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The 2018 Hiring Landscape

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As quickly as industry technology changes, the employment marketplace is only a fraction of a step behind. Which skills are in demand? What benefits help employers recruit top candidates? How will the landscape be different in five years? We reached out to recruiters and HR execs to get their take on these questions and more.

Where is the employment market heating up?

All signs point to agility and an eye for opportunities as key differentiators in mid- to senior-level positions. “Every job has a sales theme to it,” says Dana Astrow, a partner at ARC Recruiting, which places candidates in all fields of the creative industries. “Business development is the overarching idea, meaning creating opportunities, ‘more business for my business.’ It’s a game changer to be able to tee up new opportunities.” Allyson Nevil, a partner at BLT Recruiting who places candidates at ad agencies, production, and post production companies, concurs. “Strategist is one of the hottest positions right now.”

Maggie Williams, SVP, Global Human Resources at Pixelogic Media Partners, sees opportunities for all positions in the post-production space: “While there is a lot of consolidation, there are also many opportunities in digital media.” She sees particularly high activity in digital tech ops, and a hot market for strong project managers and software engineers. “Digital is more than being online,” adds Nevil. “It’s about really understanding the digital landscape.”

As for regions, LA and New York are still leading the charge for creative jobs, but there are plenty of opportunities in San Francisco, Atlanta, Europe, Seattle, and Portland as well.

What are candidates looking for?

Culture first and foremost, says Astrow. “Is this the right fit, are these nice people, am I passionate about the work and about what this company does? Depending on where you are in your life, money is a huge factor, along with work/life balance expectations and geography.” Companies are looking to pay creative talent less salary up front, she adds. “Smaller creative companies prefer to set up a participation or bonus structure so they are not out of pocket.”

And what should they be looking at? “How you’re treated along the interview process says a lot about a company,” says Nevil. Both Williams and Nevil stress companies’ industry reputation, as well.

What are employers doing to make themselves more attractive to top talent?

Williams emphasizes clear messaging from the leadership team, including vision and objectives, as the best way to communicate a company’s identity and values in a way that attracts best-fit candidates.

Nevil cites flexibility as key, including being able to work from home. “Some employers are making the life/work experience better for candidates,” agrees Astrow. “Health insurance has become a big issue for young people, as well as 401(k), paternity and maternity leave, depending on the size of the company. Newer companies are offering more outside the basics.”

Are employers looking for a diverse workforce?

“It’s not a priority for everyone, but it’s on people’s minds more than previously,” says Astrow. “We’d like to see employers be more open to stepping outside of their comfort zones.”

What changes will we see in the next five years?

Nevil’s VFX background leads her to predict “the very creative folks will still be needed in LA, but the pipeline artists are going to be more outsourced to other countries, especially with the ease of sending data back and forth.” Astrow sees tremendous growth in brands: “Brands are becoming their own mini advertising agencies, making content internally.” Williams anticipates continued growth in the digital space.

How has technology changed how you find great candidates?

“LinkedIn has become much more robust in the last few years,” says Nevil. “It enables us to do a lot of analytics on our searches – we can cross reference schools, interests, look for keywords.” “There have been substantial improvements on how to find great talent,” agrees Williams. “Not only is the technology better, but social media has added an important element in attracting top talent.” Astrow emphasizes the limitations: “Sometimes you need the human element to find the right candidate and to see if someone is a cultural fit.” However, ARC sees opportunity as well; they are currently in development on Unaffiliated, a curated subscription-based online marketplace to connect content purchasers with content creators.

What should everyone be doing to prepare themselves for their next career move?

Find a mentor and a sponsor, says Williams. “The mentor can help you with any gaps in your abilities and the sponsor can advocate for your next role.”

According to Nevil, keeping portfolios current is a must. “If you’re going to have a website, make sure it’s clean and easy to use. Look at 50 portfolios in your background and try to get through them in a couple of hours, and you’ll understand the frustration of a complicated user interface. You want to put the work that represents you front and center. Do your best to create your own brand. If you’ve been working for a few years, unless you absolutely love it, get rid of your student work.” Astrow emphasizes the need to keep track of results: “You should be able to talk about what you have accomplished, give concrete examples and dig into why you are qualified for the next step.”

Advice for job seekers: what distinguishes a candidate from the pack?

Williams calls out “a mindset for high performance, working smart, and having attention to detail” as key differentiators. Nevil agrees: “It’s very easy to stand out: everything is in order, your LinkedIn matches your clean, clear, readable resume, and you are timely in your response.” Responsiveness is also key, she says, including politely declining if the job is not a fit. “Candidates ghost at any point in the process. It’s completely appropriate to decide something isn’t right for them and I have so much respect for candidates who tell me they’re going to pass. If they just don’t respond, it’s unlikely I’ll ever reach out to them again.”

Astrow sees an opportunity in candidate bios: “Stick to the script, but have the bio tell your story, to create a better picture of who you are. That can inspire an employer.”

One quick and easy thing a job hunter can do to improve their candidacy? “Drill down on your elevator pitch,” says Astrow. “Vagaries are really tough to sell.” Similarly, Williams urges candidates to be able to articulate experience through examples.

“Be flexible with salary expectations,” says Astrow. “Be coached, do homework, be open to relocating for the right gig.” “Treat it like a full-time job,” says Williams. “Get many irons in the fire.”

Nevil focuses on presentation: “Improve your LinkedIn, make sure you have the right keywords, go to networking events, reach out to contacts. Get your face and name out there.”

Advice for employers trying to attract top candidates

“Be respectful of candidates in the recruiting and interview process,” says Nevil. “Clients who have a timeline and have a very responsive contact for setting up interviews are usually the ones that get the best candidates.”

Williams believes the magic happens best when it’s organic: “Create a great culture, where there is a positive vibe and employees naturally become your biggest recruiting team!”

“Hire a recruiter!” says Astrow. “Companies that want top talent have to outsource to people who can partner with you to matchmake. An algorithm alone can’t get you there. We believe to get it right employers want and still need the human experience.”

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