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Plenty of Skill and Smarts in Class of 2008

We May Need to Rethink the Way We Find and Hire Talent From Among Millennials

By Published on . 3

Beth Ann Kaminkow
Beth Ann Kaminkow
As the Class of 2008 joins the work force, the big question ad agencies ponder is: Will we find more aptitude than attitude this year?

Article after article says Millennials have been coddled throughout their lives and expect high salaries, cool perks and flexible schedules, not recognizing the commitment needed for building a career.

But after spending six months recruiting entry-level hires and interns on college campuses, I'm more enthusiastic than ever. This group is ready for business. We need to make sure the business is ready for them.

The Class of 2008 already knows a lot of things the current work force is still trying to figure out. They've lived in an online and offline world that makes them comfortable bringing new thinking to agencies that are working to bring their clients' brands closer to consumers. They "get" the idea of convergence -- in media, in technology and in the way people live -- because that's how they live. So we need to be willing to learn, as well as teach and mentor.

Getting there requires some changes. We may need to rethink the way we find and hire talent, and bring them into the agency fold. Based on recent experience, I have a few thoughts in each of these areas.

FINDING THEM

As we move away from a mass approach to marketing, we need people who understand the importance of niche audiences. They need to be grounded in results and embrace accountability. I look for people who know how to think -- not just creatively, but rigorously -- and who can articulate when communicating. Candidates need to be keen observers of human behavior -- in other words, "people watchers." Analytical skills are great, but not at the expense of empathy and connection.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Ann Kaminkow is president-East and chief talent officer at TracyLocke, an integrated-marketing agency with six offices.
We give a brief, informal writing assignment to assess a candidate's thought process and analytical skills. We find out how each candidate consumes media -- through which channels and with what frequency. And we throw in an occasional unexpected question to see how they handle it, such as: "What sucks in your life?"

HIRING THEM

Entry-level professionals expect a lot of freedom -- freedom to create and contribute -- but they want to learn and be challenged. They don't want to be force-fit into traditional roles. During the interview and hiring process, candidates get excited when we describe their roles more broadly, but we don't "bait and switch" after they come on board.

Account service may be just the ticket for this crop of employees. In the past, an agency's account-service function was reactive and relationship-driven. Now account service is more focused on the broadest and deepest meaning of "account." We must work to support the changing role of the chief marketing officer and deliver true value from a business standpoint. Account-service managers must be more assertive and leadership-oriented.

BRINGING THEM IN

Once in the door, we create an environment that is challenging and encourages success. I suggest we talk less and listen more. In the past, agencies required employees to earn their positions over time before making real contributions. That thinking won't work with this group. New employees attend internal alignment meetings involving a cross-section of functions to give them broad exposure and allow them to develop a point of view. We also give them exposure to clients early in their careers. Let's get the talent in front of clients early and see what happens. We'll be more often pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

If your existing group of experienced employees is threatened by these changes, maybe that's a good thing. We're in an environment where agencies must shake things up a little. The Class of 2008 represents a great chance to do so.
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