The Hiring Headaches of Small Ad Agencies

Can Small Shops Compete Against Client-Side Offerings and the Lure of Freelance?

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Just a couple of years ago, recruiting talent was a different game. We had plenty of resumes to choose from. Rarely relied on headhunters. And when we made job offers to candidates, they said, "Thank you so much. I am so excited! When can I start?"

Marc Brownstein
Marc Brownstein
Fast forward to 2OO6.

Now, pickin's are slim. We depend on headhunters, and use them in a variety of cities, to broaden the talent search. And when we find a good candidate, and make an offer, the current response tends to be, "Ok, thanks. I'd like to think about it for a week. I'm also considering some other options, not necessarily agency-side options. I'll be back to you."

Options?! I'll be back to you?! Who's controlling the recruitment process? Obviously not agencies. We offered competitive salaries. And received tepid responses. So what's going on here?

In my opinion, a few things:

1. Client-side jobs are offering better pay and benefits. I've been hearing that candidates want a more balanced 9-to-5 schedule, and they feel client-side jobs provide that more consistently than agencies, where long hours can be the norm.

2. There are fewer people entering the marketing agency industry. With demand for content booming, many qualified candidates are landing jobs in alternative companies, that specialize in digital media, product design, and web content.

3. There's a bull market for freelance talent. Many candidates opt for doing their own thing versus coming on board with an agency. Flexible schedule and the chance to make more money are the driving factors.

Sure, it's frustrating trying to recruit top talent now. But my hope is that -- over time -- people will realize that agency jobs are a lot more fun than client-side, one-dimensional jobs. And I wonder how great the freelance option will be when income becomes less than steady. And there's no office commraderie, or other peers to bounce ideas off of.
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