BL&T No. 075: Getting Real In Interviews, Weekly Account Check-Ins

Agency Leadership

Borrowed, Learned, & Thought (or BL&T) is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share weekly themes and progress in running an agency business/team and doing my best to live a good life. Published posts do not include all details shared via email to subscribers. Subscribe here.

Borrowed

“Over the years we’ve learned that in the absence of information, human beings typically jump to worst-case scenarios. It’s kind of a survival mechanism. The unknown can be threatening. ... Instead, don’t try to invent a future that may or may not happen. Ask, what can I pay attention to right now that is critical?”

From “Whoop Podcast Episode 158: The Science of Strain: Dr. Andy Walshe discusses physiological and psychological stress and how it affects performance” [Podcast]

Learned

My final call of last week was with a design candidate we offered a job just days before. When they received the offer, they asked for more time to review and shared that they were waiting on a second offer. While the requested timeline was no issue, our instinct was to jump to conclusions.

"If they really wanted the job, they'd just say yes."

"Our offer must not have been good enough. Should we sweeten the deal somehow?"

"I bet they're trying to get another offer to get a higher salary."

Yes, these thoughts all ran through my head. However, as I talked it through with our Design Director, Christine, I realized what we were doing: wasting our energy worrying without any real context or insight.

Before the extended review time request, I planned to chat with the candidate today. Given the situation, I asked to move our call to last Friday. It was never supposed to be a formal interview but a chance for me to get to know them and answer any final questions about Barrel.

I couldn't have asked for a better conversation. The candidate had only great things to say about Barrel and their experience thus far. When I asked how they were weighing their offers, I sensed they were also trying to answer that question.

I dug deeper.

It turns out that the other offer was an opportunity to pursue a different career path, essentially apples to oranges. They started sharing reasons why taking the job with Barrel made sense, followed by an argument to go with the other offer. I asked if I could offer some thoughts as a third party. Soon, our conversation shifted from an informal interview to two colleagues talking about their careers.

I left our conversation feeling positive. Not because I thought it was a done deal in our favor. It felt good to take lessons I've learned over the years and offer them to someone making a pivotal decision in their career. It also felt freeing to be honest.

I wasn't there to convince them that Barrel was the better choice because maybe for them, it wasn't. Ultimately, we want people who are passionate about what we do and excited to get to work every day.

While the candidate decided not to accept our offer, it feels good knowing that we had this conversation and they made the right choice for them.

I've enjoyed this type of openness during the interview process. I can think of two recent hires where I had similar conversations before they accepted. It's not only liberating to get the unsaid out in the open, it's an invaluable way to set expectations and build trust from the start.

If you're curious, the designer opening is still available. If you or someone you know is a talented designer looking for a new gig, you can learn more about the role here and explore other openings here.

Weekly Account Status Meetings

In my last newsletter, I wrote about getting ahead of client challenges. It got me thinking, what does this look like in practice?

Without being involved in the day-to-day of every account, there is no guarantee that I'll have the opportunity to foresee a future challenge unless an Account Lead raises it to me. The challenge here is that sometimes future challenges are hard to spot. What looks like a flag to me may look normal to someone else.

I concluded that I need to make it a habit to check in more regularly with the team. It can't be on a whim — there needs to be a structure.

Last Wednesday, I ran my first 30-minute weekly account status meeting with all of the leads on my accounts. For now, I'm keeping our agenda casual to see how it evolves and focusing on the objective: to connect on the status for each account, address any concerns or flags, and align on next steps, as needed.

Our first meeting was a good start. There were already a few updates that led to productive discussions on approaching the next steps. In time, I think these discussions will also serve as a tool for knowledge-share among the Client Services team.

I look forward to seeing how this takes shape. Part of me knows that it's not scalable, but in the short term, I think it's a step in the right direction, and the value of regularly connecting will open new doors and opportunities.

Thought Starter

When do I default to the worst-case without enough information?

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