Everyone in the industry has seen the various veneers of social campaigns, influencer marketing, and promos, which have the creative engagements and mechanics that show creative understanding in interviews. But that is not all we need to look at.
Anselmo Ramos, the highly respected Founder and Chief Creative Officer of David, has admitted to once hiring a creative based on his “not-great portfolio” and interesting music playlist. Ramos found the playlist eclectic right down to the naming conventions which were used. And that is what he was looking for in his studio. This candidate eventually became one of David’s Executive Creative Directors. People who have creativity ingrained in their life – not just in an oversized keynote presentation – are the gems you hope to find walking into your agency.
I too have taken some of my former Creative Directors through a selection of what garnered the most attention of my work and at the end, I spoke to them about the work that flopped, which was the clincher. In the past, I’ve been headhunted after doing some work with potential, which I admitted I had no idea of how to accomplish, but the interest and willingness to figure it out put me in good stead.
There are these intangible qualities in hiring that I’m always looking for and it’s something that a portfolio can rarely convey. And it’s important to recognise them before all the talent that is escaping the ad industry for tech and digital product design startups leaves us with the same candidates with the same portfolios.
So, in order to find these elusive candidates, for now, and in the future, we need to be proactive in seeking those who will not only add to our way of thinking, but also to the agency’s culture. You need to ask yourself a few questions when a potential wild card sits in front of you.
What do they do for the culture of the agency?
This doesn't have to only mean your office culture. Are they as culturally savvy as the rest of your staff? Do they have a good view of the cultural landscape, past and present? Do they bring knowledge of an area of culture your team is lacking? This will not only help determine if they're the right fit for your agency but if they will also bring in some fresh ideas along with a new way of thinking.
Do they want to do more?
Drill down in the interview about what they want to do, not what they have done. What do they hope to learn, both technically and creatively? Are they willing to put in the work to become the best? What and who inspires them? This will determine who is ready to learn, grow and become your most passionate fan and team player, as well as give them a chance to show you what they're made of. Potential is infectious.
Do they face fear with a grin?
I want someone with ideas which will scare me, possibly offend me, and show me new ways of looking at problems. Is this person going to hold back, or can they hold their own in an agency environment? Brands should want to take risks and so should the agency. We need to be our staff members’ motivators but we also need the brave talent that will help us do that. To quote Winston Churchill, “I like a man who grins when he fights.”
Are they interesting and a little different?
What does this person have going on besides their portfolio? What else have they accomplished? Where have they been? What are their hobbies and outside talents? Having those different interests and perspectives will help bring diverse ideas and personalities into your company, building a truly unique agency culture.
A great portfolio does not show what they can do for your agency, just what they have done before. A bad portfolio doesn’t mean they are untalented and it definitely doesn’t show the great work they want to create.
Look for people who aren't afraid to take on challenging projects. They are the people who have no idea what they're getting into but dive in anyway. And that’s when the best work can happen.