A recruiter's view: winning (and keeping) talent in the performance marketing world

It’s a candidate market but that doesn’t mean organisations can’t up their game when it comes to attracting strong candidates.

As part of the Performance Marketing Workforce series, PMW spoke to Ed Davidson, Director – Digital Marketing and e-commerce at industry recruitment specialist Major Players, to understand the dos and don'ts of recruiting talent for the performance marketing industry, and the state of the market amid the talent shortage.

Q. What trends are you seeing in terms of demand for performance marketing roles?

“There’s been an increase in direct to consumer businesses entering the market – and especially through COVID, alot of traditional clients went through a huge digital transformation. That’s driven the demand for paid advertising.

“From a role perspective, over the past 12 months we have seen huge demand for paid social specialists in particular. Prior to that, for around three to four years, there was a really strong bias towards paid search. That's not to say there isn’t a demand for paid search marketers as this is constant. But with clients’ budget shifting towards social platforms, there's just been a real increase in demand for social ads specialists coming through.

“There's also been quite a consistent demand for SEO specialists this year. We've seen a lot of roles coming through that are, SEO, content optimisation positions or performance content marketing roles. And there's been a very regular demand from clients for these specialists, both on a permanent and freelance basis.”

Q. What about the levels of roles – any specific examples of seniority where we’re drawing a shortage?

“The bottleneck in terms of demand for talent is the salary range between £40k and £60k – someone who’s coming in to manage a small number of junior team members, but not ultimately leading the division.

“There is often a huge demand from hiring businesses for people who can be confident in their decision making, act autonomously, contribute to strategy, but then who are equally happy to get involved in the execution. That tends to lend itself to somebody who's at the midway point perhaps in their career.

“People at that stage of their career, if in a business that's doing well, are often on a decent progression path. So they are looking at what their opportunities are internally and there's more opportunity for them to develop and grow within a business at that level.

Q. What are candidates telling you about what they want or why they might be tempted by a new role?

“Work/life balance and flexible working are still big factors at play. Our [salary] survey found that 68% [of candidates] say the most important factor when looking for a new job is flexible working and work/life balance.

“But we're not finding that they all want to be fully remote, and in some instances fully remote is as much of a turnoff as five days in the office. Overwhelmingly, the number one preference is a hybrid split where they can go somewhere, meet their colleagues and work collaboratively, but then aren't expected to be going to an office five days a week.

“What’s also more prevalent is that candidates and talent in general are looking to work at a business where they feel that their values are aligned. And we’re supporting clients on making sure they've got a really well established employer value proposition – making sure that they're investing in things like employer branding and putting a lot of focus around the opportunities that talent will get within the business beyond just that role.

“There's definitely, within digital marketing, a big demand for access to learning and development – something that has always been true within digital marketing is that it's ever changing. People want to be working somewhere where they're going to get access to the latest technology and training development and digital skills.

Q. Where would say that some companies are outperforming others when it comes to what they offer?

“It is commonplace these days for there to be a bonus opportunity within a digital and performance marketing role which isn't always available. And because of performance marketing being so clearly linked to sales and growth, normally candidates feel that it makes sense for them to be offered a bonus or something linked to that.

“We recruit a lot within the scale up or startup space and within those types of environments, where it’s common for there to be an opportunity to get involved from a stock or equity perspective, which there is a demand for from candidates who are interested in working in that type of environment.

“Outside of flexible working, what we found is the second most in-demand aspect of a benefits package is the holiday allowance. In line with more flexibility and trust, people want the opportunity to be able to do their work and achieve what's expected of them and be able to take more holiday days. Alongside salary, it is quite commonplace that that'll be an element of the package that the candidate would want to negotiate.

“Beyond that, there’s other types of days off being offered, like wellbeing days or charity days. There's a few businesses that we've been working with recently that are offering ‘work from anywhere’. We've also had some companies, especially within the tech space, which have started to offer their entire company days off on certain days in the year, which I think is really forward thinking.”

Q. How can employers most effectively promote their employer brand?

“In the current market, given that candidates who are looking to move jobs have a large number of opportunities available to them to consider, it's really important that companies are giving them an insight as to what it will be like to work at that business.

“Also, making sure that companies, if they are in a position to do so, demonstrate that they know what their employee value proposition is, and they understand what their company values are and that they're going to live and breathe them.

“There are ways to go about doing that. Having an optimised website for recruiting people is key, making sure that you have clearly laid out on your website what the company values are and give insight into the culture, whether that's through videos or having a news feed on the site, which gives insight into recent projects that have been worked on. Anything that’s going to allow the candidate to get a better idea of the business itself.

“Developing a strong diversity, equity and inclusivity approach is another step that can help attract talent to a business. That's something that we hear more now – candidates want to be working somewhere where there is a policy in place and attracting diverse talent.”

Q. What are the priorities to ensure a great candidate experience?

“From a recruitment perspective, it's about being efficient. If you're interested in a candidate, it's important that you have a streamlined recruitment process. What I mean by that is going from CV submission, to interview, to second interview, then to offer. The average time to hire that we are finding at the moment is between 35 and 40 days.

“It’s still commonplace for there to be a task included and I do advise including one as best practice to include something, but some companies have, in the past, created a task which is asking a bit too much of the candidates – and that can be a deterrent. It's important to make sure that it's not going to take too much of somebody's time to prepare and that you're not getting a candidate to do an actual piece of work for you.”

Q. Where do you stand on generalists versus specialists in the industry?

“There is still a huge demand for specialists in digital marketing and that will continue.

“There's been within paid media specifically so many variations of whether or not agencies, for example, go down the channel specialist route or have people who work across multichannel, and the way that's set up still changes from agency to agency. So I think there are opportunities for both channel specialists and multidisciplinary roles.

“For channel specialist roles, it's common for agency side talent to move in-house. For multichannel positions or strategy roles, it's more common for in-house people to move into an agency or consultancy environment. I would say that the ability to move sides is greater now than it was in the past, because there's more in-house talent with the experience of being executional, which is required in an agency environment.”

Q. What should hiring managers and organisations be investing in?

“It’s important to consider hiring and finding the best talent through multiple ways and to partner with a business that can offer solutions for your talent challenges.

“Consider working on your employee value proposition and doing more research into different ways in which you can attract talent, rather than thinking of recruitment as transactional, which I think can typically be the mistake.

“It goes back to doing proper research, before going into the recruitment process and making sure you have a really clear idea of what it is that you're hiring for. Get specific, but carefully – as much as vague job descriptions are also a turnoff, huge wishlists of experience are equally so.”