Why This Agency Is Taking a Tiny Version of Itself to College Campuses This Spring

A brief taste of life at Solve

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The recruiting of summer interns is in full swing, and Minneapolis agency Solve might have the cleverest (and cutest) solution to finding eager would-be advertising practitioners.

Solve took a miniature version of itself—lobby, collaborative workspace, conference room—on the road to colleges around the Midwest. And it gave potential interns "try-outs" consisting of five-minute job assignments, to get a sense of who'd be the best fit to actually come to Minneapolis this summer and do the interning for real. 

The students who performed well during their five-minute test were interviewed on the spot for a chance at a coveted intern slot.

The agency visited, among other schools, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. "The weather at UW-Madison nearly stopped us," Solve account director Ryan Murray tells AdFreak. "A downpour and high winds forced us to open our pop-up a little late—classic agency tardiness—but we still had a dozen recruits waiting for us to open our door. One recruit even stopped 'mid-internship' to help us fix a nearly-falling tent. Now that's thinking on your feet."

Fabricating the mini agency was a lot of fun, too.

"We tried to bring the space design and collaborative feel of our office to campus quads," Murray says. "We partnered with Clamor, an event firm, who built custom cube walls and desks to mimic our actual space. Every portion of the pop-up mirrored our headquarters, from the receptionist desk with the Solve logo to the open offices to the collaborative brainstorming area."

And how did the five-minute assignments actually work?

"Depending on their area of interest—account management, media, creative—they were given a specific five-minute exercise," Murray says. "For example, the account management assignment tasked students with strategically evaluating a Bentley campaign and deciding if it was on brief. In the middle of the exercise, I interrupted them and gave them a President Cheese print ad and told them it needed to be proofed instantly, before shipping off to meet a pressing media deadline."

Juggling the assignments like this "gave us great insight and perspective into their abilities, well beyond a standard résumé or interview," Murray adds. "Best of all, students loved it. We're still getting thank-you notes."

More than 150 students participated in the five-minute internship, which was three times more people than used to send résumés.

The agency will make a final decision on interns by May 1. 

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.