Monday, September 20, 2010

A "No Cutting Corners" Guide to Getting the Job You Want at a Major Ad Agency

Robin Marco (pictured below), Creative Recruiter at Tracy Locke, has provided some great tips on what she looks for in great candidates.

1. The idea comes first. Will it catch attention? Will it sell the product? Is it relevant? Is it engaging? Does it connect on an emotional level or hit you on the funny bone? Would the client buy off on it? Is it a viable option to do something like this? Does it cut through the clutter? Is it original, fresh, different or unexpected? Is it memorable? Will people talk about it? Does it have legs? Is it compelling? Less is more. Keep it simple.

2. Must have killer visual and design skills. Typography. Textures. Layout.

3. Flawless execution. Pay attention to ALL the details. That’s what art directors do. Flow. One overall presentation. Brand yourself.

4. Minimum 15 samples – maximum 30. All must be great. Most of your samples are in a campaign format – at least three or four campaigns. Catchy, compelling or clever headlines, taglines and body copy. Tell a story.

5. Demonstrate 360˚ thinking. New media (web, mobile, social media), outdoor, promotions, guerilla/non-traditional, in-store, packaging, field marketing, stickers, stencils, etc.

6. Website with downloadable PDF of your portfolio and resume. This can be your own website or one of the portfolio websites, (, or
but you really need to be able to send out a link of your work. This is by far the best and easiest way to get your work seen.

The site MUST be easy to navigate. Not slow to load. Ads not too small. Be able to enlarge ads or be able to read the copy.

Make sure your name, discipline and contact information is on your portfolio, resume and cover letter. Always put your website, a phone number and an email address on all of your documents.

Make sure to state your discipline front and center on your resume, cover letter and portfolio. John Smith. Art Director. Joe Blow. Copywriter. Jane Doe. Graphic Designer.

Label your attachments or downloadable files with your name and what the document/file contains. (jsmith_portfolio, jsmith_samples, jsmith_book, jsmith_resume, jsmith_cover_ltr).

7. Have a hard copy/physical copy of your portfolio for your interview. I prefer to see portfolios in a book format (11”x17” or 12”x18”). No presentation boards. No plastic sleeves. I don’t like plastic-sleeved portfolios. In fact, I have an extreme aversion to them. They reflect the light and make it hard to see the work. I would much rather see a handmade portfolio that reflects the candidate’s personality.

8. Have a leave-behind/mini book for interviews. The leave-behind should not be bigger than 8.5”x11”, but it certainly could be smaller, as long as you can still read the copy with ease. I don’t like CDs, but that is my personal opinion. Why would you even need one if your work is on the web? It’s so much easier for someone to click a link than to open the CD, put it in the computer, wait for it to load and then open it.

9. Resume/Cover Letter. Does it make me want to meet you to find out more about you because you are so interesting and cool? Or is it just the “blah, blah, blah” same old boring form-letter-resume that you copied off the Internet that I’ve already seen a million times?

I like and expect to see some elements of design incorporated into the resume. Don’t go too crazy with your resume design. It still needs to be professional. You don’t want to get noticed for your garish, over-the-top, unprofessional design. Less is more. Keep it simple.

Have several hard copies of your resume for the interview. Your cover letter and/or email letter should be engaging and intriguing. Not a form letter. Not a long letter; it should be a short, sweet and a to-the-point letter that comes across in a compelling way.

10. Presentation Skills. You must have them. Could we put you in front of our multi-million-dollar client so you can sell your killer idea to them?

11. Personality. Would this person fit in with the overall agency culture and the specific group that is hiring?

TracyLocke has a subsidiary called N-GEN Studios , N-GEN employs production artists, illustrators and retouchers. If your strengths are in these areas, you should definitely look further into N-GEN.

If your portfolio meets the requirements here and if you feel like you can adapt and be a key contributor, feel free to apply to TracyLocke through their “Careers West” page on their website, Be sure to include the link to your portfolio on your resume.

(See Jennifer Magee or Amy Young, if you would like to see an example of a portfolio of a recent hire at Tracy Locke).

No comments:

Post a Comment