Art & Commerce: Help Wanted

Hiring great talent: How hard are you trying?
How many times have you heard these words from colleagues, competitors, even yourself? “Our biggest challenge is hiring and retaining good staff.”
The shrinking pool of talented job candidates in advertising, particularly in senior management, has made recruitment one of the industry’s most formidable tasks. Yet in today’s competitive market, hiring good people has never been more important.
But despite all the talk, I can’t help wondering how serious some agency executives are about their recruiting efforts. Sure, they’ve inflated compensation packages and are spending more than ever on headhunters–but where’s the real commitment? Are agency leaders doing anything to personally ensure they attract the best employees?
That’s the question my partners and I asked ourselves a few years ago when, owing to several large account wins, our agency had to triple its staff. We needed to recruit a large number of account and creative employees with experience in our clients’ industries–and convince them to move their careers and families to Columbus, Ohio. Initially, the task seemed overwhelming, but not insurmountable–if we were willing to take the time and effort to hire the right
way. We did research on effective recruiting strategies and found that, while there’s no magic formula for attracting talent, a few common-sense strategies can make all the difference.
1) Get senior managers involved in recruitment No one will be more effective at convincing intelligent, talented people to join your team than your senior managers. When your top staff leads the hiring process, it sends a signal that finding good candidates is just as important to your agency as finding good clients.
2) Focus on the candidate, not the company Stop telling prospective employees how great your agency is, how many awards you’ve won or how your billings have increased–they’ve heard it all before. Instead, listen to them. Find out what they’re looking for in a job. You may be surprised to learn it’s not a bigger salary or a better title. Knowing what is important to them will help you to deliver your most compelling sales pitch.
3) Pay attention to small details I can’t tell you how often I hear stories about interviewers who are late for meetings with job prospects, who don’t return phone calls promptly or who come to interviews unprepared. These blunders may seem insignificant, but to your candidates, they speak volumes about your commitment to hiring.
Adhering to these simple guidelines has helped our agency hire scores of smart, experienced employees–many of whom were lured away from better-known companies in larger markets. And because our emphasis on cultivating great talent doesn’t end on the date of hire, we’ve successfully retained most of them, too.
What we learned is that recruiting good people isn’t so complicated; it just takes time and commitment. If agency executives are willing to put the same energy into hiring that they put into their new-business pitches, they might be surprised by their own success.