OPINION: To pick the wheat from the chaff you must shake hard

Graduate recruitment has to be tough, Amanda Mackenzie says. The profession will only suffer if we go easy on potential recruits during the process of selection

Graduate recruitment has to be tough, Amanda Mackenzie says. The

profession will only suffer if we go easy on potential recruits during

the process of selection

I’m worried that the ad industry is over-gearing itself to meet the

needs of its potential graduate recruits at the expense of its own best


A recent Campaign article (15 September) suggested that we should be

making more of an effort to explain what account management is. Some

people are also concerned that the final selection processes are too

tough and could be putting off good applicants.

The truth is that if we are to achieve our aim of recruiting the

highest-calibre graduates who have the talents we need, we may have to

get tougher, not softer.

We should be employing motivated, ambitious, bright, enthusiastic,

business-minded and sociable individuals, who ought to have found out

what an account management job entails and come to interview with an

understanding of the job they would be doing if successful.

We want people with that extra spark, those who have demonstrated

initiative and self-starting. If they don’t have this, surely they will

fall at the first hurdle.

Help is available. The University Careers Service provides insight into

management courses and many blue-chip companies have introduction to

marketing courses or offer holiday placements.

Any candidate who is ambitious and motivated about marketing and

advertising can go on these courses or, at the very least, read Ogilvy

on Advertising by David Ogilvy.

Similarly, if a graduate is interested in law or merchant banking as a

career, then I would assume they would do the equivalent within these

fields. What they find out may well help them decide against a

particular career but, even then, their research will have achieved a


In response to the view that some types of recruitment processes are too

gruelling, I would say we shouldn’t be apologetic about wanting to find

out about final applicants in a thorough manner.

After all, our intention is to employ the best person for the job and

make sure they are right for it. Many of our large client companies’

recruitment procedures are more exacting than our own and we must be

recruiting as high a quality of graduate as our best clients.

If people are put off applying for advertising because of a tough

selection process then maybe they aren’t right for the job. Selection

procedures should be representative of the career being applied for and

I don’t believe that any of the final interviews, however tough, wrongly

represent the reality of working in advertising.

It’s interesting that the jobs that currently seem to be favoured by

graduates - merchant banking or management consultancy - require five or

six interviews, a battery of psychometric tests and a final selection on


The most important task for those agencies who recruit graduates is to

maintain the standards. To do this we should not need to persuade

graduates to apply for advertising by explaining what the job entails.

We need to be rigorous about selecting only those graduates who are good

enough to choose any career, but have the skills and passion for

advertising that will distinguish them from the rest.

My one note of caution is that the need to pay off student loans may

well have a disproportionate effect on graduates’ choice of career. As a

result, we need to be competitive in the salaries we pay.

While I don’t believe there’s a need to match the very top salaries, the

gap should close somewhat to attract the very best. It would be naive to

assume that the love of working in advertising is in itself sufficient

to compensate.

Amanda Mackenzie is a board account director at D’Arcy Masius Benton and

Bowles and head of its graduate recruitment and training programme


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