Challenging Convention in Hiring Top Talent

Earlier this year, the executive search firm Heyman Associates Inc. published a roundtable discussion on hiring in public relations. It included my colleague, Bob Pearson, who added an important and iconoclastic voice to what would have otherwise been a seminar on the conventional wisdom of hiring.

But “conventional wisdom” doesn’t cut it anymore, and – as an HR Leader – I cringed at some of the advice being offered, especially to firms looking for out-of-the-box hires. Most of the roundtable participants, while praising the idea of acquiring new and different talents, suggested that there was a point at which candidates were too experienced or had worked at a non-agency to make a successful transition.

From my point of view, that perspective is old school: hiring someone interested in making a career transition has little to do with the fact they come from a different industry or were too experienced and everything to do with culture and the skills they can bring.  A prospective hire who has spent years thriving in a certain culture will immediately click if they’re thrown into a similar culture. A candidate with less experience will fail if they’re thrown into an environment where they feel out of step. These successes and failures have nothing to do with timeline or industry.

Of course, I’m secretly excited that so many of my peers elsewhere in the agency world have a narrow view. They are missing a huge opportunity, and it means that there is less competition for those, like WCG, interested in breaking past industry norms. The attributes needed to thrive at WCG aren’t forged only at an agency. We want those with corporate experience, media experience, with non-traditional backgrounds.

We’re interested in two things: the skill set an individual can bring to our business and how well they work in our self-starting, drive-don’t-be-driven culture. Everything beyond that is static. When artificial distinctions based on timelines are made, the blinders go on. This is dangerous. Hiring can be a high-risk proposition: we can’t afford not to see everything.

Laurie Torres
Laurie Torres

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