NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Amanda Vendal has spent the past 17 years working at one of the largest independent shops in the country, Richards Group. Early on, she developed a knack for being a talent scout, and today she serves as one of three full-time recruiters Richards currently employs at its Dallas headquarters. Her specialty is locating talent for creative and account-planning roles for the agency, whose clients include Home Depot, Bridgestone and Chick-fil-A.
Ms. Vendal took some time to tell us what she's up to these days -- which, even in this economy, includes hiring.
Ad Age: I always hear about the strong -- and very un-Madison Avenue-like culture -- at the Richards Group. Is it true that employees have to be at their desks no later than 8:30 a.m.? And how do you know if someone will be a good fit for that kind of culture?
Ms. Vendal: This is a place for individuals who aren't looking for the next step, or want to be here just two years, but hopefully for the bulk of their career. The 8:30 sign-in rule is something that we handle with a lot of honesty when talking to and interviewing candidates. They know they are expected to be at their desks early so that everybody is open for business at the same time, and our clients know that they can find us here. There's a payoff too -- you get to leave sooner. We're so overwhelmed with work that it helps with a work-life balance, and that's really valued at the Richards Group.
Ad Age: You also homogenized the kinds of titles people have at the agency. What's the reasoning behind that, and is it ever a hindrance to recruiting? Are people worried that they won't have a tangible way to know when they're moving up through the ranks?
Ms. Vendal: We did away with most titles about five and a half years ago, and that was a decision that [founder Stan Richards] made for the agency. He felt that we didn't need layers. On the account service side, everybody has the same title, brand management, with the exception of a few heads of particular groups who are called principals. Same with creative group -- there's pretty much art directors and copywriters, but no junior, mid- or senior levels. If titles are what you're looking for, this isn't the place for you. We feel they get in the way and cause more of a distraction, allowing people to complain about things like, "Hey, that guy has been here less time than me, and now he's an ECD," or something like that. It really has not been an issue for us, and hopefully when people are looking to come here they are just looking to do great work.
Ad Age: Can you give us a sense of what your typical day is like?
Ms. Vendal: My day starts out with a filled e-mail box -- which is great because we get so many inquiries coming in from great people who want to be a part of this place. There are a lot of candidates out there -- it does make it more difficult to find the top, most talented people. A lot of my time also goes into tracking talent, maintaining a database of individuals whom I want to reach out to. We home-grow a lot of our talent, and many tend to stay with us for most of their careers, so our heaviest hires are at the entry level. That means visits to schools, staying in close touch with universities and portfolio schools.
Ad Age: Has social media affected the way you do your job?
Ms. Vendal: It's mostly changed it in the way that it's easier to locate individuals sometimes, or tell if someone you're interested in contacting just took a position three months ago, that kind of thing.
Ad Age: If you could offer one piece of wisdom to a newbie entering the agency business, what would it be?
Ms. Vendal: My advice to a young person beginning a career in advertising would be to take the time to analyze what is important to them in an agency home. Research the culture, people and work and make sure it matches expectations. Find a place that will offer mentoring and plenty of opportunities for growth, and then don't settle until you find it.