For all the (soon to be) great creatives, we have asked 3 great recruiters a couple questions. Meet Alex Ross (Lead Recruiter at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam), Molly Jennings (Senior Partner at UNKNOWN) and Danique Zwart (Recruiter at AMACOM).
Hey junior. Recruiters can be very valuable in your career development. They are some of the most well connected people with a great know-how about how the industry works. And they happen to be looking for great talent all the time, to connect you with great places you want to work at. They are the bridges between talent and agencies.
We have picked the brains of 3 very different recruiters. Alex is a recruiter within an agency. Molly is a more internationally oriented recruiter. And last but not least, Danique is a recruiter who mainly works within the Dutch market. They all have different but equally valuable insights. Let’s start from an agency perspective.
Alex, could you tell us what your role is in the hiring process at Wieden+Kennedy and how you and the agency select creatives you think will fit the agency best?
Alex: I guess you could say I’m the first pass when it comes to talent overall at W+K. Sometimes I stumble across a book I love and immediately share with my team. Sometimes we have an opening for an Art Director or Copywriter and I go out searching for them. I focus on key agencies, referrals, or work that I’ve seen and liked, sometimes awards but rarely.
I make a list of books that stuck out to me that fit our criteria of need, and then I share with our Creative Directors to get their take. Between me, the CDs, and our CCOs we decide who would be a great add to the agency (after a few rounds of interviews of course).
How do creatives stand out in your eyes?
Alex: Creatives that stand out – it’s so tricky because judging creative work is so subjective. I might love one thing, a CD might love another, etc. It really depends on the level of experience we’re looking for and type of work. The things that typically stick out to me:
- A clean and clear book; it can reflect your personality but it needs to be easy to navigate and should show all of your best work.
- Variety of work; naturally this is harder for more junior creatives, but we love to see a good mix of film, social, OOH, print, throughout a book. The more variety the better for sure, but again – should be the stuff you’re proud of.
- A section that’s about you! That’s something that I find is so important. I want a quick glimpse into you as a creative and human being. Talk about yourself a bit and tell me about who you are.
- Stuff that isn’t advertising. Paint on the side? Working on a personal film? Really into knitting? Have your own business? Show that on your site. Or link to your social (and don’t make it private!) to show us what you’re up to. That’s the stuff that gets me really excited.
Danique, what is your perspective from the outside on what agencies are looking for?
Danique: This depends on the kind of agency. There are small nuances, that are really important to see if a candidate is a fit or not. If you look at the more traditional agencies, you see that they’re looking for creatives with a diverse portfolio consisting of different kinds of media and brands. They like to see 360 campaign thoughts and big ideas instead of one-offs. They want to see that you’re working from insights and that you can explain cases well. One thing to add as well, is that hybrid creatives are more and more accepted and encouraged. So people who can do copy and art.
Considering all these things, I think being a ‘brand thinker’ is the most important thing. You should be able to think in different target groups. Know how to adjust your message and tone of voice to different audiences. Also important is being able to switch between brands quickly.
When building your portfolio, don’t only use it as a place to gather all your work. Put work in there that not only shows what you can do, but also what you want to do. Be picky. Pick the things you’re really proud of. Adjust the work in there to the job you’re applying to. Applying at a design agency? Include brand identity work. Applying at a digital agency? Include digital work.
I would also like to advice not to neglect the importance of a good LinkedIn profile and CV. It’s not something we talk about too often when we’re talking about creatives. But those are great tools to highlight specific experiences, responsibilities, awards etc.
So Molly, how does this work internationally?
Molly: I’d say the main kind of creatives that are wanted around the world are the ones that are wildly passionate. Passionate about their craft. Passionate about problem solving. And passionate about every piece of work they produce being the best it can possibly be.
When exploring new markets people need to be open to learning and understanding this is the time to hone their craft, but they need to know why they are in this industry and what it is that drives them to stay in this nuanced and competitive space.
Being talented is one thing, but being talented and passionate is what will tip it over the edge.
What kind of work stands out in your experience?
Molly: Ultimately, it’s clever work. It’s idea’s that the CCO’s and ECD’s you’re sharing with wish they had come up with. And, often, it’s the type of work that they are struggling to find in their local market.
With the type of work, I think it can really vary, because no corner of the industry is the same. It’s usually true problem-solving ideas that reign supreme. Whether you’re creating a 60 second TVC or using the latest AI technology to solve a problem, if your work authentically speaks to the consumer and solves the problem the client faced you with, then people will be excited. And especially if it’s something super original, and what they haven’t seen before.
Global experience is also really beneficial, naturally. Work showing you can navigate through global accounts, further than your local market is exciting for brands and agencies. It shows you can think larger scale and bigger picture, and to be honest it’s quite a skill.
Can you give us an example of something you saw in a portfolio, that got you really excited?
I love to see personality in a portfolio, whether that be through an interesting layout or an ‘about me’ section that gives some insight into who you are and why I should be excited about you. Personally, I think it’s usually the silly or funny things that stick with me, like a creative teams picture being them photoshopped onto the back of a T-Rex. But also, I love super smart and well thought out details too, does your portfolio have a smart URL, or do you have hidden links in your portfolio leading me somewhere interesting? It’s often the smallest parts that stick with me too.
Of course, it’s great to see awards and recognisable work, but a lot of people don’t get access to these creative opportunities, so standing out in different ways is always key to me.
Passion projects / personal projects are always something I look out for too. A piece of work you made and pushed because it’s something you really care about, or something that truly energised you. That’s what gets me excited, and it’s usually talking through those projects when people really get into their flow.
Danique, coming back to you, do you see any difference between creatives from the Netherlands and international creatives?
Many Dutch agencies are pretty strong in developing innovative campaigns in the digital and social spaces. For that reason, we see that Dutch creatives have a lot of that type of work, while international candidates more often have more traditional portfolios. It’s important to be on top of innovations and new developments like ChatGPT and AI.
We see that it still can be a little hard for Dutch agencies to hire international creatives, because some clients prefer to work with Dutch creatives because the work is mostly in Dutch only. That means all communication has to be in English, while the work is in Dutch. They experience that as a big switch. We advise our clients to let go of this thought, because there is a huge pool of available talent that either lives in the Netherlands already or is willing to come and live here.
Of course, there are also agencies that are part of an international network, so are also making more international work for global clients. We like to work with those agencies to because we want to help international talent out as well.
Last but not least: Hot Takes by Cool Recruiters
To provide a platform for junior creatives, Danique & AMACOM highlight a talented creative every month on their website. If you want to be featured on their website, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your portfolio or a case that shows your skills.
From: W+K Ams, Unknown, Amacom