What Ad Execs Really Want in a New Hire [Agency Collective]

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting




You read a job decription, thinking how you have all the skills needed to perform the required duties. So, you refine your résumé to highlight past experiences, and describe how you are the perfect fit for the position in your cover letter.

Yet, you never hear a word from the agency. 

You're left wondering, why didn't I make the cut?

Landing a job is about more than what you know. Sometimes, it helps to know someone. And sometimes, employers are looking for less tangible skills or a specific attitude in a person. 

We asked 14 agency leaders what they are looking for in new hires in 2015. Read their responses for an inside glimpse at what makes a candidate stand out:


What I find most valuable in candidates is less of a ’skill’ and more of a mindset: passion for what you do. Passion creates a drive to understand the core mission of your agency and a client’s business and bring it to life in your work every day. Passion is what pushes people beyond what they ever imagined, to be brave, and to defeat their personal challenges. Passion isn’t something you can teach a person -- you either have it or you don’t. But if you do, it’s the most valuable asset we seek as an agency. I want to hire people who not only want to succeed in their jobs but also want to succeed at life. You have to earn everything. If you have the passion to work your ass off 24/7, great things will come from that.

- David Angelo, Founder, Chairman | David&Goliath


The lines will continue to blur. No news there. But for whatever reason, as an industry, we love to perpetuate divisions and silos. This team. That team. My group. Your group. One hand-off after another.

Now it’s time the inside lines blur as well. We are looking for hybrids. Planners who can write and strategize. Account people who can concept. Art directors who can write, code, juggle. The department your title says you belong to is irrelevant. It’s the skill sets you bring and your ability to round out a team that count. People who can look at a brand the way consumers look at a brand -- everywhere at once. It doesn’t stop on YouTube and start again at the mall. Strategy, media, creative, and client services need to become one seamless effort. So that’s what we’re hiring: multi-talented people who get that.

- Brock Montgomery, EVP, Creative Services | Upshot


There are daily discussions in the agency world about the skills that are needed for the agency of tomorrow. Skills that can be traced directly to a specific output, such as a creative who understands UX and can design an app experience or someone who can create both social media and traditional brand campaigns with their content creation skills. I tend not to listen to those conversations about tomorrow. I’m infatuated with today. What can be done right now, in the moment?

For me, the skill that I am looking for is courage. To me, courage is essential to creativity. It’s imperative that our people are equipped not just to change with the times, but more importantly, lead them. That takes courage. The kind of courage that is not afraid to “go for it.” Not afraid to fall flat on their faces or break a few established rules to create something meaningful.

- Kinney Edwards, Executive Creative Director | Tribal Worldwide

Content Strategists With Design Skills

At Epsilon, we’re always on the look-out for skilled individuals to join our global team. We focus on nurturing young talent, which is why in 2015 we plan to hire 20% more college graduates than we did in 2014.

Our clients continue to require data-driven content, digital, and creativity from a partner that’s focused on service and results. In 2015, we will expand these capabilities and grow our talent as we seek content strategists with a background in digital creative and design, as well as user experience specialists and client services and account supervisors. We will also add more data analytics experts and statisticians to help clients tackle big data and leverage insights to build connections with customers.

- David Lucey, Senior Director, Talent Acquisition | Epsilon

Constant Learners

In addition to all the prerequisites (good attitude, strong work ethic, talent) we look for people who genuinely don’t believe they are the smartest person in the room and embrace the opportunity to learn from people both within and outside our walls.

- Noah Clark, Executive Creative Director | Victors & Spoils


Taking in account that we are a global network of 11 agencies, as well as the complex nature of producing, managing, and monitoring modern marketing programs, most of the assignments at Project: WorldWide involve more than one entity. Therefore, the one skill set we value above all others is a person’s ability to collaborate.

Collaboration isn’t passively going along with other’s requests, nor agreeing to do what you are asked before doing what you really want. Collaboration involves thinking through a problem in advance, sourcing the right people to help you solve the problem, and working together with transparency, integrity, and respect — start-to-finish. It involves clear and concise communication, rapid action, and total commitment. Collaboration flourishes best when there is alignment of expectations among all parties.

