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Agency Experience Required

We get numerous inquiries on the daily from talented and awesome professionals across a wide variety of disciplines, and we wish we could help all of them. The hard fact though is that many agencies (including a large number of clients we work with) require “agency experience”. A lack of agency experience is a challenge that not only applicants face, but for us as recruiters as well. We get to know our candidates well enough to know their skills translate and they have what it takes to meet these familiar “agency” challenges and yet regardless of how many praises we sing of a candidate, we often lose the battle of even getting an interview for them due to their lack of “agency experience”. So  how do we overcome this? What does one learn from agency experience that is so integral to their ability to succeed in the agency environment? Well we saw this article by Ryan Aynz and thought he did a wonderful job of laying out exactly how to position yourself in a cover letter, interview etc to demonstrate your abilities and how they speak to the key aspects of a job in the agency world.

Is Not Having ‘Agency Experience’ Preventing You from Getting Hired?


We’ve all been there, “Do you have agency experience?” If only recruiters knew the pain potential candidates undergo every time that phrase is uttered. Truth be told, it’s an ongoing battle between both parties, and for good reasons. Recruiters know how agencies operate, the processes involved and the training required. Unfortunately, if the candidate doesn’t seem worth the investment, the recruiter will move on. For job candidates new to advertising, it’s an infuriating trap they can’t seem to talk their way out of.

Sure, they often don’t have agency experience but isn’t this why they’re applying? Without a good enough response to this age old inquiry good candidates can get passed over for great jobs while recruiters continue to search for a solution that seems impossible to fill. So for those out there reading this wondering what exactly “agency experience” means and how can I possibly bypass this process, here are three options from my personal playbook and hiring process.

Agency work is based on a series of processes

I remember working at Ogilvy years ago and getting bombarded not just by work, but also by processes and protocols. To be honest, those first few months I was just lucky to survive: staying up late at night just to learn the different terminologies, technologies and everything else that went into describing what ultimately was a deck. While this may seem juvenile, it’s not. Agencies are built around these processes and they take time to learn, recruiters and managers hiring know this.

My recommendation for candidates that don’t have agency experience is to ensure they know the fine points for the job they’re applying for and then be open to, or even suggest, a process for learning the essentials so that it doesn’t take time away from the agency or manager.

Client expectations

These processes can be translated into the type of solutions that clients are expecting. At an agency, you live and die by the clients’ happiness. Clients just don’t have the time to deal with agency nonsense and have an expectation for the way their reports are delivered, ideas are pitched and how much cream and sugar should be in their coffee. If you don’t have agency experience, you won’t understand this, which means you may not understand client relations, which means agency death for the hirer, which in turn means no job for you. If you’re looking for a job, talk about your attention to detail and treat the person you’re interviewing with as a client, show you can be of service and you’ll increase your odds of getting hired. Someone I was interviewing recently immediately sent me back after the interview a bullet point email of our conversation highlighting the important notes, I scheduled them for an in person right away.

Agency experience is all about culture

Finally, sometimes having agency experience can easily be translated into, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get a project done.” Working in advertising can be absolutely grueling; you’re working around the clock to bill crazy hours, pulling all nighters and usually end up losing what social life you had. But the return is you get to work on campaigns that garner attention from millions, come up with taglines that get talked about around the globe and make new friends pulling those all nighters that you never would have bonded with otherwise. This is what agency experience is all about, culture. But this requires a certain type of thick skin, a level of commitment that only someone with agency experience often has the ability to prove. So in some ways I guess you could say agency experience can be considered kind of like a badge of honor and if you’re going to get past the gatekeeper on this one, show them you’re committed to the opportunity by taking the extra step. I recently had a candidate deliver an aptitude test in deck format as oppose to email format like everyone else. Small gestures like these show you’re willing to do whatever everyone else is doing but better and on the next level, not because you were asked to but because this is just what you do.

I’m sure of course there is much more we could attribute to this subject, but these are just three key takeaways from my personal experience in both interviewing and being the interviewer in which I hope candidates out there can learn from


This article was originally published on Linkedin Pulse.

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