What does 2023 look like for marketing recruitment?

Looking for a new role in 2023? Here’s what to expect from the recruitment market.

What will the marketing recruitment landscape look like in 2023? By many accounts it’s an uncertain picture, with the impact of budget cuts, rising costs and inflation difficult to determine.

While many brands cut back on hiring in 2020 to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, 2021 witnessed a rise in recruitment. Recruiters report 2022 has been a slightly more stable year.

However, according to IPA Bellwether data gathered exclusively for Marketing Week in October, there has been a “material deterioration” in brands’ hiring plans.

The data found 28% of surveyed firms intend to increase their workforce by the start of 2023, with 18% anticipating job cuts and over half (54%) expecting no change. A net balance of 10.1% of marketers expect employment at their own companies to be higher in three months’ time, the lowest net balance since the first quarter of 2021.

EMEA CEO at global executive search firm the Grace Blue Partnership, Sarah Skinner, disagrees with the data: “At the senior level, there is absolutely still a demand for marketers.”

There’s a lot of people either sticking, or willing to take the cut, not necessarily in salary but a cut in terms of expectations.

Richard Clark, Paws Group

Skinner explains the UK does, however, seem more cautious than other countries given the current economic headwinds.

Associate director at recruiter Fortune Hill, John Hunter, says the mood among brands when it comes to hiring is “really mixed at present”. He explains organisations tend to fall into three camps.

“The brave ones that will invest through a downturn and recognise it’s essential to have the best people on their team. Those that will reduce investment and are unlikely to do much hiring. And those that are making reductions in headcount,” Hunter explains.

Paws Group CMO Richard Clark started a WhatsApp marketing community group in lockdown, which now spans 100 plus senior marketers. He explains marketers are worried about where the economy is heading, referencing the likes of clothing retailer Joules falling into administration as having a concerning ripple effect on marketers’ moods and expectations going into the new year.

He suggests there’s a similar feeling to the start of lockdown. Covid-19 led some marketers to postpone the “lateral rotation of roles” due to worries about what could happen if they lost a stable job, says Clark. He believes this is starting to happen again.

“Even when people are unhappy in their current role, because of the recession they’re a bit more reluctant to take that jump,” he says.

The start of the year is often a boom time for recruiters. However, Clark suggests marketers are worried that might not be the same in 2023.

“I do genuinely think there’s a lot of people either sticking, or willing to take the cut, not necessarily in salary but a cut in terms of expectations,” he adds.

What’s happening to roles?

According to LinkedIn data published in September, an understanding of digital marketing is perceived by marketers to be the most in-demand skill for employers, followed by social media marketing and search engine optimisation.

In 2015, social media marketing was the top skill, followed by digital marketing. SEO was a new addition to the list for 2022, alongside Adobe Photoshop, content marketing, Google Analytics and corporate communications.

Digital most in-demand skill amid ‘techification’ of marketing, study finds

Hunter is, however, noticing a drop off in demand for senior digital acquisition talent, such as director of growth marketing and performance marketing roles. He says this relates to the impact of Covid, which caused a boom in demand for bringing such roles into business, “often at a premium” due to the scale of competition.

Now, businesses are being cost conscious, Hunter says, focusing on engaging with their current customers versus driving acquisition.

Marketing director at alcohol free beer brand Lucky Saint, Kerttu Inkeroinen,  is currently hiring across PR, social media, growth marketing and insights. While for Lucky Saint it’s a story of hiring and growth, for other businesses she is seeing the opposite trend.

“Everyone’s feeling next year is quite uncertain,” she adds.

Among the roles Lucky Saint is hiring for, many of the applicants for the PR and social media jobs have been made redundant from their previous roles. These functions are perhaps seen as not “necessary or core” to the business and therefore more likely to be replaced by agency support, she suggests.

If we’d have been having this conversation five years ago, storytelling was the big skill.

Sarah Skinner, Grace Blue Partnership

Brands may instead be keeping hold of more generalised roles, such as brand management, as they’re more flexible and allow staff to “flex in different areas”, which is trickier for more specialised roles, Inkeroinen adds.

She believes the approach to recruitment depends on where a brand is on its journey. While larger businesses may be slimming down and taking stock, smaller, startup and scale-up brands could well be powering through with their growth journeys.

Skinner says the briefs her team are receiving are looking for marketers with an understanding of martech. The key questions being asked are: Do they understand first party data? Do they know their technology platforms? Do they understand personalisation? Brands are also looking for marketers skilled in storytelling.

“Whereas, if we’d have been having this conversation five years ago, storytelling was the big skill,” Skinner adds.

She also notes an increase in demand for DTC marketing and questions being asked around engaging customers. Additionally, ecommerce is a specific area on the rise, says Skinner, who has seen “massive demand” for talent in what she describes as a “highly competitive” space.

“Overall, we’re definitely still seeing a demand and a need for brilliant marketers,” she adds. “It’s just that shift in balance now, [towards] much more upskilling.”

Shifting functions

There are less “good” candidates in the market, but still a great demand for talent, according to managing director marketing recruitment firm EMR, Tom Brockton.

He says it’s getting harder to place candidates, many who will have multiple offers on the table. Others are dipping their toes into the hiring process to see what the market is like, or sourcing job offers to encourage their current employer to increase their pay.

Brockton describes this as a candidate-short market, which will continue to be the case in 2023. However, this makes it a “buoyant” market too. He has noted changes at play within marketing team structures. Half of the roles EMR is recruiting for are newly created roles, suggesting brands are going ahead with their recruitment plans.

Brands’ hiring intentions drop to lowest level since early 2021

However, there is a shift in the seniority of these roles. Brockton has seen an increase in demand during 2022 for roles such as marketing executive and senior marketing executive. He explains this is, in part, because these roles don’t require board-level sign off as they would with a marketing director or CMO.

According to Brockton, brands are thinking: “We can pay £45,000-£50,000 and bring in a senior marketing executive with five years’ experience and it’s not going to break the bank, and they’re going to be good at their job and get on with it.” This is compared with the £125,000 plus it could cost for a typical head of marketing role.

Salary is, of course, a contentious topic. Clark has noticed CMO and CEO roles on offer for around £100,000. Noting the pressure that comes with these roles – “particularly in the current environment” – Clark believes these salaries are “unrealistic”.

While it’s a tough market in many ways, for marketers looking to secure their next job there are opportunities out there, perhaps even in unexpected places. A trend Skinner noticed in 2022, which is coming through in briefs for 2023, is that brands don’t only want to recruit marketers from the same category.

“We are seeing a greater desire to be not just reliant on category experience, but looking at skills,” she adds. “That’s something we’re going to see more and more of. It’s really motivating and it’s what’s going to future-proof the industry.”