- Brian Martin, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications | Project: WorldWide


I’m looking for welders, carpenters and pipe fitters. In other words, I want to hire thinkers who are also makers. People who not only think of cool ideas, but also are exceptionally crafty in finding ways of getting them done. We’re all painfully familiar with obstacles of budget, timing, or risk-averse clients. Those factors are why many great ideas go unmade. But the tools of production have never been more accessible, and there’s a whole new generation of creatives for whom building things is second nature. So in 2015, in addition to a conceptually great portfolio, I’m looking for people who have also done things like directing a short film, creating an animated series, or building an art installation.

- John Maxham, Chief Creative Officer | DDB Chicago

Expertise in Multiple Channels

We are very interested in people who are conversant across many different forms of media. This past year, we saw significantly greater convergence between retail, promotion, and digital to the point where we now need talent that both understands and wants to work in these channels.

- Tim Nelson, President | Tris3ct


We’re an agency with a team of 16 distributed across 10 states, which makes it very important for every team member to stay on-task without supervision. But it’s a skill far more difficult to hire for than clear writing skills or proficiency in Illustrator. This is why we make it a key point in our hiring process and look for small clues that might be telling: preparedness, timely replies, thorough responses, pro-active and purposeful communication, sending thank-you notes, asking for feedback, etc. It’s anything that shows the person isn't just sitting back and waiting for us to make the next move. None of these things alone tells us an applicant can meet this standard, but it gives us a good idea. When we see a combination of these attributes, that sends a strong message the candidate might just be right for us.

- William Beutler, President | Beutler Ink

Creative Entrepreneurs

The number one skill we’ll be looking for in 2015 is creative entrepreneurialism. We like people who can go out, sell an idea, and win hearts and minds in the boardroom, and they can execute when necessary. Our company has never been segmented or departmental. Everything overlaps, and creative can come from whoever has the best idea. This mentality means we look to hire people who aren’t afraid to take risks or think outside the box. I like to run my business the same way a manager runs a band: We’re always looking for talented partners to work with, stand-out bandmates, and of course, fans, so we look for employees with this same entrepreneurial spirit and musical frame of mind.

- Jared Gutstadt, CEO & Co-Founder | Jingle Punks

User Experience Skills

I’d say user experience. Portals and apps are key to our customers being able to get the most benefit from our solutions. The ability for us to contribute to add features while keeping the interface simple and intuitive requires a skill set that us unique and difficult to find.

- Frank Paterno, Vice President of Marketing | IntelliConnection

Analytical and Creative

Data analysis and creative vision are often separate talents. Yet, today’s increasingly programmatic advertising world requires both skills not only under the same roof but in the same brain.

The programmatic revolution creates challenges and opportunities for marketers. While it creates media buying efficiencies, it’s daunting to generate multiple creative options, specifically around imagery, to satisfy an increasingly fragmented audience. Programmatic buying consolidates data from a variety of many sources simultaneously, requiring analytical minds who draw insights from big data to make bold creative decisions. As such, we’re looking for people who harness their intuitive right-brained and analytical left-brained talents.

These rising stars provide the human element that drives programmatic while generating creative content that engages consumers.

- Ophir Tanz, CEO | GumGum


Geometry is always looking for hybrid people. Increasingly, we find that people want to demonstrate the ways they are ultra-specialists, but as the marketing world evolves, our preference is for someone with a broader range of experiences. Clients want someone who can see the bigger picture, someone who came from advertising but knows shopper marketing and has experience with multi-cultural marketing. We like to hire people who can do it all, and those are the types of individuals we’ll hire in 2015.

- Carl Hartman, Chief Executive Officer, North America | Geometry Global

Business Strategy Acumen

At F&P, we are proud that we employ a model where we maintain all core skill sets in-house and across many departments. In 2015, we will continue to staff the agency with the most talented people possible, looking within and outside of our industry. Specifically, we’re looking to hire data specialists with visualization skills who who tell stories and spot long-tail insights that apply to the masses. We're also looking for investigative journalists who can discover stories, truths, and trends. Business strategy brains versus television people.

Additionally, as brands increasingly need to provide meaningful value to consumers, the gap between the product experience and communications is diminishing. As such, F&P will look to add product development skills to our mix to offer different types of solutions for our clients.

- Judith Carr-Rodriguez, Founding Partner and President | Figliulo&Partners


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