Why Advertising Agencies Shouldn’t Make Hiring Decisions Based on the Shape of a Candidate’s Head

We’re back with another riveting installment of Words of Advertising Wisdom from Paul Lessing – the unheralded (and often unread) blog series that gleans modern insights from the prophetic work put forth by our founder more than 100 years ago in his marketing pamphlet The Melting Pot.

Behold this month’s words of wisdom…

“Any man can tell by looking at a horse whether it is fitted for the racetrack or for heavy draft work. How many can tell by the shape of a prospective employee’s head whether he should be put at a bookkeeper’s stool or in the sales department?”

You’re darn tootin’, Paul.

Advertising is a tough industry to get into, and even harder to get out of. It’s kind of like squeezing into an airplane restroom. With all the effort it takes to get there, you may as well stay awhile and enjoy the flight. And if they bring you peanuts, even better.

First of all, there are typically few job openings, even at bigger agencies. What’s more, other bright-eyed and portfolio-wielding folks (such as yourself) are vying for those jobs.

Thus, even if you get an interview – a small victory in itself – odds are you’ll be up against stiff competition. Unless, of course, the agency you’re interviewing at is a total soul-sucking drag of an operation where talented and spirited go-getters go to die. In which case, you’ll want to flee the scene at once, even if they offer you the job right on the spot. (Particularly, if they offer you the job right on the spot.) Seriously, run.

Many ad agencies, however, are joyful places to work. Full of energy, opportunity and unbounded creativity.

Take Lessing-Flynn, for instance. In 2015, it was voted by Lessing-Flynn employees as “The Best Place to Work at This Exact Moment”. That’s a big honor, especially considering that we don’t even have ping pong tables, beanbag chairs or a beer cart.

What makes it such a rad place to work? The people. And that’s no accident. Those who make hiring decisions around here are very particular when filling a position. We don’t just look at the shape of a candidate’s head (that is to say, their resume) and deduce that because the bulk of their experience is in a particular area or discipline, they are forever destined (or doomed) to stay there.

For instance, we may receive an unbelievable resume from someone with exquisite experience on the account side. But if, during the interview, we gather that he or she is actually more passionate about creative, then we’d be doing nobody any favors by hiring them for an account position, even if they’re by far the most impressive candidate.

To be sure, the satisfied advertising professional is one who sits in the right chair, respective to their unique interests and skillset. A talented creative will come to despise his or her job if placed in accounts, even if compensated admirably. The same goes for the misplaced accounts person, digital strategist, web developer, media buyer and so on.

Thus, a tip for hiring agencies: If you’re impressed by a candidate but sense that their heart may be in a department apart from the position(s) they’re applying for, either find placement for them in that area, or take the noble road and suggest that they check back another time or look elsewhere. And a tip for advertising jobseekers: Don’t apply for any and every opening in mere hopes of getting your foot in the door. Make sure the position you’re applying for matches your professional desires and skillset and that the responsibilities are of the kind you can see yourself doing for years and years to come.

After all, it’s a tight squeeze here in Agencyland. Plan accordingly – it might just be a long flight.