BBH HOSTED AN APG EVENING WITH GRACE BLUE RECRUITMENT HELPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PLANNERS GET INTO THE INDUSTRY. BEN SHAW SPOKE ABOUT HOW AS A HEAD OF STRATEGY WHAT HE IS LOOKING FOR WHEN RECRUITING. THE BELOW IS A WRITE UP OF THAT TALK. AND IT BEGINS NOW…

Interviews are weird. a tiny amount of time to make a big impression. You have your best face on. The interviewer has theirs. You’re trying to show off, they’re trying to not show their unconscious bias. You both know the standard questions. You both want it to go well. How can it when everything is at stake. Here are some things I wish I knew when I started out, and some things I look for when interviewing candidates, told with some tips from Tarantino’s best character creations…

The Hateful Eight. You know someone will be getting out alive but you don’t know who. You spend the entire film trying to figure out who is best suited to step out of the cabin still breathing. We get hundreds of CVs through the door. It sounds obvious, but what is the reason why we should hire you for the role. So many people rock up to interviews without the ability to sell themselves, without being able to articulate why they think they are perfect for the job, without being able to say why they are better than the other candidate with the identical CV. Be on the one that survives.

A female protagonist in a Kung Fu Western. Bright yellow jumpsuit. Just from the visuals, Kill Bill stood out amongst everything else that appeared at the box office. This is BBH. We’re all about difference. If point 1 was Why You then point 2 has to be difference – what is it about you that is different, how do you evidence your difference and what can you talk about that is different. Even from a recall perspective, when our recruitment team get together to discuss who we’ve seen that week your difference makes you easier to remember than the standard strategist with the standard CV. Be the Bride.

Everyone had a job to do in Reservoir Dogs and everyone got a name. We have a strategy department of 35+ planners who are cast on accounts according to their experience, skillset, interests, approach and attitude. We don’t have a homogenous group of generalists where everyone is perfectly equally good at everything. I’ve never met that department or that person. We need generalists, we need specialists, we need T-shaped people. I often ask this question and provide two spectrums – where are you on Analytical to Intuitive and Generalist to Specialist. For some reason, there is such an aversion in the plannersphere to say you may not be a generalist, that you may be good at something specific. Know what you’re good at and know how you work so you can be best suited to the role. Be the Dogs.

Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson, famously had an opinion on burgers. In this famous scene, he even used a question about burgers to help get the job done. Have an opinion. Come armed ready to have a debate, an argument or at least an interesting discussion. Take up a point of view and make it a memorable conversation rather than just the standard response “yeh I really like Nike’s latest ad”. Why, why not, why then and not now, if not that then what? Planners are paid for their opinion so bring yours to the table. Be Jules.

Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz enjoyed his work. He loved it. He lived for it. He made himself available at every opportunity to smash a Nazi skull in. He was passionate. He could talk about his favourite accomplishments. He could tell you in detail the differences between his first and his last. He was only there because of the work. You have to be ready, prepared and passionate about what you’ve done and what you want to do. You need to be able to reel off your best case study, the most creative one, the most effective one, the one you wish could have gone better. At BBH everything leads to the work and it’s the only reason we keep turning up. Be Donny.

Jackie Brown had a very specific part to play when she was smuggling money for Ordell Robbie. Despite her circumstances changing through the film, it’s clear what she’s doing and where she is. She isn’t the drugs kingpin nor is she oblivious to what’s going on. When you’re talking through your case studies, or when you’re writing your CV, don’t pretend to be Ordell. You’ll get in deep shit. Be clear, honest and proud of your role in the process. If you really uncovered the insight of what it takes to be a Londoner then brilliant, tell me about it. If you helped explode that idea and make the briefing as great as it could be, then great. Being honest and humble about your impact will always come across as much more confident than someone trying to blag their way through airport security with $550,000 of drugs in a black bag. Be Jackie.

Django is freed by Dr King Schultz and then learns from him as he helps him track down the Brittle brothers. Django could see a clear path of how to get the best of the situation and learn something. No one has completed Planning. There is always something more to do, more to learn, more to improve on. Every strategist should have a plan for their next 12-18 months of what they want to develop in. It could be pure experience, it could be a category, it could be a channel, it could be a style of planning or an approach, it could be a skill, it could be a personal attribute like confidence, it could be something not directly related to planning but will make you a better planner. No one joins BBH as the finished article and everyone should be able to articulate what their focus is for the next step of their development. Be Django.

Stuntman Mike does something cool. He’s a stunt double. Outside of work, he’s a lunatic but the lines blur. We like blurred lines. John Hegarty said, “Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.” A planner who is full of interestingness is a weapon in the creative process. What do you do outside of the day job that you enjoy? It doesn’t have to be fermenting your own Kombucha or religiously watching every Ted Talk. It’s equally as interesting to be a reality tv buff or to be a massive netball fan. Planners need to have passions so they can understand other people’s passions. I’ve always enjoyed bringing myself into the work, bringing the references of music or scenes or technology. Doing stuff outside of work is positive, not a frivolous negative, and it’s often when you relax the most and can be the normal you in an interview. Be more Stuntman Mike. 

The Bride is back. Tarantino’s only true sequel (ignoring the universe of interrelated characters) and he needed Kill Bill II because The Bride wanted to kill bill so badly. It’s lovely when interviews are chats. But they’re better when you’ve done a bit of research and can talk about why you want to join the place you’re sitting in. Showing some passion, some determination, some fandom is encouraging as it means you’re probably here because you’re passionate about making great work. And if you’ve taken 30 mins to check out our latest work to develop an opinion on, then you’re probably going to be as enthusiastic when you’re working on our brands. Want it more than the other candidates and you can often be given a chance when others wouldn’t. Be the passionate Bride. 

So Tarantino didn’t direct True Romance but he wrote the original script for it and god damn it feels like a Tarantino film. Alabama and Clarence just clicked. You could feel the connection through the screen. Was it their shared culture, was it shared an interest or was it just serendipity. Interviews are strange things and you can never force a connection but both parties feel it when it’s there. It most often comes out when you manage to get off chatting through the standard CV journey or case studies but onto a shared topic, a piece of work, the news. I’m not saying try to find a True Romance (or even end up like Clarence) but be aware if you do or don’t feel like that’s the right connection. Because it may not be the right timing for either of you just then, but we know how fleeting Adland can be and there may be something pop up next time. 

Lastly. Tarantino has created so many amazing characters and will often write with an actor in mind. His favourite collaborator is Samuel L. Jackson – he’s appeared in 6 of Quentin’s films (+ True Romance). Tarantino knows him. He knows what he’s getting. What he’s good at. He doesn’t need to screen test him. Interviews are our screen tests. You can blag an interview. You can’t blag a reference. Who do you know that your interviewer knows? Who knows how you work and can tell someone else how good you are? Who do you like working with and would like to work with again? Get your references and not a random IT supplier endorsing your digital strategy skills on LinkedIn. And find your teams, mentors and collaborators you love working with. We’re a people business and no one can make an idea come to life alone. Find the people you love working with and get them to help you. Be more Quentin and Samuel.

Good luck out there.

And thanks to the APG for the chance to chat to the next generation