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
Amanda Mackenzie is a board account director at D’Arcy Masius Benton and
Bowles and head of its graduate recruitment and training programme