To all those CDs, Recruiters, and Teachers Working Out Childhood Issues on Students and Juniors.

you-suck-thats-sad-happy-bunny-19616140-350-523Upfront, I need to make clear, this isn’t about most CDs and recruiters. It’s about that minority who, for some sad weird reason, take a sort of pleasure in belittling young ad people and enjoy making students feel bad about themselves and their work.

I wouldn’t be writing today if I didn’t frequently hear about this problem. And it happens pretty much like this:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

(We open on an interview taking place in some meeting room, maybe at an agency, a school, or a career fair.)

STUDENT: (Nervously) Hi, thanks for seeing me. I’m Cheryl F…

RECRUITER/CD WITH ISSUES: Yeah, great. Show me your work. (Sits down, doesn’t look at young person, appears bored, important, and douchey.)

STUDENT: Oh, okay. … Well, here’s my home page and…

ISSUES MAN: What’s this? (Pointing to screen.) I don’t get it.

STUDENT: It’s just my “About Me” page, where I…

ISSUES MAN: C’mon, get to the work. (Looks at his phone.)

STUDENT: Uhhh, okay. So … here’s my first campaign. (Clicks to new page.) It’s Maxwell House and our strategy was….

ISSUES MAN: Just be quiet. Lemme read. If I don’t get it, consumers won’t get it. Okay???

(Awkward silence. Ticking clock.)

ISSUES MAN: What?? Are you kidding me? This … this won’t work. (Rolls eyes, clicks to the next campaign.)


ISSUES MAN: Christ, and now this second thing? It’s boring. Seriously? You thought this was good??…. (Clicks to the next campaign.)

(Room sounds fade as we close in on student’s head. Cut to dream sequence where the student jabs the mean person’s neck with the sharp edge of her computer tablet, crushing his windpipe. As his mocha-latte-with-cinnamon-sprinkles tumbles in slow motion to the floor, bring up audience applause track. Fade to black.)

 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

 I’m not making this up. And I’m not exaggerating. (Well, I threw in the crushed windpipe part.)

You may actually have one of these CDs or recruiters working for your agency. But you’ll never know it because students and juniors looking for jobs? They’re way too scared to report this kind of abuse. And it is indeed abuse.

The very people you hope are attracting talent to your agency are actually chasing them away. They’re anti-recruiters. Students and juniors leave these interviews feeling angry and sad. When they tell friends about this bad experience, it’s not about your agency’s recruiter or CD, but about your agency. (“Man, they hired him so they must suck.”)

My advice to students: You’ll know very quickly if the recruiter or CD you’re meeting with is working out issues from when he was given wedgies in science lab. Stand up, say, “Thank you just the same, but this doesn’t feel right.” Walk out and later on send an email to somebody at the agency. Tell ‘em they have an anti-recruiter poisoning their good name.

And to you CDs and recruiters working out your issues on juniors and students? Remember, there are two kinds of hell. Regular and Extra-Krispy. Guess which one’s reserved for those who prey upon the weak?


  1. I used to be the creative manager/recruiter at 3 of the global ad agencies, as well as a headhunter. I’m so glad you posted this. So many entry level creatives came to me over the years who had been shot down by either their teachers or other recruiters or headhunters and sometimes CDs they interviewed with. I never understood how people could be so harsh. I always tried my best to be encouraging while offering suggestions as well. Sometimes candidates would hug me and thank me. Other times they would break down into tears. There were many instances when their books needed changes and improvements, and as gentle and as positive I tried to be, they didn’t want to hear it. All they wanted was a job offer. Some, who went to Parsons, I had to advise to go to SVA for one more semester because their books were so design driven without real concepts. Those were the ones who usually cried because they didn’t want to set foot in another classroom.
    There were many who called me later to thank me for my candidness and tell me that I was one of the few who was honest and even though they weren’t happy with whatever advice I gave them, they realized later I was right. It was very rewarding to get those calls…few as they were. Some people misuse power. It should be a privilege to help others. But not everyone wants to help others. Those are the ones who have other agendas and misuse their position. I think it’s common in a lot of industries. There is no shortage of insecure people and the nature of the advertising business does not help!

  2. You missed out on a different type of predators – there are at least two creative directors who said my work was mediocre at best and were only offering me a job cause they saw ‘potential’. Upon enquiry, I found out this was an institutional practice in both the cases. lThis sly trick is often used by recruiters/creative directors to bring entry level employees on-board without offering them a pay hike.

  3. I was in an Atlanta ad agency years ago, showing my work. I spun my portfolio around on the conference room table to get started, and the guy sitting across from me said, “If you scratch this table, you’re outta here.” Needless to say the rest of the interview sucked. Tucked tail and left. Thank God I didn’t let it stop me.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggested Reading

There is no shortcut. This is how we learn it. Bit by bit.
View List

Recent Tweets

Luke Sullivan

Author, speaker, and ad veteran available to recharge, reinvigorate, and refocus marketing, advertising, and branding firms.

I give a hugely energetic series of presentations on innovation, creativity, branding, and marketing. I spent 32 years in the trenches of advertising (at agencies like Martin, GSD&M, and Fallon) and I’ve put everything I learned into my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But for me nothing beats taking the message out and speaking to living breathing audiences at clients, agencies, and conferences. You can book me on the button below.