Olson Seeks Interns with Phones, No Calls Allowed

Olson's unique call for intern applications may reflect a larger trend of companies aiming to integrate technology into the hiring process.

Are local ad agencies out to destroy the traditional hiring model?

Minneapolis-based Olson on Wednesday announced that it is accepting applications for its 2011 summer internship, or “O-ternship”-but the application process is a bit out of the ordinary.

The program carries the following tagline: “Apply by phone. Please, no calls.” Olson asks interested candidates to submit creative work to be considered for the position-but there's a twist: The work must be created solely by using a phone.

Chief Creative Officer Dennis Ryan said in a Wednesday phone interview that the company's reasoning is simple: “Technology has democratized production.” Nearly everyone has a phone on them at all times-many of which record high-definition video-and this “ease of production” allows people to express creativity through technology, he says.

“We're looking to see how far afield people are willing to let their imaginations run,” Ryan said.

The company asks applicants to create “something cool, meaty, and beautiful” by using only a phone. Candidates then post their submissions online through an uploading site like YouTube and e-mail a link to their final product to Olson. (Finalists will also be asked to send a rŽsumŽ and cover letter.)

Olson will feature each of the submissions it receives on a company blog, which Ryan says will allow interested applicants to view their competition and let the company provide instant feedback.

Ryan expects most submissions to be videos, but he anticipates a breadth of styles, especially given the lack of rules provided by Olson. “There are so many different tones videos can take, and it will show how far people can push the medium.”

Christina Clawson, Olson's brand manager, said that the agency will hire nine interns this summer-three of whom will focus on creative roles and will be selected based on their phone submissions and a subsequent interview process.

Olson's interns perform a variety of tasks, but each gets to take part in a client project near the conclusion of his or her term, according to Ryan.

Olson is accepting applications through April 15, and the agency plans to announce its selections during the first week of May. The summer internship-which pays $12 an hour-runs from June 6 through September 2.

Click here to view Olson's video explanation of the hiring process. Perhaps meant to spark ideas for potential interns, the video was created using only a phone.

A new trend may be emerging as local companies integrate technology into the hiring process. Olson's unique call for entries comes only days after another local firm, Campbell Mithun, announced that it has hired six summer interns based on 13 tweets submitted by each applicant.

Ryan says Olson's internship program has been a long time in the making and the company was “absolutely not” influenced by Campbell Mithun's Twitter initiative, although he's not surprised that two companies so immersed in the digital space would develop such programs at a similar time.