The rules of attraction

Given the number of marketers competing for jobs, Ian Whiteling asks what companies can do to ensure they are attracting the most experienced and qualified candidates

A glance at the recruitment pages shows there is no shortage of marketing positions waiting to be filled in blue-chip companies. And, fortunately for those looking to recruit, more and more people are keen to work in marketing. The Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) reports that the supply of graduates is increasing. The problem is that there is a gap in the market for high-calibre candidates who have the relevant qualifications backed by experience.

“Even when recruiting at graduate level, companies are looking for those candidates who have gained experience either through gap-year placements or working throughout holidays or courses,” explains Paul Cushing, managing director of marketing recruitment specialist RP Cushing. “While there are more graduates from marketing-related courses than ever before, there is still a finite supply of ones who show real talent in the workplace, so the competition for those who are looking for jobs is fierce.”

Obviously, attracting the right person requires promoting the most relevant benefits of working for your organisation. Candidates are extremely focused as to what they want from their careers and are selective about the types of companies they are happy to work for.

“Marketers have changed over the years,” says David Newman, director of marketing management at Co-operative Financial Services (CFS). “Increased networking means people find out about other jobs and other marketers’ experiences in the workplace. They are no longer satisfied simply to have a job and want a position that is personally more rewarding.

“Before I took the position at CFS, I was also speaking to two other companies, both of which were closer to my home. But I wanted to work with an ethical brand and was prepared to travel further to meet this objective. I think the main deciding factors for any job are package and location, but more personal factors can act as the tie-breaker.”

The perfect package

On the subject of that all-important package, Janice Pickard, manager of the graduate programme at the IDM, says: “The important things for graduates are opportunity, career progression, gaining a broad experience and a structured training programme. Location and work environment are taken into account, but are not the prime objectives. Most graduates realise that they should not be swayed by initial salary alone and that it’s better to look at the long-term prospects within a company.”

Experienced marketers are also looking for a good package, according to Cushing, who stresses the importance of having a strong presence in the market.

“Top-level marketers are looking to be challenged, to work with great brands and for involvement in the development of their company’s marketing strategy” he explains. “The package that is offered to them is also very important.”

In fact, Guardian and Observer newspaper marketing director Marc Sands says a strong brand can be the most important recruitment tool a company can have. “The Guardian and Observer names attract a certain type of candidate, acting as the primary filter for applicants. They act as a beacon to help to attract the right candidates, while repelling those that are unsuitable.”

But just because a company is not particularly high-profile, that doesn’t mean it can’t have the pick of the best marketers. Success in this field is all about presence and visibility. There may be better-known companies around, but the key is to be communicating with marketing graduates and the industry in general. On the graduate side the best way to do this is to develop relationships with a few chosen educational establishments in order to promote your company through presentations or careers activities and materials. For instance, becoming a sponsor of the IDM’s Graduate Fast Track programme means a company is promoted to students through the IDM’s graduate website. Companies can get involved in courses by guest lecturing, sponsoring awards or providing content for certain degree modules.

“The power of a consistent and ongoing communication programme on all levels should not be underestimated when considering how best to market your company to potential recruits,” continues Cushing. “Communicating a positive image of the company to the industry and related sectors at all times – its successes, its employee-friendly policies, its market-leading position – creates a feel-good association with your company and may help you to attract the best.”

Recruitment is no longer just about placing an ad. In order to attract the best marketers, companies have to first show that they can market themselves successfully.

Bespoke tailoring

Flexibility is also important when trying to attract high-calibre candidates. “Although I am in favour of having a remuneration structure around which people can decide whether the role is for them, I also support a tailored element – designed around the needs of the individual,” says Clare Bruce, chief executive of Nunwood Consulting. “Sometimes that flexibility can be more money, but equally it could be help with relocation, flexible working hours, people management opportunities and so on.

“We recently completed a long recruitment process to find an individual who could fill a head of department role. After a long and intensive search we found the perfect candidate. However, with a young family she wanted to work shorter hours. We decided that the match was perfect enough to be flexible in terms of hours.”

It was a first for Nunwood that such a senior position could be part-time. However, it is a sign of things to come – where employees are valued for their skills and not judged on their personal circumstances. In fact, women – and men for that matter – with children, whom companies are often wary about employing, are gradually being recognised as having more honed organisational skills than those without children.

“To maximise a company’s recruitment potential a blend of techniques is best,” says Newman. “We use the media, from nationals to trade titles, as well as specialist recruitment agencies and headhunters for the more senior positions.”

Specialist agencies are useful because it is their job to keep an eye on the best talent in their specialist area. “A specialist recruiter should take time to get to know the company intimately,” says Cushing. “The recruiter should then use its exclusive network of industry contacts in the hunt for the ideal candidate, before presenting the best of the best to the marketing company.”

Employees can no longer be taken for granted. As a company is only as good as its workforce, attracting the right people creates a vital competitive edge. This means that as much care should be taken over marketing to prospective employees as it is to customers.

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