Tue 4 Sep, 2018

Tackling the recruitment crisis in digital marketing: mistakes companies need to stop making when it comes to hiring

It’s strange to think that just 30 years ago the World Wide Web didn’t exist.

30 years ago we couldn’t compare a selection of decent pubs on TripAdvisor before making a Sunday lunch booking, or check out the price of a pair of shoes online whilst in-store for a discount. We had no idea what our ex was up to, our holiday snaps stayed in dusty photo albums and if you wanted to message someone, you sent a letter.

No social media, no apps, no filters or hashtags. The terms “Google it”, “Order an Uber”, “Is it on Prime?” and “Netflix and chill” were yet to come about and everyone had a very solid excuse for not being on Facebook.

There wasn’t even something as prehistoric as Bebo, MSN Messenger or a Motorola flip phone. The extent of the term “digital” in 1995 was that just 1% of the whole world had an Internet connection.

It’s scary to think how rapidly this digital world has developed in a timeframe that isn’t even a lifetime, and how quickly it’s adapted itself to become a key component of our lives – which will only continue to intensify.

So it’s not surprising that the concept of marketing has also evolved drastically over the past 30 years to reap the benefits of this digital revolution.

Traditional marketing quickly evolved into digital marketing, and digital marketing has swiftly spawned a host of sub categories; growth marketing, performance marketing, inbound and outbound marketing, which in turn can be broken down into SEO, programmatic, mobile, social, PPC – the list goes on.

The skills needed by marketers today have increased in complexity – it’s no longer just down to creativity and good copy. To excel in digital marketing candidates with STEM subject degrees are favoured as the focus on data and analytics to assess a marketing team’s efficiency are vital. “Data-driven” is the new buzzword for our industry and the number of channels a marketer can use to get in front of their target audience have multiplied rapidly; creating a generation of specialists.

The industry is developing so quickly companies can’t keep up with the number of new skills needed in their toolkit, and the pool of exceptional multi-talented candidates is small; the market just can’t keep up.

Meanwhile VC money is pouring into scaling start-ups in London, which means these companies are on the hunt for the marketers who can take their businesses to the next level. Unfortunately, it also means they’re all on the look out to hire the same kind of candidate and the market is furious; demand by far outstrips supply.

We have entered a new era that has seen more jobs available to marketers than ever. Chip Cutter wrote an insightful article on LinkedIn which spoke about how large numbers of candidates are now “ghosting” their employers at the interview stage, agreeing interview slots which they never turn up to and even accepting the job only to fail to arrive on their first day. This is a generation of people who aren’t worried about their options.

As the role of the modern-day marketer continues to increase in complexity, hiring for these roles will become increasingly difficult. So you’d think in an industry that has a short supply of candidates to fill the abundance of jobs that are available, employers would be optimising their hiring process to catch the best talent – but sadly this isn’t the case.

Hiring has always been a challenging process, but for digital marketing (and it’s many sub-categories) it’s now particularly demanding. If you don’t optimise the recruitment process you make it harder for your company to attract the top candidates – and competition for good quality professionals is so fierce that someone else will beat you to it if you don’t increase your competitive edge now.

There are six very common mistakes that companies are making when it comes to the hiring process, mistakes which can be easily rectified to avoid losing the best talent to your competitors.

1. Taking too long to complete the process

Hiring doesn’t need to be the long, drawn out procedure that everyone associates with recruitment. In fact, two weeks is the optimum timeframe for the whole interview process, with 3 interviews per candidate.

So many great candidates slip through the net because an employer feels the need to wait for a similarly strong contestant to enter the scene for comparative’s sake.

In today’s market you would be very lucky to get two incredibly strong potentials vying for your role, and even luckier if you had them both in the mix for long enough to choose between the two – before someone else snaps them up.

If a candidate ticks most of your boxes and is a cultural fit don’t draw out the process purely to play the waiting game, because they won’t hang around for long. Employers should have a clear idea of what they’re looking for which must be at the forefront of their minds before the first candidate even walks into the first interview.

Your first interview should be an initial screening and an introductory overview. It’s essential to pitch your company here and sell your business to the candidate, to ensure you secure their interest and get them excited about the concept of potentially working for you.

Your second should be an in-depth assessment and contain tests (if necessary) or questions that reveal the extent of the candidate’s marketing ability and expertise. At this stage you should have a solid idea of who is a “yes” and who is a “no”.

