Hill Holliday's Mission To Hire Industry Outliers Pays Off

Hill Holliday is adding two people that reinforce the agency's commitment to have 25% of all new hires come from outside the advertising industry by 2020. 

The goal, set in 2017 by President Chris Wallrapp has been met ahead of schedule. It was created to increase diversity of background and experience across agency teams. 

Robert Yee departs the consulting world to join as senior vice president account director while Ailine Tan, previously with AMP New York, is named senior vp account operations. 

"In the past we’d have a very specific job description, hire someone whose skills matched those needs and plug them into the role," says Wallrapp. Now, "on-boarding includes a lot more conversations about the business challenges our clients are facing," and how we as an agency can leverage the new hire’s skills, their creative problem solving and analytical thinking to work in new ways to solve those challenges, he adds. "The process is much more nimble and fluid than in the past, and it’s a lot more fun as a result."



Hill Holliday has also become more "open and flexible" when looking at industries that are its biggest competitors in terms of attracting talent, he says. "We’re invested in hiring people who are a cultural add to our company, rather than a cultural fit."

One benefit has been "valuable insight" into how other companies, cultures and businesses operate that in turn can help the agency be more agile, creatively driven, and operationally efficient, says Wallrapp. 

This revised hiring process has required the agency to alter its recruitment processes. "It’s easy to be tempted by the old habit of 'filling the role ASAP' with someone who can jump right in,” he says. A few years back, the agency introduced a “screen team” outreach methodology and developed a specialized behavioral interview training to assess values and behaviors as opposed to specific skills, says Wallrapp. “This has really driven us to evaluate talent in a broader, more interesting and more human way,” he says. 

Above all, potential employees must fit what he calls the "Hill Holliday culture" of "Humble, Hungry, Human." 

Wallrapp admits challenging the traditional and expected ways of working can be uncomfortable. "But that’s the whole point. We’re becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable and that is making us better."

Thus far, this experiment is proving successful. More than half of these non-traditional hires are still with the agency today, and 30% of them have been promoted.

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