Secret Marketer: You can’t complain about a lack of talent if you don’t read a CV

Finding talent is marketers’ biggest issue, yet they outsource hiring to agencies who don’t understand marketing. The Secret Marketer’s first rule of recruitment is: read every single application.

Hands up if you have ever applied for a job for which you thought you had the perfect mix of skills, qualifications and experience – and, since you really wanted the role, the right mix of motivation and attitude – and then, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not a word. Or if you were lucky, the dreaded ‘Dear John’ email.

Then, the next day, you read an article about talent acquisition or, even worse, the ‘war for talent’ (I believe the consultants at McKinsey were responsible for that particular crime against the English language). Clearly you were not perceived to be part of the talent worth fighting for.

There are talent acquisition managers, talent pipelines and talent pools, all looking for ‘world-class talent’, and you’re left thinking: ‘Oh well, I guess I’m not world-class.’

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I have recruited a lot of marketers in four totally different countries for household-name brands, and none of this talent stuff that I read makes any sense. The reality is that most companies do not even know how to define ‘talent’, let alone how to manage it.

I was reminded of this the other day, talking to a researcher who was asking the country’s top marketers what their biggest challenge was. The number-one issue reported was ‘getting the right talent’, but in the same breath I was told that one individual in the survey (who is a brilliant marketer) remarked that he simply did not have the time to read through CVs, so it was his recruitment agency’s fault.

Of course, the pace of technology moves much faster than most people’s jobs and careers do. However, jobs do not remain open because there are not willing and capable candidates; they remain open because many senior marketers are not willing to invest time in finding the right person and so they outsource hiring to HR or external providers. Essentially, recruitment isn’t working.

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Outsourcing your hiring to HR – or worse, a recruitment agent – is a dereliction of duty. It essentially says: ‘Although I am going to spend years of my life working with this individual, although I am going to be spending lots of time coaching and guiding them, and although I really need them, I am not willing to spend time reading their CVs. Instead I am going to ask someone who has no idea about marketing.’

So, here are the Secret Marketer’s renegade rules for recruitment. One: no recruitment agencies – ever. Only you as the marketer understand the marketing challenge in that organisation. Only you have the capability to recognise the magical mix of attitude and skill that make a great marketer. You have to read all the applications. Yes, all of them.

Two: drum the adage ‘hire for attitude and train for skills’ into your head. If they are the right person, you can spend the money on a few courses to get their skills up to speed.

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Three: no deadlines for applications. Really, you are serious about ‘talent’ but they have to find you by a deadline?

Yes, the Secret Marketer renegade rules of recruitment mean that I have spent multiple evenings of my career reading through 80-100 CVs – the good, the bad and the ugly. But I don’t regret it for a minute. I am holding their lives, their careers and their dreams in my hands when they apply for a job. I owe this to each and every applicant. And so do we all.



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  1. Paul A. Escajadillo 4 Oct 2016

    I work for a Fortune 500 CPG company and one of the expectations for us is to be actively involved in the recruiting process at our alma mater. This ensures two things: we can speak to current students about what the corporate culture is like so they understand whether they would be a “fit” or not; and, we can also gauge potential candidates on whether we’d like to work with them and invest in their future at our organization.

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