident and so he talked himself out of a job.

Here is my list of things to not to say or do.

·         Listen.  Listen. Listen.  If you are asked questions, answer them.  Don’t discuss what you will or won’t do or what you do or don’t do, unless asked. And then if you are asked, make sure the interviewer understands your interest in the job.

·         Don’t give the impression you are not interested.  I recently had a candidate who said that he was interviewing only because a recruiter called him.  If he had simply added that he was always interested in this company and relished the chance to find out more about them, he would have done better.  But by saying he was there only because he got called was the kiss of death.

·         Don’t tell people or give the impression that because you are a manager or director, you expect others to do the work. In every job, president or clerk, people are expected to roll up their sleeves and do whatever is needed to get the job done.  Giving examples of how you have done this will surely get you passed on to the next person for any job you are interviewing for.  Directors don’t simply direct and delegate.  They perform and execute and can tell stories of how they do/did this.  Asking about staffing on a first interview may give the wrong impression.

·         Don’t make it seem that the opportunity at your current company is better than what this new company may be offering.  You don’t know this yet.  And playing hard to get conveys disinterest. You are there to gather information and as you interview, the opportunity will unfold.

·         Don’t ask about working from home one or two days a week.  This privilege is reserved for people who are known and trusted, but rarely granted to new employees.  It is a certain turn-off.

·         Don’t take the person you are interviewing with for granted.  Too many senior executives think they are above interviewing with HR or other junior people. Often they are dismissive or convey an attitude. On a first interview you simply don’t know who you are seeing or their place in the company.  You can find this out in later interviews and may be surprised to learn of the high regard with which they are held. (This is also true on subsequent interviews:  there is a reason you are seeing everyone.)

·         No matter how good you are, arrogance is unacceptable.

·         Everyone knows not to discuss money, but don’t ask about things like your potential office, your vacation and time off.  Do not discuss planned time off if it is in the near future; that comes when an offer is close or has been made.

·         Don’t negotiate.  Many executives think that it behooves them to let a company know, from the get-go, what they expect.   You can’t negotiate until you have an offer. The leverage to negotiate is in the offer, not before.

I would also like to remind everyone, particularly those who are networking, that there is no such thing as an informational interview.   People who approach a meeting thinking that they are there only to gather information have the wrong mind-set. An interview is an interview. Anyone who sees you has the ability to pass you on, either within their company or to another friend.  If you remember that, you will leave the best impression.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Advice to Candidates: Don't Lose Out On A Job Because Of Your Personality; Advice To Interviewers: Don't Lose A Great Candidate Because You Confuse Adjectives

It is a shame that people with certain personality traits lose out on interviews because of them.  And  interviewers often misjudge candidates because they do what I call, confusing adjectives. Interviewees need to know themselves well enough to manage perceptions of themselves and interviewers need to carefully assess candidates by probing them carefully.

What happens is that interviewers assume, for instance,  that someone who is laid back cannot be dynamic when they present to a client.  Or that someone who is thoughtful cannot be quick on their feet.  Or, that someone who is assertive during their interview isn’t a good listener or follower.

This is a common interviewing mistake when it comes to assessing candidates.  It costs many companies to lose good candidates and many candidates not to get jobs that they should have.
If a candidate has the proper credentials and background, but may come across as not being exactly what you are looking for, it is incumbent on the interviewer to explore that issue, question further or even confront the candidate to determine whether they are right or wrong for the job based on details learned from questioning.  This is especially true if they come from good companies or strong competitors.  I have had candidates rejected because they came across in the wrong way.  Those same candidates then got other similar jobs where they succeeded admirably.  The difference is that the company that hired them spent the time fully understanding the candidate and did not confuse adjectives.

And candidates should know themselves well enough to understand how they come across and correct misperceptions which may come from their personality.

I once had a candidate delay his answer (hem and haw, actually) on a question about strategy. The interviewer concluded that he was not strategic when, what the candidate was really doing, was collecting his thoughts.  I was told the candidate was not quick enough on his feet.  Today that candidate is the chief strategic officer of a major ad agency, a direct competitor to the one where he was dismissed.  I am told he is witty, smart, great on his feet, but can be thoughtful when asked tough questions.  The original interviewer simply didn’t explore the issue far enough to discover the candidate’s substance and ability.

Following is a brief list of adjectives and descriptors which are easily confused.  This list could go on and on, but you will get the point.

Thoughtful = Quick
Laid Back = Aggressive
Aggressive = Patient
Quiet = Strong
Nervous = Unsure
Soft Spoken = Strong
Talks a Lot = Listens Well
Creative = Strategic
Strategic = Creative
Friendly = Tough
Glib = Credible

The key is not to stop at a mere judgement, but to fully explore your intuition to determine if the person you are interviewing is really capable of doing the job.  It is  also something that can be further explored during reference checks.

And, as a candidate, you must know yourself well enough to be able to communicate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

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