Agency Season, Part One

  • Posted by: Chaloner

This week’s blog is written by Chaloner’s Christine Santeusanio. Christine is in her tenth year with Chaloner, in the Boston office. She has led various searches for both PR and integrated agencies as well as corporate communications positions. Christine is involved with the PRSA, Young Women in Digital, Boston Women Communicators and the Boston Irish Business Association.

It’s officially fall, which means it’s back to school and back to the grind with normal work hours. For many, autumn feels like a good time for new beginnings, which may include a new job. Good news, the economy is booming! Chances are if you have between 3-8 years of experience, employers will be knocking at your door, and you will be hearing more often from recruiters and HR reps with great opportunities. You may find yourself with a good problem—interviewing for multiple jobs and maybe even juggling multiple offers.  Both this week and next, I’ll provide hints to help you navigate through that process.

Be candid in the interview process.
It may feel awkward or uncouth to tell a hiring manager that you’re dividing your attention, but it is expected and appreciated if you let prospective employers know that you are interviewing at competing agencies. You don’t have to mention specific names! It’s important for the sake of your relationship to share this information; no one wants to be caught off guard. If you end up taking yourself out of the running (more details on that next week!), make sure you connect with HR, the hiring manager, the recruiter, and any other decision makers in the process as soon as possible.

Stay humble, stay watchful.
When the economy is strong and multiple agencies are pursuing you, it’s easy to go into interviews thinking you’re interviewing the employer. Just remember that companies still have high standards. When you’re asked for a writing test or sample, don’t be turned off by having to take an additional step with the agency. Instead, be flattered you have the opportunity and ask for feedback. The reverse is true as well: don’t soften your focus just because you have a lot of options. If you’re interviewing with multiple people, pay attention to the tone of the employees. If they are running late or leaving early, most likely they are stretched thin, which means recruiting and training new employees may be taking a second seat.

Protect your current job.
Interviewing at multiple companies is exciting, but it can also be stressful and a big strain on your schedule. Make use of your personal days so there aren’t too many questionable sick days. The last thing you want to do is jeopardize your current role. Offer to interview before or after work hours if they are willing!

Remember what’s important.
When you’re interviewing at multiple agencies, it’s easy to get distracted by certain perks or elements of the job that don’t actually translate into job satisfaction. Remember: it’s the culture and people you work with at an agency that will ultimately make you happy, not the products you will be pitching. Sometimes the agencies with “fun” clients can actually be the most demanding and can also have the most stressful environments. Be interested in which agencies have a strong corporate culture with employees who like working with each other. I often hear candidates say they had no interest in healthcare until they worked with healthcare clients, which speaks to the strength of relationships in the company. I’ll use Chaloner as another example. All our current recruiters are in our tenth year, and I know that ultimately what keeps us together is that we enjoy working with each other. The work is important, but how the work is done and with whom is what ultimately matters most!

Knowing the details of this will come in handy next week when I discuss how to deal with multiple offers.