The Four Golden Rules To Getting Me To Hire You- Would You Get the Gig?

I get about 30 unsolicited job applications a week. I try to meet at least three ‘would-be’ recruits every 10 days. And when I do, I am searching for the four critical ingredients that make for a great hire. Without these ‘Golden Four’, you won’t make it with me. Here they are. Do you have them?

If you want a job in the marketing content and communications industry – in advertising, digital, PR and their sister disciplines – then follow these four Golden Rules when it comes to the all-critical job interview.

Seriously – I get asked about what qualifications are needed, what attributes a CV must show, what clever research a candidate must do prior to the interview conversation. For me, they count, but not a huge amount. What I am looking for, before anything else, are these four powerful and critical traits:


This is all about attitude and approach. Are you passionate, committed, driven, relentless in your pursuit to be the best you can be? As Vidal Sassoon told me almost 20 years ago, ‘The only place success comes before work is in a dictionary’. Do you work hard on yourself? Do you ‘turn up’ for learning and growth? Will you give this your all? Now relax- this is not about long hours; but it is about you delivering 150% positive intent and commitment.


Bill Marsteller defined ‘Excellence’ as: Clarity of purpose: attention to detail. Are you relentlessly focused on the detail – on getting the detail right? It is the platform for excellence. Spell my name, or title, or company name wrong on the envelope or email, and I’ll bin your approach immediately. If you can’t get that right, how can I ever trust you with a client? As NutraSweet’s Cameron Hall smashed into me in 1987, ‘God is in the detail’. And you know what? It really, really is.


Are you personable? Can you hold a conversation? Are you a better listener than you are a talker? Do you pay attention? Do you look at me when I am speaking? Very basic stuff. But absolutely vital in this business. I caught up in Singapore with Jerry Smith, the regional chief of Ogilvy One a few weeks ago. I marveled at his incredibly persuasive and charming interpersonal skills. Engaging, self-deprecating, amusing, cheerful, enquiring, interested, respectful, cheeky, entertaining. Seriously – you look at Jerry and you know immediately why clients love him and want him on their team. That’s the power of interpersonal skills.


As advertising industry legend Chuck Porter told us at Cannes, he built his great business on the back of ‘client ninjas’…. Executives who were obsessed with delivering outstanding client service, who loved working on clients, who understood ‘clients come first’, who are comfortable to be totally service oriented and focused on others and the success of others. Whether internal ‘clients’ or client clients, are you absolutely relentlessly passionate about clients, their careers, success, products, satisfaction. You have to be if I am to hire you.

These are the four golden rules to making it through to a role opportunity if you’re talking to me. As my brother Greg – a leader of the recruitment industry – tells me: “Hire for attitude, train for skills.”

I have met thousands of ‘would be’ recruits over 30 years, and it’s those with these traits that shine through. Of course work on your academic qualifications and your experience in the trenches, work your networks and do your research, but show up at my desk and fail on any of these four golden rules, and that all counts for nothing. Harsh, but true.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 Responses to The Four Golden Rules To Getting Me To Hire You- Would You Get the Gig?

  1. Jayne Albiston March 20, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Absolutely, totally agree Chris. These 4 are crucial but in my experience, not always easy to find. People who have a natural ability in one of these areas, usually have to work on another. If they can identify their natural strengths and areas of brilliance and then work on the rest, they can come out winning.

    • Chris Savage March 20, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      True Jayne- thanks

  2. Stu Carson March 20, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Wow, surprised you hired me many years ago!

    Agree with you 100% on the detail thing. Lack of attention to detail was almost the undoing of my career in the early years. I learnt my lesson, thankfully, and it is the number one thing I insist of all the people that now report to me.

    • Chris Savage March 20, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      Ahh Stuart- how well I remember the discussions we had around detail. Glad it is now a thing of the past! Chris

      • Hugh Fraser March 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

        Marvellous exchange. Would love to see you enforcing the attention to detail Stu.

  3. Susan Redden Makatoa March 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    I was just saying yesterday how lucky I am to be doing something that I love. Extending this, I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who love what they do, too.

    Thanks for giving me a burl all those years ago, though like Stu, I wonder how I got through.

    • Chris Savage March 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      You got through because you’re GREAT at what you do Susan!

  4. Kate March 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I’m so glad you included ‘being obsessed with the details’. As a writer, it drives me insane to have to explain why correct punctuation or grammar or spelling is important. I keep telling the doubters (mostly teenagers) that if their writing is sloppy people will assume their thinking is sloppy.

    This point also reminds me of the story of Van Halen’s famous ‘no brown M&Ms’ clause.

    In a number of contracts, Van Halen insisted that the venue hosting their show provide a backstage bowl of M&Ms…with all the brown ones taken out.

    If the M&M bowl wasn’t there, or it included brown ones, they’d cancel the gig.

    But it wasn’t for the sake of rock ‘n’ roll egos. It was a way of quickly checking to see if the venue had bothered to read their entire contract. They figured if the detail of the M&Ms had been overlooked, the safety and load-bearing requirements may well have been ignored too. Smart thinking.

    • Chris Savage March 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Great story! A bit insane, but i love it!

  5. Sven March 21, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    I’m going use these from now on.

    Thanks Chris

    • Chris Savage March 21, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      And remember the (almost) words of Meat Loaf….”three out of four ain’t bad!”

  6. Marcella March 21, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Brilliant article Chris! One worth printing and having pinned up on the office desk.

    • Chris Savage March 21, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks Marcella!

  7. Heather March 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Wouldnt it be more poignant to pin the story to the front door rather than an office desk inside the building?

    • Chris Savage March 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      Heather- what do you mean?

  8. Camille March 27, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Chris. Was just thinking, Marcella says she would pin the story to the office desk…. but the story talks about how to get INTO the building in the first place. Once you are inside the building you are already in your dream job or at least have your foot in the door as a prospective employee – yes? Or perhaps Marcella means she will refer to the story as a guideline when reviewing CV’s?

    I think I’ve had too much coffee!

    • Chris Savage March 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Have another cup!

  9. debra spykerman April 2, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    I was just catching up with all my email and came across this. OMG Chris – it really brings back memories of my solid foundation at Burson. Do you know, after i left Burson in ’98 i went into events and then integrated marketing. Lost touch with the PR world. Then last year, i got a job as a communications director for Intellectual property of all things. It was scary. But It just happened and my philosophy is – all things happen for a reason. I had a good foundation at BM and i told myself everything i learnt will come back to me. And i was so right Chris. I was wondering how I was going to convince the media to be interested in an IP co where the deals made are P & C. And after working on selling business story angles (what i learnt at BM), i’m getting emails and phone calls and people are interested to talk to my CEO and learn about the co. It’s amazing. I always knew BM was my world and it hasn’t failed me yet.

    • Chris Savage April 3, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Good to hear from you Debra and thanks for the story! Chris

Leave a Reply