Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who recruits the recruiters?

         Everyone has their own interviewing techniques when they apply for a job, and some have really caught me off guard.

         In Chicago one afternoon, when I was doing the interviewing of copywriters at FCB, a guy came in from Leo Burnett Co. As soon as we shook hands, he asked where the piano was. I told him it was in a conference room three flights up. He said he wanted me to hear something. As soon as we got there, he proceeded to play "How I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener..." He said he wrote it. I asked him if he also wrote copy, which was sort of implied in the term "copywriter" in the want-ad, and he said no, he only wrote jingles. I told him his resume would be on file in case anything came up.

        At least seven other people from Burnett came in claiming to have written "finger-lickin' good" for KFC. One also claimed he wrote "We serve Sunday dinner seven nights a week." None were convincing.

       Being in Chicago, I was interviewing a constant parade of critter-writers from Burnett. Their samples of commercials included Tucan Sam, Snap, Crackle and Pop, Tony the Tiger, Freddie the Fox, Charlie the Tuna, and Morris the Cat. It was a real zoo, and soon everything looked alike. So did the candidates.

      One interview really floored me. The guy showed me his TV reel and on it was a commercial I had written. He swore again and again that it was his, as I lifted him up by his elbow and escorted him to the lobby elevators.

      I've interviewed a comic book illustrator, schoolteachers, a lawyer, and every kind of writer from novelist to recipe writers. Here are a couple of interview suggestions for you:

      1. Know who you're talking to. Do your homework. Know all about the company --- before you come to the interview. It's great to ask questions, but not the basic ones.

     2. Remember you're there to help them, not vice versa. Demonstrate how you can solve their problem. Your needs come after you've dealt with theirs.

     3. Don't be all ga-ga over your own work. Be sure to have someone whose taste you trust winnow down your samples to only the best. Ordinary work means you don't know the difference.

     One more thing. Have some empathy for the person interviewing you. She has a big job to do, and has her hands full trying to please everyone and make constant judgements. Remember, the interviewer is being judged by her bosses, too.

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