1. Be wary of agencies owned by a Holding Co. Be particularly wary of those Holding Companies whose stock price is either perpetually falling or precariously hanging around pre-pubescence.
2. If the Creative Director utters something like, "We really want to turn the work around. We feel we're poised to do just that. We're just a key player or two from making this happen. The clients are on board, too," immediately terminate the interview.
3. If the CD says, “Look, our work sucks today and it’s going to suck tomorrow because we really don’t give a shit about the work. We have no intention of rocking the boat and pissing off our clients. We enjoy the steady paycheck and our successful yet shallow life,” don’t terminate the meeting just yet. Consider the package offered, location of the agency, standard of life, etc. If the money isn’t 5x more than what you’d get working at a dishonest agency, continue looking, but tell the CD you’re interested but need to mull it over for a bit.
4. If you walk into the CD’s office and you notice award show trappings decorating the walls, the desks, the ceilings, the floor, immediately terminate the interview. If, however, the awards are tucked away in a closet and you only notice them because the closet door is ajar, don’t terminate the interview just yet. But if the CD ‘casually’ says, “Oh those old things. We pay them no heed. Around here, the trophy case is the closet- Chuckle, Chuckle- then immediately terminate the interview for three reasons. One, the CD laughed at his/her own joke. Two, the CD set you up to believe the agency did not care about awards by planting the ego/insecurity evidence in the closet and leaving the door slightly ajar for your viewing displeasure. (If the agency did not care about awards, they would opt not to spend the equivalent of a junior’s salary on award show fees. They’d simply hire a talented junior, instead.) Third, the CD would not have brought attention to the award trinkets in the first place.
5. The CD, unprompted, recites his resume to you. Terminate interview.
6. The CD namedrops. Terminate interview.
7. The CD namedrops and mispronounces the names he’s dropping. If this should occur, mention that you know (Insert mispronounced name here) and that you’re grateful for the reminder since you’ve been meaning to return the email they sent to you last week. Terminate interview.
8. The CD talks about other people in not-so-flattering terms. Terminate interview.
9. The CD says something like “We pride ourselves on having a family atmosphere and don’t want black sheep. Mind you, I’m not saying we don’t value individuality. We most certainly do. After all, the work comes first. It’s just that we like people who are collaborative.” Not only terminate the meeting but also be rude about it. Smart but nonetheless rude.
10. If the CD says, “Around here the work comes first.” Immediately terminate the interview. After all, anyone who states the obvious is obviously oblivious.
11. Don’t bother talking to anyone who has been at the company for longer than two years. They’ve bought into the politics and are programmed to get you to drink the Kool-Aid. Instead, try to talk to the recent hires, though not the junior hires, because they’re still wide-eyed optimists happy to have a cubicle. Talk to the mailroom folks. They know what’s going on. Trust me on this.
12. Avoid working at any agency whose name consists of either a dead person (s) or a retired person (s). Indeed, avoid even interviewing at such death traps unless you just want to waste a bunch of people’s time. Which, by the way, can be quite entertaining. Entertaining for you, anyway. And that’s what matters most.
13. If anyone asks you to comment on the agency’s work, just say it sucks. It doesn’t matter if it’s the one or two agencies in the world that are doing good work, or the one or two million agencies in the world that are doing shitty work. Let’s face it. The one or two agencies doing good work already know they’re doing good work so they’ll probably hire you just because you don’t think they’re doing good work. They’ll think you have something to offer that’s ‘fresh’ and ‘different”. Now those one or two million shit agencies, well, they’re shit anyway. So you might as well try to find out which of them think their shit doesn’t stink and which of them doesn't care if their shit does stink. The latter is where I’d put my eggs because it’s easier to work with hacks that don’t pretend to be anything but hacks. Nothing is worse than working for hacks that think they aren’t hacks. Nope. Not even that is worse.
14. Negotiate as much vacation time as possible.
15. Try to take your four weeks paid vacation during your first four weeks on the job. This way, if you hate the job, you can quit without having been taken advantage of too much.
16. Terminate the interview if the faces of the old people at the agency look as though they are being perpetually pulled and stretched behind their heads, as if they are in a super nova-like wind tunnel.
17. Terminate the interview if the old people at the agency try to relate to you by talking about the drugs they did in the ‘60s and keep referring to the iPod as the ‘High’ Pod.
18. Terminate the interview if the old people at the agency are actually older than your parents.
19. Beware of the following: You hear buzz words whizzing by your head as you stroll the agency. People greet you with clichés. You notice word plays and puns in the agency’s vocabulary. Should any of these silly things occur, be a sport and make the most of it. Take mental snapshots of these people, or if you are lucky enough to have your digital on your person, take pictures of them. Mention that your mom’s favorite childhood show was ‘Bewitched’ and she always wanted to see the inner-workings of an ad agency. Chances are, the agency folk will not only pose for you but also reveal ‘Bewitched’ was their inspiration for getting into advertising. Just think. You could be working alongside hundreds of your moms had you not mentally terminated this interview long ago.
20. If you smell perfume or cologne, except within a respectable radius of the reception desk, immediately terminate the interview.
21. If the CD asks you where you see yourself in a year, say, “In your job.” Casually look down at your watch, and politely ask the CD if there are any more questions. Then, ignoring his reply, stand and excuse yourself. Mutter something about how time flies and that you’re running late for your interview with the Executive CD.
22. Work for someone smarter than you. If that’s not realistic, work for someone who doesn’t mind that you are smarter. Under no circumstance work for someone who resents that you are smarter.
23. Always go for the money. Take the largest paycheck. Get out.