Ad Grads | Jon Hillier
jon hillier

Ad Grads


Oh go on then, ad grad, here are a few unrevolutionary thoughts based on my memory of the 2012 Ogilvy Fellowship process.

It’s lonely applying to these schemes without any guidance, so perhaps it’ll just help you to know a little about what to expect from the process.

The Application.
When you’re applying to grad schemes you have one sole mission: simply be interesting enough to be invited through the front door. Be refreshing. Agencies invest large sums in this process and they dread missing talent. That makes your job way easier – whatever you write, make it audacious! Make the agency worry. Leave them thinking it’s risky *not* to interview you.

The Interviews.
If you’re invited for interview, great, they want to know you better. Now give them reassurance that you’re genuinely passionate about the industry and someone they’d like to work with.

Interviews at Ogilvy follow a standard pattern: a friendly ‘Tell Us About Yourself’ interview followed by a tougher ‘What Do You Know About The Industry?’ interview.

Let’s assume you’re confident talking about yourself (be engaging, humble, conversational). The second interview is a more demanding opportunity to prove your nous, so be opinionated (form some specially, if you have to) and prepare to discuss the industry with some of the agency’s senior bods. Don’t expect anything in-depth or unfair, but do your homework (research the agency, their clients, their work etc…). The least enthusiastic and knowledgeable candidates are identified (and ditched) fairly quickly at this stage.

The Assessment Centre.
This is an agency’s final means of sifting their remaining candidates. Perhaps thirty final candidates who performed well at interview will be invited to the “assessment centre”. You’ll be expected to spend a day together and perform tasks engineered to reveal how effectively your present, how you socialise and how productively you work under pressure.

Honestly: assessment centres are unpleasant. Don’t be unsettled by the room of implausibly confident, smiling people that greets you – it’s a front. Try not to feel threatened by the backgrounds or experience of other candidates – be yourself, you’ve been deemed worthy already, so go with it.

By this stage in the process I’d used Twitter to search for other candidates (they’re wanna-be-ad-grads after all, they’ll be online). Recognising some faces and secretly knowing that they shared my angst was a useful strategy for feeling comfortable.

The day itself began with short presentations on topics chosen from a list emailed to candidates a week before. Abilities varied wildly and that’s exactly why most agencies test this, so get as much practice as you can. Hint: s.l.o.w d.o.w.n, don’t read from a script and don’t waste the evening before baking cupcakes for everyone (this happened).

After lunch, candidates were divided into teams and handed folders of British Gas literature with which to devise and present a strategy for encouraging consumers to use energy saving gadgets. Each team was monitored and notes were taken; in fact you’re observed pretty much all day. I can’t speak much for this side of the assessment, so I simply recommend you speak up, work together and arrive at a solution as efficiently as you can.

Once the formal elements of the day had ended, candidates were encouraged to stay for drinks. Stay! Success doesn’t hang on the balance here (even though it’s rumoured that some agencies will deliberately try to get you drunk to see how you behave), but the bar is a really integral part of agency life, so try to get comfortable. Besides, you probably deserve a pint after what you’ve been through.

You already know how mad competition in Advertising is, particularly for graduates, but apply anyway. Someone will be successful, why not you? Trust in the process, play up and play the game.

Applications for the Ogilvy Fellowship open on January 7th, 2013 – you can apply on the Ogilvy website. For news of other graduate schemes, try AdGrads and Gradvantage. Bookmark them, find them on Twitter. They’re your friends.

Otherwise, if you have any questions about the Ogilvy Fellowship or things in general that you (foolishly) think I might have an answer to, then fire up Twitter and do ask me (@jontyh) or another Ogilvy Fellow.

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