Hiring the Best

To make the best begin with the best . . .

by Mary Goljenboom

Bernice Fitz-Gibbon was the head of advertising and publicity at New York’s Gimbels department store in the 1940s and early 50s. Her policy was to only hire Phi Beta Kappas for copywriting jobs.

She wrote in her book Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me:

At Gimbels, we offered hard work, stern training, challenge and opportunity, and, ultimately, some pretty handsome cash rewards. But first, training and work. We wanted hustlers and scramblers, the type that takes on tough problems for fun.

There are many people like that, and they don’t have to have college degrees. College degrees do not guarantee brilliance. . . . It is true, however, that college does provide some kind of rough sorting system for brains. It was on the latter theory that we adopted our recruiting policy.

Fitz-Gibbon summed up her hiring policy quoting an old slogan for Campbell’s Soup “To make the best begin with the best . . .”

Her method comes to mind because of the report “Moving the Goalposts,” recently published by the labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. The firm found that an increasing number of employers demand a bachelor’s degree for jobs that previously did not require it. Burning Glass reached its conclusions by comparing “the education levels of workers currently employed in an occupation – a measure of past employer preferences – with the education levels employers are currently demanding for the same occupation.”

Why the change? The report says there are two common explanations.

  1. Some jobs have become more complex and require more skills.
  2. Employers are being more selective, favoring more highly educated workers.

The hiring practices of Bernice Fitz-Gibbon fit precisely under explanation #2.

 

Sources
Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me: How to Earn $90,000 a Year in Retail Advertising by Bernice Fitz-Gibbon (Simon and Schuster, 1967)

Moving the Goalposts: How  Demand for a Bachelor’s Degree is Reshaping the Workforce by Burning Glass Technologies (September 2014), http://www.burning-glass.com

 

Copyright 2014 Ferret Research, Inc.

Working Mothers circa 1940

by Mary Goljenboom

Shirley Polykoff faced the difficult choices most working mothers struggle with today. She was a working mother in the 1930s and 40s.

In the midst of the Depression, I had borne two daughters. And in the next ten years I had experienced all the problems of trying to hold onto a career so that the family wouldn’t notice that I had one (although my daughters have since assured me that they certainly did notice) and to handle the home so that it wouldn’t appear to the career that there even was a family that might make any claims on my attention.

Who was Shirley Polykoff?

Today she is remembered as one of the most successful advertising copywriters of her time and, in 1959, the first woman elected vice president of the Foote, Cone & Belding agency. The famous Clairol hair color slogan, “Does she . . . or doesn’t she? Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure,” is Polykoff’s. But in the 1930s and 40s she was a young woman constructing a career in advertising, a marriage, and a family.

As a young married couple, Polykoff and her husband, George Halperin, tried to find the roles that fit their personalities and aspirations. Halperin’s law partners “did not find it seemly” that a wife should work, so, for a time, Polykoff attempted the role of stay-at-home wife and mother. It was not satisfactory for the family and in her autobiography she describes how they ended it. “George was very patient for about two weeks. Then one evening he came home with flowers. ‘Listen, sweetie. You make a lousy little woman in the kitchen.’” Polykoff happily returned to advertising work. She figured out ways to juggle work and family, including hiring nannies to assist her.

Obviously much has changed since Polykoff and her husband made their decisions about work and family balance. As a society we still need to improve the supports available to workers with family obligations. In this area there is no “one size fits all”. The supports that former Yahoo’s executive Marissa Mayer can afford to put into place—building a nursery next to her office—are available to those of us working from home but not those of us working from company cubicles. Flexible schedules and workplaces and good child- or elder-care options are vital.

 

Source
Does she … or doesn’t she? : And how she did it by Shirley Polykoff

 

Copyright 2013 Ferret Research, Inc.