Your final interview should cover a presentation of work the candidate has prepared beforehand, and go into the specifics of the offer and how the candidate visualises themself in the role – what changes will they make, what aspirations do they have for your company, how do they see themselves and the role developing over the next few years?

Assess your candidates and close your top choice quickly – before they have time to look elsewhere.

Whilst it may be daunting to fit this in to a two week timeframe, employers should make the hire one of their top priorities in those two weeks. Otherwise, mistakes can occur just as easily…

2. Not prioritising the hire or setting aside enough time to do it properly

This digital marketer is going to heavily influence the performance of your company and will be the person who’s taking the time to get you in front of your target audience.

Therefore, you need to take the time to choose the right person for the job.

Whilst the hiring process doesn’t have to be drawn out or lengthy, it should be a key priority for the amount of time you’ve allocated for it. Multiple afternoons spent in interviews and ensuring you’ve set aside a substantial amount of time to confer with your key colleagues is crucial.

You should also ensure that you notify the candidate or recruitment agency you’re using as soon as you possibly can when you’ve decided a candidate is either through to the next round or got the job, as it lessens the risk of them looking elsewhere.

Likewise, if a candidate has been dropped you should also inform them or your agency promptly with satisfactory feedback as to why they weren’t right for the role – even if it’s just a couple of sentences. It gives your company a good reputation and stops you burning bridges with your candidates – and their contacts – in the future.

3. Not feeling the need to sell your company

Beforehand, any company offering a job was a company you wanted to work for, but as we’ve already established this now isn’t the case – and especially not in digital marketing where demand has outstripped supply.

Companies forget that interviews are very much a two-way process, and candidates now need to be sold just as much on the company as you need to be on them. The most common questions from candidates are “What do you like most about working here?” or “Why should I work for you?”

Don’t go into the interview without thinking of answers to those questions first – every single one of your interviewers should know your company pitch. What’s great about your company, what makes it a fun and exciting place to work? Why is this opportunity too good to pass up?

4. Pulling salaries out of thin air

So often budgets are set out of context or against internal calibration, whereas you need to remember you’re hiring in a market that has different rules. Do your research, what are other companies offering for the role you are recruiting for?

Remember that you aren’t going to entice and retain high-end talent with tight budget restrictions. The market is now candidate-driven, so if you can’t offer a competitive salary, you will not secure the top-tier talent you’re seeking.

5. Hunting for a unicorn with every bell and whistle attached

Prioritise the fundamentals you want your recruit to have and understand one person can’t do everything at once. Marketing has increased in complexity and expecting one person to have mastered every aspect of it isn’t realistic.

Be reasonable, assess what you’re looking for from a marketer and ask professionals in similar positions whether it’s too much, too little or just right. You shouldn’t be compiling a shopping list of desirable attributes and exact match experience; you should be looking for core competencies.

Be aware that the industry develops on a daily basis, so the techniques and practises you’re looking for today may be ineffective in a year’s time. The focus should not be on whether your candidate has exactly the right experience; it should be whether they have the core skills in place, with the potential to learn new ones that can be applied in your industry.

Don’t forget that on-going training is key to a successful digital marketing team, so don’t rule a candidate out just because they haven’t jumped through every single hoop yet. If you can see they have a track record of successfully learning new skills and they tick most of the boxes then it’s a candidate to consider. You’ll not only gain a near perfect employee, but it will also make your company a more appealing place to work if the recruit can see they’ll be invested in and learn new skills – which can be used as a powerful tool for retention in the future.

6. Only looking for candidates in your sector

The core principals of digital marketing remain reasonably standard across most sectors, so if you’re a mattress company and your recruit hasn’t marketed a mattress before, but they have an impressive background of online marketing within the gaming industry, it would be foolish to rule them out as you’ll only be significantly reducing your pool of potential prospects.

Plus, if you want someone to rethink or re-imagine a function then you don’t need to hire a cookie cutter candidate. A professional who has worked an identical job in a similar organisation is not going to query practices, strategies or decisions as readily as an outsider.

The best subject new employee can raise is “Why do we do this like this?” because the question sparks the need to look at decisions from the outside in. By applying what they’ve learnt from other industries, these employees can look at your problems from a new angle, and see new opportunities and solutions. You won’t get that level of reassessment from a same-sector professional.

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