Job talk: What industry execs look for in candidates

It’s a truism: Hire on fit, not talent.

That’s not to say talent isn’t important — it is — but most employers in media and marketing are looking for something more. They’re looking for evidence the person they’re going to commit to has the right attitude for a very turbulent time in media. Digiday spoke to a few executives from across the industry to get a sense of how they separate the unworthy from the elect.

Be the change you want to see.
I have two questions. The first is a question I ask them; the second is a question I always ask myself. When you have the conversation about why they want to leave [their old company], what I would often hear is, “The work is crap; I’m really frustrated; we’re not doing great work.” And so I would always ask, “So what are you doing to change that?” And there would quite often be, with the wrong type of candidate, a completely stunned silence and no answer. What astonished me was their complete failure to see that they had a responsibility regardless of what position they were in, what account they were on, what agency culture they were battling. You are responsible for making the work great yourself. If there are difficult circumstances, you work to change those. My advice to everyone is to ask if you’ve done everything you can to improve your position in the company you’re in before you decide to leave it. And then the second question that I recommend everyone to ask themselves: Look at the candidate and ask, “Would I like to be stuck in an airport for six hours with this person?”
— Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld

Take ownership of your work.
No matter what the person’s level, if they can’t speak directly or clearly about what their role was in the work that they’re showing, like, “What did you do?” You’ll have these situations where at a junior level, you might look at several portfolios from the same class graduating from the same ad school at the same time with the same work in their book. So who did what? You try and get at that a little bit in your conversation with the person, and if they can’t explain clearly what they actually did, then that’s a warning sign. But you never really know until the person is here and on the ground, working, because sometimes people misrepresent themselves and you come to question whether they did the work they put in your portfolio, because you don’t see any hint of the talent or the thinking or the drive that it must have taken to produce that work.
— Chapin Clark, evp and managing director of copywriting at R/GA

Don’t be a one-hit wonder.
Consistency. Anyone can win an award these days. The politics in most agencies mean that even if you were just in the room when an idea was presented or work on a connected piece of business, your name gets associated with an award-winning piece of work. What I look for is someone who is clearly able to produce great work (and awards are just one indication of that — they are no means perfect) year after year, whether you are at a great agency or you are working on a crappy brief from a crappy client at a crappy agency. In fact, the people who can do that are the real stars.
— James Cooper, head of creative at Betaworks

Work well with others.
“I always think about things in terms of sports. You think about the NFL draft and what the general manager and the coach are going through. Who’s going to fit our team? Who’s going to fit our approach? We’re going to draft the right people to put in there. We take the same approach to the team that we put together. We do have a plan and a scheme.” Jack Essig, svp, publishing director and chief revenue officer of Esquire Magazine, added, “So much of what we do is collaboration, and you have to hire people that are willing and able to collaborate. I’ve seen great people that are smart and have great relationships that are not team players. They don’t fit well with the team we have in place. And that’s not going to work.
— Bill McGarry, executive director of advertising at Hearst Men’s Group

Check out this great new job from the Digiday jobs board:

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