At first glance, the marketing industry appears strong as ever heading into 2019. Digital marketing roles have doubled in 2012, and ad agency jobs are nearing an all-time high for the first time in nearly 20 years. But despite the industry’s robust overall position, in-house marketing divisions and ad agencies are still grappling with the challenges of building a team that possesses the combination of traditional and digital skills needed to thrive in today’s media landscape. That’s why a new generation of marketing leaders are adopting universal standards to change the way their teams assess and hire prospective employees, and their competitors would be wise to follow suit.
It’s not enough for today’s marketing professionals to generate creative ideas and engaging copy. While those skills remain crucial, marketers are also expected to possess expertise in marketing analytics, CRM and personalization, optimization, web development, search engine marketing and more. In a recent survey of marketing professionals, over 50 percent of respondents stated that each of these skills is considered either “very important” or “extremely important” in their role. It’s clear that digital marketing is no longer a siloed niche within the industry but rather a critical element of all marketing roles.
The rapid change in skills demanded from today’s marketers also means that a degree in marketing and other traditional pedigrees are no longer always reliable indicators of the industry’s most sought-after creative and technical skills. As a result, both agencies and in-house marketing teams are struggling to identify properly skilled candidates, and job candidates are applying for positions without fully understanding the necessary qualifications. In turn, open roles remain unfilled for weeks on end, leaving marketing teams understaffed. And once a candidate is hired, marketing supervisors are often finding that they lack critical skills like web development and data analysis, limiting productivity and diverting additional resources to ensure that new hires have the right mix of relevant skills.
Meanwhile, these outdated approaches to hiring are also limiting the industry’s ability to improve diversity and create more representative marketing teams, even if the talent is out there. The latest data from the United States Department of Labor indicates that only 15.4 percent of advertising and media jobs are held by people of color.
Additionally, studies have shown that men are more likely to be promoted to senior marketing roles and receive greater funding for their teams. Universal standards have the ability to identify and eliminate biases prevalent in the hiring process and create new opportunities for job applicants who have been traditionally left at a disadvantage while building more dynamic marketing teams in the process.
That’s why many CMOs are pushing to change the industry’s hiring practices to focus on job-ready marketing skills rather than resume platitudes. In January, dozens of major companies across industries—from Lyft to L’Oréal to Calvin Klein to Pinterest—announced that they were exploring the use of new universal standards to guide their hiring process.
These companies will be using a universal, standardized assessment to measure candidates’ technical marketing skills. Candidates who perform successfully on the exam will receive marketing credentials that demonstrate their qualifications to all 30-plus companies that have utilized the standards. Hiring managers on these marketing teams are then committed to interviewing candidates based on their possession of these exam-based credentials. It’s the first major introduction of professional certifications for the marketing industry, with the credentials expected to play a role similar to the CPA for accountants or Series 7 exams for stockbrokers.
A public commitment to skills-based hiring from dozens of corporate marketing divisions is a major first step toward the implementation of universal standards that can define, simplify and professionalize the modern marketing industry. By shifting the way we think about hiring across marketing roles, we can address skills gaps head-on and fully reap the benefits of digitalization. Moreover, by looking beyond pedigree-based resumes to focus on defined skills with practical applications in the workplace, marketing teams can expand and diversify existing talent pipelines. Industry leaders would be well-served to join ongoing efforts to adopt universal standards needed to build the foundation for a modern hiring approach capable of meeting 21st-century talent demands.