This is the first post in a new, monthly "Ask the Experts" series.
We're running around town (ok, the U.S.) asking key decision makers -- recruiters, hiring managers and other corporate leaders -- how they think, what they care about, what attracts them to a candidate, and what you should and shouldn't do as a job seeker.
Meet Steve Potestio.
He's an incredibly cool, smart and successful guy who co-owns the bustling creative staffing and consulting firm Mathys+Potestio here in Portland, Oregon. He's been recruiting within the Pacific Northwest market since 1997.
I sat down with Steve (over a fiery, jalepeno-infused margarita I'll have you know) the other day, and we talked about what he, as a leading creative industry recruiter, values the most in candidates. What does he see? What works? What doesn't? What do his clients care about?
Here's how the conversation unfolded...
JJ: What mistakes do you most commonly see among people wanting to work with you, a recruiter?
SP: The most common mistake I see is people who assume that it's the recruiter's job to get you a job. It's not. The recruiter ultimately works for the hiring companies; they are the clients. A good recruiter will do all he can to help -- be an advisor, be proactive as much as he can, make strategic introductions -- but be realistic. A recruiter may not "pound the pavement" for you.
JJ: You specialize in recruiting within the creative sector. Is it critical that a job seeker find a recruiter within a specific industry? Why or why not?
SP: I believe it's important to find someone within your sector / specialty, yes. They will generally be better equipped to understand your skill set and background and be more effective in representing opportunities to you and you to opportunities. They will likely understand "fit" better than a recruiter who handles a broad range of industries or specialties.
JJ: How highly (or not) do your clients value creative, attention-getting tactics? In other words, do they love an original social media marketing campaign or super creative delivery method, or do they prefer that candidates stick with the more traditional resume / cover letter submittal?
SP: I'm not a big fan of telling people they need to be over-the-top to get attention. Some people love this, and it certainly can be effective when done well. But it can also be annoying (when not done well). My advice is to be strategic if you're going to do over-the-top. And don't do it for everyone.
JJ: What are some of the more "overdone" tactics you see job seekers using.
SP: The first one that's coming to mind is the guy who designed his whole brand around pizza. His resume came in a pizza box and smelled like it. That just made us hungry (and not for the guy's talents.)
JJ: Where do you typically find great creative candidates? In other words, where should creative people be if they want to be "found"?
SP: Online. You have to have a strong online presence. All designers should have their own websites, and many who are in the creative industry but not a creative (account people, strategists, project managers) will also have websites showcasing their work.
JJ: What's your best advice for an early career creative person? How can that person get noticed and land a job in a highly competitive sector?
SP: Develop a strong portfolio. Have a portfolio filled with quality work, but also quality thinking. Be able to speak to what you did, why you did it, and what client challenge your project solved.
JJ: Any other nuggets of wisdom that may help an active job seeker?
SP: If you want it bad enough, good things will happen. But you need to want it, and you need to be proactive and strategic about going after it. Get off the couch and make something happen.
Are you a creative or working within a creative field?
Do you have more questions? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
Steve Potestio has 25 years of experience in the creative services industry. He owns a successful creative staffing and consulting firm, Mathys+Potestio. He ran a creative industry talent management consultancy and was the co-founder of creative staffing agency, 52 Limited. He began working in creative staffing in San Francisco, and has been recruiting in the Portland market since 1997.