Photo: BOND Strategy and Influence
Marc Schiller founded digital agency Bond Strategy and Influence (previously known as ElectricArtists) in 1997, and has intentionally kept his business small since.In an industry where raw talent is abundant and the ability to see the whole picture is paramount, how do you separate the good candidates from the great ones?
We spoke with Schiller recently about how he hires at Bond. Here are some of the key takeaways from the interview:
How did you go about hiring for your business?
I believe that a good company is always looking for good talent. So, the first thing that I do is I’m never looking for good talent only when we have a job opening. I’m always meeting with people that I think can add value to the company. I always hire for a five year plan — we have people that stay with our company for a long time.
What resources do you use, practically, to go find people?
There’s nothing that’s going to be better than word-of-mouth and recommendations. I think in my 15 years I’ve probably hired two people from a jobs posting. I’ve hired four, at most, from a recruiting agency. The best people come from your workforce finding them.
If you’re really onto something, good people come to you, you don’t need to go looking for them. You only struggle to find the right people if you’re not onto something really powerful. And I’ve always had good people find us.
How important are the documents they give you (cover letters, resumes)?
It’s with those documents that you can see if somebody is detail-oriented. The difference between good and great is getting the details right, and you can really see that in written material, in correspondence, in communication. I want to see how people present themselves.
But I think the most important thing is — are they challenging me? Are they intellectually curious? And I think you don’t find that from a resume — you find that from discussions.
What are the most important things you look for in a candidate?
More and more, I look for generalists — not specialists. I really think that the key to success today is to see how everything comes together. I’m looking for somebody who wants to learn everything. If somebody says that I’m a ‘social media expert’ or I’m an ‘expert’ on anything, that doesn’t work for me. That word is terrible. It means that you have blinders and you’re not seeing the bigger picture.
You need to be smart and you need to be nice. Those are critical for me. I look for people that are solutions-based, and if the solution is broader than the scope of that person I want them to be thinking about that as well. I want people that are intellectually curious, exploring culture and trying to make sense of the world.
What types of questions do you ask in an interview?
One of the questions that I always ask in an interview — even if its their first job — is where they want to be in five years. And I want to then work backward to get them to where they want to be. A lot of companies hire for the immediate need that they have to fill, and I don’t do that.
I want to know that the person is thoughtful in what they’re doing with their life. So I literally start from the first big decision they have to make, which is, where did they go to college? What I want to see is if every decision that is reflected on their resume was thoughtfully done. And then somebody’s first job — what did you take that job? What was the reason that you went to that company?
Then I go company by company by company and ask the same question. Why did you go there? And if the person can’t really articulate that route that they’re taking, remember that I’m part of that journey.If they’re coming to my company without thinking about the lineage that started when they began their education, it’s the best way to know if somebody is really vested in their goals, and that you’re going to be a great resource for them.
How different is it hiring for a small company, as opposed to a big corporation?
There are a lot of people that think that the size of a company is a reflection on their success. The biggest thing is whether a small agency is the right environment for people.
I intentionally want to do things that are bespoke and hand-crafted, and you can’t do that big — you’ve got to do that small. So I need to know if they’re committed to a small company environment.
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