A view from Marcelo Peretti Kuhn

Why I asked our headhunter to introduce me to 'weirdos'

A management meeting full of white men should scare us all, says the strategy director at Forever Beta.

Last week Deutsch was in the headlines for hiring two white, male chief creative officers, a story that was accompanied with a shot of an all-white male leadership team (and which presumably bypassed their PR on the way to the media).

Deutsch was then invited by Campaign to defend this decision, and the agency quite rightly explained that they hired the best people for the job, and those people happened to be white men.

Nothing wrong with that. I’m sure no one doubts that they made the right call from the talent made available to them. However, that doesn’t mean that as an industry we can’t ask ourselves why this is such a common story – ‘white male wins top agency role’.

We all think we’re doing our best in hiring. We think we’re being fair and unbiased. For example, I’m proud of the grad we hired last year. He’s done great. However, I can’t help but wonder if colleagues outside the planning department see this as a ginger guy called Marcelo hiring a ginger guy called Pietro.

We are all probably guilty of hiring in our own mould - not challenging ourselves or our headhunters enough. Recently I was frustrated that I was seeing the same type of person when interviewing for a planner role - so I asked a well-known headhunters to introduce me to ‘weirdos’ (in the good sense, like makes their own perfume, is a paintball champion). Once you demand that your headhunter looks in new and interesting places, it’s up to you to hire the best person for the job from your widened horizons. The point is the best person in that scenario might still be the white male at your disposal, but equally it could very well end up being a non-white woman.

We’re also kicking off our grad scheme again. We would usually rely on our own stuff sharing this on social networks. We have pretty good reach. But perhaps we’d only reach similar people. So we’re making a concerted effort to ensure people from diverse backgrounds are going to see there’s a door into the advertising industry that they are welcome into. It’ll be hard to hire a non-white male CCO tomorrow if we only take on white male grads today, right?

Another consideration is that maybe it would help if we changed our language a little, and instead of talking about hiring ‘the best person’ talk instead of hiring the best team. When you stop thinking about individuals and hire with the team front of mind, you realise you want diversity, a collection of voices and opinions. Not as a moral obligation, but as a competitive advantage.

Over at Forever Beta, building the best team is our priority. From where we stand, the best team will be able to handle an extremely varied set of challenges. When you have a team with very similar backgrounds they tend to be great at all the same things and also struggle with the very same things.

That’s why a management meeting full of white men should scare us all. If there’s a team that needs to be adaptable to face any challenge and be armed with the fullest range of perspectives, certainly that is the team making the most difficult calls.

So maybe next time you are hiring for a role, ask to see an industry outsider, a wild card, hell even some ‘weirdos’. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Marcelo Peretti Kuhn is the strategy director at Forever Beta