Getting a creative job is no easy feat, especially during a pandemic that has left many unemployed and put junior placements and graduate recruitment schemes on hold.
But the jobs market is picking up strongly, thanks to the advertising recovery.
So, if you manage to secure an interview, here’s what some of adland’s new creative leaders are really looking for in new recruits.
There are a few consistent themes: be yourself – thinking differently is encouraged; be ambitious in your ideas; remain open-minded and flexible; and, most importantly, have the tenacity to get stuff done.
Here's what else the creative chiefs said:
Founder and creative director, Futurimpose
I’m always looking for people who are doing something, not just talking.
It’s really important to get new perspectives, because the industry creates these cookie-cutter creatives that have gone straight from university to an agency and haven’t had the opportunity to get life experience.
I want people who are thinking outside of the traditional set-up: people who are running club nights and galleries or who set up collectives. I'm really looking for people who are just going out there and doing it.
My advice to younger candidates is: don't show me a portfolio of work that you made to look like the agency’s work. Put away the Lucozade ad that was a brief you were told to do. That doesn’t interest me.
Show me the stuff you're doing in your spare time. Show me your passion projects. We are really looking for people who can break the mould.
Executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Authenticity is the biggest thing for me. I’m looking for work that matches the personality of the person I’m talking to – I want to be able to see them in their work. That gives you confidence that it’s really theirs, and what you like from the book you are going to get in them.
Sometimes younger students show you the work they’ve got made, but I’m more interested in the proactive stuff they’ve done or the ideas that really show how their minds work.
You also want people who are smart and teachable. You want people who aren’t totally fixed on their way, who are fluid and malleable, and ready to fit into different ways of working.
Founder and creative director, Other
Energy is a massive thing. And the hustle – the ability to follow through and make things happen. For example, I read a story the other day about a Ryanair flight attendant who worked the red-eye flights.
She always wanted to write a book, so when everyone was asleep, she would spend that time creating a plot and crafting her characters. It was the forty-second time she pitched the book when she finally got a commission.
That is the same model as an advertising creative. If you were an artist, you would just create your own piece of work and it would be done. But as a creative in an ad agency, you’ve got to come up with these ideas and have them shot down by the people above you or the client. It can be frustrating not to get things made. Having the idea is the simple bit; it’s the resilience to keep pushing through and make it happen that’s the hard bit.
I’m also interested in people who think differently about fixing a problem. I’m always looking out for interesting behavioural examples. For example, a local council recently had a problem with gig flyposters. They were spending crazy amounts of money to clean them up. So they designed their own “cancelled” stickers in different fonts and colours and went around putting them on the posters, and no-one would turn up to the gigs. The posters stopped going up. That’s a really clever way of solving the problem.
Another example I found in a newspaper recently was a story of a shop where their clothes were being stolen. They couldn’t work out why – they took on extra staff and set up CCTV to see what was going on. They discovered that this evil genius was turning up at night with a fishing rod and hooking their clothes through the letterbox. I don’t condone what the guy did, but I’m sure he’d make a great creative.
Joint executive creative director, Dentsumcgarrybowen
I like a challenging person and somebody that's not like me. I look for authenticity – someone who isn’t being what they think I want, but being themselves and who has an opinion about the world. I look for someone whose ideas are so mad, you think: “I'll never in a million years do that, but I can work with that.” I buy energy.
I like a bit of madness and a sense of humour as well. I like it when somebody treats it for what it is – with some levity. They can laugh at themselves and don’t take themselves and situations too seriously. That’s important if you want to play the long game.
There have been some teams I’ve met in the past – not recently – where you think if they won an award, they'd be unbearable, whereas you know others would be brilliant.
We do a brilliant job and it’s very privileged. Come on board, but treat it for what it is. Have fun, enjoy it, do the best you can, be respectful, be kind, but don’t let a Lion go to your head.
Executive creative director, Droga5 London
I look for people who have an imagination, a distinctive sense of humour and different reference points. You don't want people that have all the same tastes. You want people that have strong opinions, but are prepared to hold them lightly. I want people who are flexible, who realise there is more than one way and it’s about exploring all those avenues. It’s important to have an open mind.