New MagnaGlobal CEO Tim Spengler: How I Hire

Introducing Basics: Media Leaders on Everything You Need to Succeed

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Tim Spengler
Tim Spengler

Today we introduce Basics, a series of quick conversations with media leaders on everything you need to know to succeed, including how they build a team, where they find inspiration, their biggest mistakes, how they plan a major ad buy, what they really think of social TV, how they got their first big promotions and (crucially) which are the best upfront parties.

Tim Spengler was recently promoted from North American CEO at Initiative to global CEO at MagnaGlobal. We asked him how he identifies talent and what it takes to get ahead today.

Advertising Age: What do you look for in candidates for media-buyer jobs?

Time Spengler: This is a people business. It was and it still is . I look first for people who are comfortable around others, who will be good around others. At an agency, you're an agent of your client, and you need to be good with media owners, with clients and with your teammates.

Ad Age : How do you tell if someone has that skill?

Mr. Spengler: There is a gut to that . I've been working for more than 25 years in a people business, where understanding and looking for the motivations and hidden meaning is important and second nature to me. I'm always looking for people who I think are honest, genuine. If you aren't honest or genuine I don't care how smart you are, because you need to be productive as a team. Are you collaborative? Are your values in line with mine? All those things can come up in a 30- to 40-minute interview, plus the homework you do.

Ad Age : Is this a creative or an analytical field?

Mr. Spengler: It is a lot more left-brain heavy than when I started, because there's more data available and more data to mine. It's a more complex world and more analytics are necessary, but as you go you are still always bringing ideas from that data. In media it's analytics, then creative.

Ad Age : For those just starting out, are you more interested in school, degree, resume, or even whether someone might have an active social-media presence?

Spengler: I find it all to be relevant, and I want to know it all. But I'll take an engaged, articulate kid from a state school before I would take a dull, high-IQ kid from an Ivy League school.

If someone was a great kid and smart and had studied Italian history, and if the conversations we had were around people, culture, brands and content, and they were passionate, interested and curious, then I'll take that vs. a textbook person who studied marketing and is going to talk about process. And ... I will take the smart person with great values versus the really smart person with lesser values.

Ad Age : What's the biggest mistake job candidates make?

Mr. Spengler: They don't tell you why they'd be good at the job, and they don't tell you why they want it. They talk about why they're good, but not why they are good for this job. [The third mistake that they don't] understand what's important to the interviewer as a person, the values of the interviewer.

Ad Age : Once you've made the hires, what are the most important aspects to building a team?

Mr. Spengler: It has to be an honest culture. The word culture is hugely important. No politics, fewer layers and ... where people trust each other. Then it's important to have a vision that is simple and clear, as in 'Here are three things that we need to do,' so we're all driving toward the same success metrics.

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