Thinking of Hiring Talent From Cannes? Focus on the Skills That Led to the Awards

Industry recognition doesn't mean the candidate will fit in every organization

Finding top talent at Cannes only makes sense if you're planning to take advantage of the candidate's strengths.
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Cannes Lions provides a recruiting opportunity like no other; the talent showcased and attending the festival is undeniable. It is a beacon, showing how all aspects of the industry are evolving, from agencies’ creative product to client needs and challenges. As the world’s advertising and brand community flocks to the south of France to take the pulse of the industry and find their agency’s next superstars, there are, however, a few important questions to consider before getting blinded by the glitter of the awards.

Too often, companies get overly enamored with award winners and are quick to court without thoughtful consideration about how the talent will actually work within their organizations. As a result, they often end with a roster of flashy senior talent that has more in common with fantasy football than an effective, cohesive team.

Hiring people with the biggest awards, the most famous campaigns or most notable agency pedigrees holds some definite PR value. These people can draw other talent or potential clients. But that only has short-term value. Eventually, the agency has to deliver. Much disappointment and turnover could be avoided if hiring managers were wary of becoming too enchanted with a decorated candidate. The interview process shouldn’t be a formality with a foregone conclusion, and a portfolio and CV, no matter how honor-filled, are not enough to determine success.

Hiring is all about casting. Dwayne Johnson is by some measures a top actor in the world, but casting The Rock as the male lead in The Crown doesn’t make sense. But it happens in the agency world. A celebrated copywriter with a flair for offbeat comedy who spent his entire career at boutique shops may not be the best choice for a multinational packaged goods agency. Too often people are placed into jobs with the best intentions, but without the vetting and internal soul-searching required to make sure the match will last more than one award season.

To start, focus on the talent and what you need from them. What do you need this person to accomplish: for instance, run the biggest account, restructure a department or coach younger talent? A clear vision of your corporate goals and how the talent you are considering fits into actualizing those goals is paramount.

Consider the skills you are looking to add to your team, whether your candidate has them and whether your organization can maximize those skills. Companies and highly-skilled talent should at least start with a clear understanding of expectations and tools the new hire will have at their disposal to succeed.

Much disappointment and turnover could be avoided if hiring managers were wary of becoming too enchanted with a decorated candidate.

Delve into the details of a candidate’s work history and examine the context that led to their past successes. The skills that made them excel at their current job may be completely irrelevant to what will be required of them in the new position.

Think about the corporate cultures they’ve done well in, whether it be a large organization and if it’s comparable to yours. What was it about the agency system that nurtured this person’s success? Is there evidence that they could succeed in a different environment, system or country? Consider also the type of work they gravitate toward and whether it’s compatible with your client portfolio.

You also need to really investigate a new hire to find out what their shortcomings might be. Self-awareness, especially at a senior level, is critical. It’s a red flag if someone is unable to honestly identify areas that they have struggled with. A classic case is companies hiring great talent with amazing books but volatile personalities. Either the company is unaware—or most likely, in denial—about the impact that type of personality can have on an organization. Sometimes that person has been sheltered by the years of success they’ve had in a particular organization that has, for better or worse, been able to work around their personality. Find out how they execute their day-to-day responsibilities and think about whether or not that would work for your company’s needs.