How we changed the interview

The New Internship

Ah, intern season.

They come knocking at agency doors eager to expand their work experience so that they might one day be hired to do the very work they went to school for. Fresh faces; enthusiastic and ready to hone their craft.

Traditionally, these internships begin with a portfolio review and interview process. Tell us about yourself. Tell us your goals. Let’s see what you’ve done. Ad nauseam.

We wanted to change that.

intern

Our view: We work in an industry that thrives on innovation and creativity. Finding a good creative fit sometimes rests on how well that person collaborates with the team. What can a portfolio tell us about how a person responds to our culture? Or to our creative brainstorms?

Why would we separate that from our hiring process? Our solution: Don’t.

Instead, we decided to simulate a real working session, with a real assignment, and a real feedback meeting. Don’t even show us your portfolio – we don’t want to see it.

We’d bring in young talent for a group introduction and roundtable, encourage them to ask us questions, then give them a real assignment with instructions and a due date. In this instance, we’d ask them for a radio and TV spot, Google search ad copy, and a short fiction story.

Interns

So, we put the word out.

“Feel like you’ll never be able to break in, but full of an uncompromising will to succeed? We’ll give you a shot. Actually, you’re who we want.”

The feedback was a mix of intrigue and frustration. We had a healthy number of applicants – that was the intrigue. This was clearly not what they had anticipated – a chance to show their style without stumbling over resume bullet points. An actual creative process for creative thinkers. The frustration came from the seasoned vets. We heard that a few professors at local colleges were expressing distaste in our anti-portfolio platform.

“This is how we always have done it. Why was this agency filling our students’ heads with the opposite of what we are teaching them?”

We thought it was fantastic. This was true disruption, and we had the potential to change young creatives’ lives at the same time. We had successfully broken down the interview norm, and built up a creative system in its place.

Interns

After the initial interviews, our creative team narrowed the ranks by picking five finalists to come in for a round of creative brainstorming, feedback, and direction concerning their assignments.

We wanted to see not only what creative they could produce, but also how they worked within a group and processed feedback. We were able to learn their personalities and determine if they could thrive in our culture. If this was something we would be doing with them daily, it only made sense to mimic the environment.

Interns

Is this the best way to choose talent? Maybe. Maybe not.

What it definitely is, though, is a novel approach to a dated practice. Doing the same thing over and over again without trying to improve on it is, frankly, irresponsible. Why remain static in the age of evolution and innovation? You simply can’t.

Creativity is a muscle. Being in an industry that thrives on that muscle, we need to look for ways to keep those muscles in shape – flexing them proudly in new ways, pushing past the comfort zone of the familiar, and cultivating new skills we have yet to breach.

And what better time to live true to this concept than during the recruitment of our future thinkers?