A conversation with 24 Seven’s Nabeel Chowdhury, Vice President of Recruiting/GM Seattle about how companies can attract and win over increasingly coveted Digital Marketing talent.
How would you begin to advise a client who’s putting together their digital marketing team?
To start, I would encourage any firm to figure out who their audience is, and determine which channels they frequent. And this is why the greatest demand right now is for digital strategists as a whole. These professionals help determine what channels brands should be using – the initial step to figuring out what the digital marketing strategy is going to be. These dedicated strategists look across the customer base and who interacts with the products and how, narrowing down which channels will be most useful. The key channels will drive the demand for talent. We are seeing a lot of interest in paid social media channels and email marketing – demand generation channels. And then the last area is that SEO/SEM space. These are important digital marketing areas and many of the roles coming across our desks are either hybrids that include them all or highly specialized in one.
What is the inventory of talent in the marketplace for these roles?
It’s definitely slim pickings in the digital marketing space. A big reason it’s slim pickings is because the tools that are being used for some of these digital marketing areas haven’t been around for very many years. So when we look for somebody with years of experience using a specific tool, there’s a pretty small pool of candidates you can actually grab from. For example, some larger companies are using recently emerging tools like Sprinklr. Again, Sprinklr hasn’t been around for that long so having available experienced candidates with the specific chosen tool isn’t very easy.
So what is the solution you implement for clients in this situation?
As a recruiter, we start by looking for the similar tools: which digital marketing tools are comparable enough where maybe we can pull talent and not have it be a difficult transition. We also look for candidates who have the soft skill of ‘training up’ – someone who may be a little bit more green but have the learning capability for the client’s tools. The third strategy we’d recommend to clients is looking to agencies that specialize in the specific tools. For example, we’ve seen SEO agencies and social media agencies just pop up to be able to meet that demand for these skills because it is so high.
What are your predictions about the digital marketing roles that are heating up on the horizon?
The next thing that we’re starting to look for are in the areas of AI and VR technology for example, I have something with one of our Fortune 50 e-commerce tech companies. They are looking for somebody to write content and develop marketing materials for their voice device software.
Is finding talent in an emerging area particularly challenging?
Yes – it always is in the beginning. But I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that it may be slim pickings for a while, but not for long. I used to recruit a ton for just 3D, and it was impossible to find somebody who had experience with ZBrush. Now years later, I can find ZBrush talent in ten minutes. So I remind clients that these talent scarcities are cyclical. Even five years ago, Sprinklr skills were rare but now it’s so much easier than it used to be. So there’s always a period of time where the candidates switch to new tools and become subject matter experts before the rest of the market catches up, and they are able to call the shots in the job negotiation. But the window for skill exclusivity gets shorter and shorter. Even with VR, a few years ago, if you asked me to find somebody with VR experience, I probably would have walked you out the door. But today it’s doable. It’s a reasonable ask.
Any other pointers that you’d want to give to companies recruiting in this competitive space?
I would say just being flexible with your employees is that big competitive advantage. I think especially if a candidate is already talented in that VR or AI space, they have plenty of options – unlimited essentially. So the most attractive employers are the ones that are offering that flexibility. Whether that’s work from home or additional benefits, maybe part time freelance status. That flexibility about what work looks like is really going to set a company apart as an employer.
Final question: what should companies be thinking about for the hiring process, the candidate experience? Any advice that you would give to people hiring this talent and the candidate experience for this particular group?
Every touch is important with digital marketing candidates, including the initial point of contact when you’re reaching out to them, scheduling interviews – make sure communication is buttoned up throughout that entire process. And also being as honest as possible with the potential employee about what the position is, why it’s open, and if there is any feedback to provide throughout the process. Even when they don’t get the job – almost more so then. People are really afraid to get feedback and tell somebody why maybe they didn’t get the job. But that turns off candidates so much. Even just having like two lines of feedback or points of emphasis that candidates could use to improve their interview skills the next time around goes a long way. And then you’re going to be able to gain additional recruits because candidates will share their positive experience and give referrals. It’s striking the balance between being honest and transparent with your candidates while also making sure you’re staying within HR guidelines.