Savage counsel – secure that dream job

Each week in Encore, Chris Savage tackles your career and agency dilemmas. This week, he advises what makes a great job candidate.

Hi Chris,
I have my heart set on a role at a certain major agency group. I have an interview coming up with the CEO in three weeks. Frankly, I am petrified. I want to make a great impression and nail it. I think I know what to focus on, and what to demonstrate in the interview. But I wanted to check with you. When you are looking to hire someone, what do you look for from that candidate in the interview? Please help. This is too big an opportunity for me to screw up.

First, stay calm. I get about 30 unsolicited job applications a week. I try to meet at least three ‘would-be’ recruits every 10 days. And when I do, I am searching for the four critical ingredients that make for a great hire.

I get asked about what qualifications are needed, what attributes a CV must show, what clever research a candidate must do prior to the interview conversation. For me, all that counts, but not a huge amount. What I am looking for, before anything else, are these four powerful and critical traits:

Are you a 150 percenter?
This is all about attitude and approach. Are you passionate, committed, driven, relentless in your pursuit to be the best you can be? Do you work hard on yourself? Do you ‘turn up’ for learning and growth? Will you give this your all? This is not about long hours but it is about you delivering 150 per cent, positive intent and commitment.

Are you obsessed with the details?
Are you relentlessly focused on the detail and on getting the detail right? Spell my name, or title, or company wrong on the envelope or email, and I’ll bin your approach immediately. If you can’t get that right, how can I ever trust you with a client?

Do you have good interpersonal communications skills?
Are you personable? Can you hold a conversation? Are you a better listener than you are a talker? Do you pay attention? Do you look at me when I am speaking? Very basic stuff. But absolutely vital in this business. I caught up in Singapore with Jerry Smith, the regional chief of OgilvyOne, a few weeks ago. I marvelled at his incredibly persuasive and charming interpersonal skills. Engaging, self-deprecating, amusing, cheerful, enquiring, interested, respectful, cheeky, entertaining. Seriously, you look at Jerry and you know immediately why clients love him and want him on their team. That’s the power of interpersonal skills.

Are you a client ninja?
As advertising industry legend Chuck Porter told us at Cannes, he built his great business on the back of ‘client ninjas’ – executives obsessed with delivering outstanding client service, who love working on clients, who understand that clients come first, who are comfortable to be totally service oriented and focused on others and the success of others. Whether we’re talking internal ‘clients’ or client clients, are you absolutely relentlessly passionate about their careers, success, products, satisfaction?

These are the four golden rules to making it through to a job opportunity if you’re talking to me. As my brother Greg, a leader of the recruitment industry, tells me: “Hire for attitude, train for skills.”

I have met thousands of would be recruits over 30 years and it’s those with these traits that shine through. Of course work on your academic qualifications and your experience in the trenches, work your networks and do your research, but show up at my desk and fail on any of these four golden rules, and that all counts for nothing. Harsh, but true. Oh, and by the way, let’s catch up. I might have a role for you.

Chris Savage is the chief operating officer of STW Group. His blog, Wrestling Possums with Chris Savage, can be found at chrisjohnsavage.com

Encore issue 22This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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