We spoke to Dan de Lord within the Art Deco halls of Mortimer House, about hiring, the future of work and interview faux pas.
What led you to your role today?
I completely fell into talent acquisition. But what made me stay is that I've always been interested in people. I studied anthropology when I was younger, and I’ve always wanted to learn more about how people organise themselves, how culture can be created, and how things collectively evolve.
Who had a huge influence on your career and what did you learn from them?
Several people have had an influence on my career — both positively and negatively. There’s a big learning in that, understanding both what you respond well to and what you don’t respond well to.
The people I’ve noticed I respond well to have been the managers who lead with a trust-based approach. They’ll be very transparent about what the strategic ambition is and very inviting in terms of creating space for me within that. The ones who would include me in projects and situations that I have 'no right' [inverted commas] to be there in terms of a title or remit — but they have recognised that that's a personal interest or a development area and that it creates the right culture to be inclusive.
“The standard of answers often reflects the standard of questions.”
You have overseen hiring strategy globally, how does it differ from region to region?
The base ambition is still the same: that you want to hire the best people or people with the most potential, and you want to create a positive experience for both the people within the company and the people potentially joining it. I really believe employers have a responsibility to create opportunities and drive employability over and above just for their employees.
But culturally — and particularly legislatively — it's very different, and being able to have that intercultural understanding and know what to dial up and what to dial down is important.
Which hires are you most proud of?
We recently hired a Head of Strategy for London. The search took a little while but I think we’ve found someone who is a brilliant match for our thinking. It just proves the value of taking that time and committing to your brief as well as connecting to the ambition that you want to have as the company.
What's the one thing you'd love to see as part of someone's application package?
I’ve seen all sorts included with applications — the strangest was a series of face masks of the person. It stood out I guess!
But I'm less interested in what you've done, and more in what you want to do and why. Not you’ve worked for x, y and z, but more about your transferable skills, your motivations and why you want to keep doing this.
How important is confidence in an interview?
As someone who has a tendency towards introversion myself, to me ultra-confidence isn’t the be all and end all in an interview. If we spent our time just hiring those extroverted characters, then we’d miss out a whole range of groups of people and experiences.
Ultimately I look for people that can tell me in quite simple terms: what they do (preferably explained to me as if I don’t know what they do) and hopefully something I didn’t know about before.
As much as I want to see evidence of what people have done themselves — whether it's from an ideas perspective or from an implementation perspective or a team perspective — really I'm looking to see what you can bring to this company, because you're not moving with the same team.
Any answers you are bored of?
The standard of answers often reflects the standard of questions. I am not a big fan of questions like “'Where do you see yourself in five years' time?” because those types of questions breed bad answers. As interviewers, we have a duty to make sure that we are asking the right questions or asking good questions so that not only can we keep improving our craft as interviewers — but ultimately give the person we are asking the questions the fairest chance of answering them.
How honest is too honest in an interview?
Honesty is a fundamental value and is hugely important. But if you mean oversharing, then essentially you have to remember that this is a work interview and it's designed to know you as a person in a work setting — rather than in a social setting.
That aside, too much personal information can bring biases out of the interviewer, so there’s that aspect to it too. So my advice would be to leave some of the social side at the door.
Is ageism ingrained in advertising?
I think so, yes. Whether that's explicit or implicit — like how the older population decreases after a certain age point because this industry is hugely intense — is unclear.
I think that from a flexibility perspective it is getting better, and things like working from other locations or arranging working hours as preferred by the employee are making work more accessible and democratic in many ways. As ever, there is still work to do.
Is working from home here to stay?
I definitely think work from home is here to stay, and I hope it does. Just from a personal perspective, it has allowed me to spend much more time with my young family — and I know that a huge number of people have engineered their lives around being able to work this way now. I can’t imagine reversing that.
What makes it interesting is that we now need to be able to create and sustain an intentional culture that works whether you're working from home or in the office. What is it that makes it different to work for one company from home versus the other? That is the challenge that needs to be solved at an enterprise scale.
What kind of new roles and skills do you think are going to emerge in the coming years in terms of new roles and skills?
I always think back to something an MD told me two or three years ago about a conversation we’d had with McKinsey. Their perspective was that they were gearing up to deal with thousands of job titles that they didn't even know existed at that point, and I think they were right to be.
From Generative AI to AR/VR to all things Web 3.0, there’s a lot already happening — but I don’t think anyone really has a finite handle on what all these roles will be just yet. I’m not sure we’d have predicted Prompt Engineers being in such demand a year ago!