How to work with a talent agency / An interview with Jeremy Pair, Part 1

Good morning! Today I have a very special guest. His name is Jeremy, he’s from Portland and he has some super valuable insight to share. I’ll let him introduce himself. Jeremy, take it away:


I pair up the best creative talent to the best creative agencies in Portland on a contract basis. Sometimes contract-to-hire. I’ve been with Vitamin T, which is year old division of Aquent, for a year now. My background is in Visual Merchandising, Retail Brand & Product Development and Content Strategy & Copywriting. I got into helping people find jobs mainly because I was already doing it for free. I had a pretty good network in Portland. I had always been on the client-side and wanted to start working in the agency scene. This job has been great for building relationships but most of all, I’ve helped people find work.

Q / What’s the first thing you look for in a designer?

A / I’ll be completely blunt. The very first thing I look at is the portfolio. I’m looking for the kind of brands and agencies you’ve worked with. If you’ve worked with big brands and big agencies, it makes my job much easier. If a designer doesn’t have those, I look at aesthetic, quality and how they present their work. Of course I look at that always. And, I definitely don’t discredit someone without the big league experience. I need to see the work is on par with what my clients are looking for. But there is a place for almost everybody when skill sets match up to a client’s need at the right time. Hiring managers want to see you can solve their problem. Then, they care about how well you fit in. The stuff on your profile or resume like being a bike commuter, home brewer and waffle enthusiast is least important. But important if you can solve their problem.

Q / What’s a singular deal-breaker when it comes to someone you’re interviewing?

A / Attitude. If you have a bad attitude, false sense of entitlement or seem disengaged, I won’t feel comfortable sending you on an interview with one of my clients. I have loyalty not only to my talent but to my clients as well. I’ve been a little shocked at the lack of professionalism that I’ve encountered. But for the most part, most people I meet are of good nature, smart and willing to work hard.

Q / Can you give us an example of one of the most put-together designers you’ve met?

A / I had a designer that showed up 5 minutes early. He looked sharp: dark denim jeans, dress shoes, button-down with v-neck sweater and dark rimmed glasses. He was nice, polite and professional. He had an iPad version of his portfolio as well as a nice hard copy. Plus a resume. This designer could also speak to his work: what his role was, why he did what he did and what the result was. And then followed up with a thank you card he designed with letterpress. Very nice.

Q / Can you give us an example of one of the least put-together designers you’ve met?

A / I had a designer show up with nothing. No portfolio, no resume. Basically the opposite of the last example. She was a great designer, but had zero professionalism.

Q / How should one dress for an interview with you?

A / My expectation is that folks dress like they would in a professional creative setting. Most designers dress like they would if they worked at a hip agency. But I have clients that also have more business casual workplaces. I need to see that you could pull that off.

Q / Can you give us your top three tips for presenting oneself to an agency and/or client:

A / 1) Show you work first–most recognizable brands first. 2) Call them. Call. On the phone. It makes a huge difference. 3) Be the solution. Don’t look for people that will pay you. Look for people that have a problem you’re the best at solving.

Q / How would you recommend someone prepare to meet with you?

A / Like you would for any interview. I need to know what a designer is going to be like on an interview with my clients. But also be prepared to talk about your job search or what you’ve been doing to find work. Recruiters can be very helpful giving feedback on your portfolio and presentation. They want to help your professional development. That’s why I’m in the business is to help people. I enjoy it. But helping you also helps me. Recruiters aren’t always design experts but they know what clients are looking for.


Lucky for you, that’s not all! There will be more from Jeremy on the blog Monday. In the meantime, if you want to get in contact with him you canĀ  shoot him an email, call 503-797-6607, holler at him via twitter or visit his website.

6.8.12 // Topics: Tips for designers, Working with clients

Comments (4)

  • J
    June 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm |

    I’m not sure if Jeremy is answering questions here, but for the sake of anonymity I’ll ask it here instead of the methods listed since this happened at a talent agency in Portland.

    I went to an agency that prides itself on technical creatives, the ones working in code. The initial person I worked with was very enthusiastic, really seemed to care about my previous roles, my current one and why I was looking to move on.

    When I came in for the sit-down, another rep handled my case and almost immediately informed me that the lack of seeing a “Senior” in any of my titles was going to put me at the bottom of their database without looking at my portfolio and skillset and comparing that to those “Seniors”.

    Now to me, titles are seemingly worthless; a Senior Designer at Company ABC is doing something completely different than the one at Company XYZ. Often times when I see someone’s portfolio and then see that they’re the Lead or the Director, I question what it takes to throw those words onto my resume. And who is to say those in their database were just fudging to begin with?

    So I guess my question is, on the flipside, how do you as a creative discern whether or not a creative talent agency is worth your time and knows enough of their game to be able to actually help you? I felt pretty burned after this meeting, especially considering that I could tell the person working with me was not technical or creative themselves, so who were they to speak to my credentials?

    • megan
      June 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm |

      J – Great questions. I’ll let Jeremy know you’ve posted so he can pen a reply.

    • June 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

      Hi J,

      Great question. I totally understand your situation. You’re right; senior and director mean different things to different companies. However, I’m not sure how agencies manage who’s at “the top of their database.”

      But I can tell you from my experience, I know my clients and I try to know my talent as much as possible. If I know what a client needs and what their culture is like, and I know what my talent has done and what they are like to work with, I can make a match regardless of title.

      I don’t know what that particular recruiter’s motivation was. But if someone tells me they want a senior role and don’t have senior level work/experience, I’d be hesitant to present them to my clients as a senior. Not that they couldn’t do it or are not capable, it’s just harder on my end to present someone for a role without the experience.

      I suppose a creative discerns by whether or not an agency is matching up skills and experience to the client’s needs. Not just titles. But the recruiter should be knowledgeable enough about their clients to they know what senior means at each client–and select matching candidates based on that. Hope that helps.

    • J
      June 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |

      Thanks so much for the reply, Jeremy. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t looking for a senior role, I was just asked to swing by and talk to them a little bit more.

      My hangup is that going off of someone’s written word is nothing compared to actually looking at their work and I’d expect a talent agency worth their weight to understand the fundamentals of the type of work and workers they place. I find it hard to imagine that a company looking to hire would pay an agency that didn’t understand what they were doing. Admittedly writing this sounds a little arrogant, but I took time out of my workday to basically be told they had nothing for me when they’d had my resume and portfolio for weeks at that point.

      Is it fine and dandy to ask them if they have experience in the industry for which they are placing without sounding like an ass?

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