What qualifies us to do our job?
And what qualities do we look for when we’re interviewing people?
We probably look for knowledge and experience
We want people who can slip easily into the role we have available. People who’ll require minimum effort to make them ‘ready’ to not let service slip.
It’s easier than ever to come by these valuable resources nowadays.
We now have university degrees dedicated not just to marketing, but to advertising.
But with the supply lines so clearly codified, is there anything we might miss?
What about the people who don’t know anything about advertising, but who’s talent might be useful?
The people who might surprise us. The people who might help us think differently about our own industry.
A friend of mine, John, was telling me over the weekend about his best job interview ever.
It was the late 80s. He was 16, and had just finished school.
The position was for a bike courier, fetching and delivering parcels across London.
Now John had lived in London all his life. He grew up in Holloway, and went to school in Camden.
But that’s about as much as he knew of London.
A very particular part of North London – the stretch around Camden Road.
He didn’t know anything about the West End, or the City, or anywhere else that a courier might need to go.
But he turned up at the interview.
The bloke has no doubt seen a hundred lads like John in the last month.
So he runs through his usual questions.
“Alright son, do you know where St James’ Square is?”
John has no idea.
But he doesn’t show it.
He falls back on word association and instead fronts it out with a total guess.
“Oh yeah,” John says. “That’s right near St James’ Park.”
The guy nods. Eyes him up.
“Yeah, that’s right. How about another. You know where Berkeley Square is?”
No, thinks John, I don’t. But word association worked last time, so why not again?
“Course,” says John. “That’s just round the corner from Barclays Bank.”
The guy looks at him.
He knows John’s blagging.
John knows that the guy knows he’s blagging.
But the guy bursts out laughing.
“Congratulations, son. The job’s yours.”
The interview lasted no more than 60 seconds.
John had walked in having none of the skills that the job would normally require.
He had absolutely no knowledge or experience of finding his way around London.
But he walked out with the job because he was smart, funny and calm under pressure.
You can teach people about the service you provide. You can give them experience.
But talent is something else.
You need to spot that.
And to spot it you need to be looking for it.