Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Client Service and The Job Interview

As agencies, if we're only as strong as our people, then why wouldn't we want to interview as many of them as possible? Don't we owe it to ourselves and our clients to do whatever we can to find the best available talent? No question about it!

Lately, I've receive a number of inquiries from job seekers asking for advice. Some of them need it, most of them don't, but I'm always happy to engage. Looking for a job is tough. Finding great people is just as tough. The resume is an inadequate vehicle to either present or judge talent. And web sites and Linkedin profiles don't do much to help either side determine if the fit is right. You have to meet face-to-face.

Over 10 years ago, much to the chagrin of agency principals and HR professionals alike, I wrote an article that Paul Holmes published describing my interviewing policy at the agency I owned at the time. Since I believe in that policy today as much as ever, I thought I'd pull it from the archives:

INSIDE PR - September 15, 1997

Last week, we talked with several public relations firm principals to find out how cutting-edge firms are dealing with the challenge of attracting and retaining the best people. This week, one agency founder suggests a radical approach.

By Leo Bottary
In the fall of 1990, as the real estate market in New England plundered, I found myself without a job. I was laid off my position as director of public relations for a major real estate development corporation, and along with many in those days, found myself looking for work.

At the time, I was relatively self-assured about my background and experience. I had a good resume, strong portfolio, and several byline articles that I had written for various PR and industry trade books. I believed if I could just meet the employers face-to-face, then I could make a strong case for being hired.

I responded to ads, followed-up with phone calls, talked to recruiters, and exhausted my contacts. The competitive environment for communications positions was brutal. My greatest frustration was that I found securing actual face-to-face interviews next to impossible. It was six months before I actually found a job. Enough time to understand the feeling that comes from watching the business world function perfectly well without my personal involvement. I think I had three interviews during my entire search.

I promised myself that if the tables were ever turned, I would do whatever I could to give job applicants the opportunity to present themselves in person. Fortunately, the tables did turn, and since 1992 I have been in the position to hire people.

Today, we interview any person who calls our company seeking one.

Whenever I make that statement to people, their first reaction is: “How on earth do you have time?” What started out as a mission to keep a personal promise has turned into one of the most valuable initiatives for our organization. As a result, we make the time.

Here are the reasons for our interview policy:

• It keeps us informed of all the talent available in our market. Situations can change quickly. It keeps us a step ahead, whether we need to fill a permanent position or find a specialist for a short-term assignment.
• It’s consistent with our mission of serving as a public relations resource. We want to be a PR resource for everyone; we don’t discriminate against job applicants.
• Every person I’ve hired since 1992 has been as a result of this process. No advertising costs. No executive recruitment fees.
• Major corporations and other organizations in the area are aware of our policy. We receive calls frequently asking for recommendations and resumes. (Remember our “PR Resource” mission?)
• It sharpens the interview skills of all our employees who participate.
• These applicants eventually get jobs. Not necessarily with us of course, but better still, companies which can hire us. Individuals who’ve remembered that we gave them the time when others wouldn’t have rewarded us on numerous occasions.
• It’s proven to be great PR for our firm.
• It’s the right thing to do. We’ve all been on the other side of the desk.

We talk to students, people wanting to change careers, individuals who are unemployed or currently employed and actively looking for work in the public relations field. We make the time by simply establishing a few ground rules. All such interviews are conducted between 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. They last no longer than 20 minutes, and we are up-front with the individuals that while we may not have an opening, we’d be happy to learn about them, talk about our firm, and provide an overview of what’s happening in our market.

While this process may still seem frightening to some, it’s well worth it. We are continually delighted by the quality of people we meet and the level of talented PR professionals residing in our community. As for me, I’m grateful for every day that I have an office from which to work.


  1. I think it's a great policy. I know that I have always remembered people that were kind enough to respond to me with feedback and advice during a job search and those who ignored me and didn't give me the time of day were noted as well.

    I think it's good advice to remember that you can just as easily be on the other side of the desk hoping to get an interview and be hired.

    Treat people the way you would like to be treated, seems to always come back to that doesn't it?

  2. I definitely think this is a good policy and well worth reiterating the article you published 10 years ago. Often, I've been reading and hearing from agency principals that they want to do away with this "informational interview" process. Your article highlights some valid reasons why the hiring process should be open as possible.

  3. That is an amazing policy. It's a great thing to do, and it has returned great results to you and your company.

    Way to go, Leo!

  4. Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed this point view. My greatest hope is that people might read it and give others the same consideration.

  5. Leo -- If only I lived in the Northeast instead of the Southeast (except for that Winter thing) . . . Yours is a fantastic policy, and I especially like how you frame the interviews. More firms should offer a similar service to aid new college grads (etc.).

  6. I agree! By all means feel free to spread the word!



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