Saturday, January 24, 2009

If I were to interview a candidate for a copywriter’s job!

Whatever you are by nature, keep to it; never desert your line of talent. Be what nature intended you for and you’ll succeed ---- Sydney Smith

I recently attended an interview with a big agency’s creative director. I agreed to it with lot of trepidation having tasted a quite bitter experience long time back.

My biggest problem is to carry those odd old print-outs of the only good campaign I did to a reasonably good real estate client. Show these pieces time and again and tell the same answer that I didn’t work on the big brands, ‘cause I couldn’t get a break in the big agencies to lay my hands on one. The scorn on their faces and the careless shrug that says it all about my portfolio scares me most.

The creative director asked me to show some work and I nervously fished out (by mistake) an old file where I stacked my old ads which I did ten years ago. Luckily when he chanced upon one ad which I feel was a good one, and told him that I liked the headline very much (which says “Men of will chase the fate” for an automobile). I told him that I wrote the headline under terrible depression, because I’ve been chasing the good old dream of becoming a good copywriter. He got little shocked if that phenomenon is a regular one. I assured him it won’t be so now, as I’m more matured in confidence.

Before I show my big campaign which I held in my hand, he blurted ‘okay, we’ll call you soon’. I helplessly tucked it back into the cover in which I brought them. And, began thinking of the ordeal of driving back to my home on my trusted two-wheeler back. This one is the lone witness to my frustrations, depressions after each interview and bears with me each time I kick start it very hard to vent my anger.

My question to all interviewers is: how do you interview a writer, copywriter per se, at least an aspiring one?

How do you make a person who trots to your office in search of a job comfortable?
Do you care to ask him if a glass of water to quench the thirst?

If I were in their shoes: I would make the person feel at home before asking anything. If possible treat him or her to a cup of tea or coffee. Or else if the office is too rigid, I’d take him or her to the nearest café to get little breathing space and make things bit informal.

I would like to know why and how one is into copywriting. What makes him or her copywriter and the specific reason to be in, and ask why not in other genres; and get to elicit much more information about the candidate’s aspirations and dreams?

While looking at the work, ask him why and how he chose that headline or visual.

In all my discussion with the candidate my only aim is to see the real person beneath the veneer of obvious appearance and the profile showcased before me. That I can gauge by allowing him to talk more by asking many questions about advertising, copywriting and the person’s calling into it.
(Unfortunately, advertising in India has been made out a profession for rich guys and gals (creative department) who can flaunt branded clothes and who can throw tantrums at the drop of the hat for no reason and, who show least respect to anyone except themselves in the vicinity)

I know for sure every struggling writer has a lot to say. I have so much to say about my encounters in my journey through copywriting, though. Allow the candidate to speak more. The whole discussion should be tuned with an informal air and lively chat with a genuine interest to listen with attention.

If I see any passion in the person and if I feel the candidate needs a genuine support to realize his or her passion I would consider him or her.

David Ogilvy entered advertising at the ripe age of 30+, and went on to become one of the greatest copywriters of the world. In contemporary world, he wouldn’t have had a chance to find a job in advertising - given his dabbling in other fields as a salesman and stuff like that.

Everyone makes such a fuss about the dummy profile to be showcased at the interview. How does one get to make a good profile when one doesn’t have the luxury to work with a good art guy, let alone know one? All those who can’t make one great dummy profile can’t be good copywriters, or are you sure that the one who cooks up a profile is a great material for a hot shot copywriter? Even to make a dummy profile also we need the help of a good art guy to help us with the same fire in the belly to make big.

Let’s not lose out any more talented people who knock on the doors of advertising - without maybe formal training, without adequate experience, but with a real passion for advertising. Maybe this is an utopian dream to be real - of making big by sheer passion without being politically correct in the contemporary scenario –having a dummy profile and nodding one’s head with a servile smile… et al.

But maybe, if the people at the helm become more flexible (human) and come down from the high pedestals and talk to ordinary mortals with aspirations. See if the person is thrilled about life around and never stops learning from it.

In writing, it is far easier to write some article you’re interested in and get it published. That builds your profile, a couple of articles, I mean. But in adverting you ought to have a published work of ad campaigns, or a dummy work of big brands. If you take a print out of the copy you dish out and show and you know where it goes.

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