Digital agencies are growing rapidly. We need tech all-stars to keep up this pace—along with everyone else. While digital growth shows no signs of slowing, finding exceptional talent to not merely keep up but actually push boundaries, execute ideas, and position your agency on the forefront of innovation is no easy feat.
In fact, ManpowerGroup found that technicians and IT staff are two of the top 10 jobs U.S. employers are having difficulty filling, with 36% of employers stating a lack of available applicants or unskilled applicants as the reasons.
How can a digital agency set itself apart from a sea of competitors vying for the same all-star candidates? You need to be a peacock and distinguish your agency to prospective hires.
Build relationships before you're looking to hire
Long-term outreach can be a key factor to acquiring top talent in a crowded industry. Establishing rapport is the single most important differentiator. Even before you have an immediate position to fill, start developing relationships with stand-out individuals. Of course, you must do your research and tailor your approach to build a personal connection with the most qualified candidates.
For experienced recruits, find and network with leaders who meet your criteria months before you need to fill a position. Make an honest effort to identify which areas of their current positions aren't fulfilling and figure out how your company can enhance their career. Are they up for a promotion in six months? Reach out to them now to see if there's a mutual cultural fit and whether your organization can fast-track their growth.
Stand out to driven students with a mind for technology and digital innovation. Be attentive by sending personal invitations to visit your booth at career fairs. Help them help you by holding mock interviews or reviewing their resumes to show you're invested in their future.
Once you plant a seed with qualified candidates, you can show them the distinct benefits of working for your company early on, allowing the relationship to naturally develop over time instead of during a rushed hiring process.
Develop Internal Advocates
Your employees know the company and its true differentiators better than anyone else. Use this to your advantage. Make them visible during the first stages of recruitment.
Before a potential employee steps through your door, they should have a positive perception of your brand and a good idea of whether their skills match your needs, and vice versa.
While the rest of your competitors are deploying recruiters to handle the hiring process, have executives or managers reach out to recruits over the phone. Candidates respond much more effectively to someone who's immersed in your day-to-day initiatives and may turn out to be a new colleague.
When the leadership team is involved, it not only sends a message about the company culture, but also gives a passionate team member the opportunity to convince the candidate through personal anecdotes, which are far more valuable.
Tailor Your Position Descriptions
When you find a great tech candidate, you must prove your company's value. Let her know upfront you care about and can provide the tools necessary to propel her career forward.
Just keep in mind, offering a higher salary or vague project descriptions do not qualify as differentiators. This is what everyone else is doing. In the long run, it's not all about the salary. Truly top-notch recruits want to contribute value and develop a meaningful connection with their employers. Calling out how your company will achieve this for a particular individual is critical.
For students or recent college grads, make your work relatable. Younger hires are attracted to work that is relevant and they can easily share with friends or family. Highlight the well-known clients they will work with and offer project-based assignments, rather than sticking them in a single practice area for one client during the first few years of their tenure.
Many mid-level hires have experienced this same problem—they've been stuck in one project area for much of their career. Highlight how you can expand the scope of their expertise and introduce them to the entire project lifecycle. Alleviating career pain points is critical for attracting this level of talent.
On the other end, highly experienced, upper-level strategic candidates are likely already working for someone else. You must present an outstanding opportunity. These candidates are looking to drive and manage a significant part of your business, while working directly with top brands in your market. Clearly communicate this candidate will lead strategic initiatives for some of your most prominent clients, and follow up on your promise.
It's important to understand the hiring process isn't just about waiting for resumes to land on your desk, because many of these individuals won't even fit the bill. Using your team as advocates, actively developing long term relationships, and offering customized opportunities will showcase your company's strengths and attract rare and talented tech professionals in a crowded industry.
To do that, you need to be a little bit of a peacock.
Jim is the Executive Vice President of Operations for Acquity Group, a global brand eCommerce and digital marketing agency.
[Image: Flickr user Sergiu Bacioiu]