Friday, 24 August 2007

Empathy - The Greatest Trait

It certainly is. Picture via LastExit. Usual rules apply.

Whether you are a high flying agency exec, a D&AD pencil winning creative, or a grad trying to get into the business, there's one thing which everyone needs to be aware of.

We all need to be hugely empathetic. That is, we need to be able to sympathise with others, and be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes.

The notion, for example, that planning has to be 'the voice of the consumer', is short sighted. But you do have to realise what people's thought processes are rooted in. This is perhaps most marked at the graduate recruitment stage.

Let's say you get an interview (no mean feat in itself). You more than likely have 30 minutes to meet two people (usually an account director and a planner) and talk about why you are right for advertising, etc etc. Now, I imagine these chaps hear a lot of stock answers to things, so put yourself in their shoes? Would YOU hire that person who was technically excellent, but you can't really remember who he or she was?

No, of course not. And it's this kind of thing which separates the wheat from the chaff, those who have done their research (though not too much - don't want to come across as an 'ad nerd', as I'm sure I did) and are, above all, interesting and engaging people.

It is, of course, difficult to legislate for just how well things go, or what kind of interviewer you'll have (everyone is different, and not all people click in half an hour), and just what the dynamic is between the interviewers - some do good cop, bad cop, some are just both smiling intently (I always found that more troubling, to be honest - Sharks do the same thing).

And yes, you can still not get in, even if you interview brilliantly, due to cultural reasons or other candidates just being bloody good/better than you. But having a sense of empathy will stand you in a damn good stead.

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