Going Digital? Do It Right.
Finding digital talent isn’t always easy, particularly people with the right mix of skills for today’s digital demands. In Austin and Denver, two of the fastest-growing digital technology markets on the planet, many companies choose to work with a creative staffing agency instead of going at it alone for this very reason.
If you’re looking to fill open digital positions, there’s a good chance you aren’t the only one. Digital Marketing Institute reported that 40 percent of marketing job openings now require digital skills, yet there are “not enough skilled people to fill them.” This skills gap is making it that much more challenging for companies to source their own candidates. Partnering with a creative staffing agency will help you find the right people while shortening the time-to-hire process.
If you’ve never used a creative staffing agency before, we’re here to make sure you know what to expect. If you’re using one but not thrilled with the results, we’re here to help you find one that brings you greater value. We’ve put together a shortlist of tips you can reference when working with a creative staffing agency to fill open digital positions.
Tip #1: Do Your Homework First
Before you hire a creative staffing agency, think about what you’re really looking for in both a candidate and an agency. The best agencies will actually help you determine what mix of digital and marketing skills you should really look for, but you should have an idea of what skills you need before you talk with an agency. This will allow them to have an idea of how they can help.
But that’s not all. Just as you wouldn’t hire a contractor to remodel your home without looking into their background, their work, and their customers, you shouldn’t hire an agency without knowing as much as you can about them. You can go online to check any ratings or reviews, check Glassdoor to see what their employees think about working there, and talk with peers to see if anyone has ever worked with them.
Find out their specialties and differentiators. What services do they provide and how do they charge? Where do they operate and what types of positions do they typically fill? How much experience do they have in the digital space and what types of job postings do they advertise? These are just a few clues you may be able to find that will help you prioritize your list of potential agencies.
Tip #2: Interview Creative Staffing Agencies
Once you have a list of potential agencies, it’s time to set up appointments. We recommend meeting the key players in person if possible. Be prepared with questions. Of course, they’ll try to sell themselves, so you want to be armed with questions that go deeper, just like you were interviewing a potential new hire. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, like:
- With creative and digital roles now being so intertwined, how do you help your clients find candidates with the right mix of these skills?
- What types of roles do you typically fill and where do you source your candidates?
- Do you work with clients to help them determine what roles they need to fill in order to execute particular programs or do you assume your clients know what they need?
- How much IT and digital experience do you have and can you provide examples?
- Once you fill a position for us, is there anything further you do?
There are many more questions you could ask, but your priority is to not just find an agency that will fill positions but one that will partner with you for the long haul and become an extension of your company. It should be an ongoing, long-term relationship because if you’re doing things right, your company is growing and your needs will evolve.
You want a staffing partner that understands your business and its goals now and in the future. They will be there to help you see potential resource constraints and plan for them ahead of time so you’re never left scrambling and with delays in production. They should know your project roadmap intimately and help you allocate existing resources while anticipating needed resources to execute. The agency should talk with the new hires they’ve recommended to make sure they’re satisfied and not tempted to go elsewhere. They’re your eyes and ears for all things related to resources, so find one that’s willing and able to stand in that space and provide consistent value.
Tip #3: Ask about Their Process
How a creative staffing agency works is just as important as the candidates they send. What is their process? Do they bother to get to know your business first? Do they look at your project roadmap and current resource capacity/skillsets before they start sending resumes? How long does it take them to source candidates and when they do, how many resumes do they typically send? Do they vet the candidates first based on what’s important to their clients?
Keep in mind that it’s not the quantity of candidates they recommend that matters; it’s the quality of those candidates. If you’re spending hours reviewing a stack of resumes, that’s a sign your agency isn’t doing enough. A handful of highly-qualified, right-fit candidates is always better than a slew of candidates you have to whittle down and waste time interviewing.
If the agency understands your business, culture, and goals the way they should, they’ll only send candidates they know will not only fill your open position perfectly but will immediately fit into your company culture for greater retention and productivity. The only way they can do this is to know you and the candidates well. Anyone can look at a resume and see if the candidate checks all of the boxes, but when you work with a reputable staffing agency, they’ll know the candidate personally to understand what they’re looking for and how they’ll fit into your organization. And by knowing this, the agency can help you craft an offer they know the candidate can’t refuse.
Tip #4: Talk with References
Even when you’ve narrowed down agencies, you’ll want to talk with their clients. It’s one thing for them to make claims in an interview or on their website. It’s quite another to talk with real customers who can tell you about their experience and what you can expect. As SHRM says, “The greatest indicator of what someone WILL do is what they HAVE done.”
Of course, when you ask for references, agencies will give you their happiest clients. No surprise there. But, if you ask them for a list of, say, 5-10 companies they work with, you’re more likely to get a decent mix. You can also check their websites to see if they mention any clients. Call every one of their clients. Ask them about the quality of their candidates, the number of resumes they forwarded, how long it takes to fill open creative positions, if they consider the agency a partner more than a job filler, and what value they get from their relationship with the agency. Dig in.
Tip #5: Evaluate the Relationship
You likely won’t be signing any type of long-term contract with the agency you select (at least, you shouldn’t), so don’t be afraid to fire them if they aren’t living up to your expectations. It’s a best practice to consistently evaluate the value the creative staffing agency is bringing. Are they doing everything they said they would?
One thing to look for is how proactive they are. Are you always having to call them to initiate a candidate search or are they touching base with you regularly to see how things are going? Do they spend time with you and your hiring managers to deepen relationships and ensure you’re all getting what you need to drive your business forward? Are they sitting in on strategic planning meetings to understand what’s coming down the pipeline so they can make sure you’re staffed appropriately? How are the candidates they’ve sent faring in their new positions? Do they know or even care?
Remember: this is a partnership, a relationship. It goes both ways. You’re investing in their expertise and they should be investing in the success of your business. Staffing is so much more than filling an open position. If you choose the right creative staffing agency, they can be a valued, strategic partner in helping your company stay competitive as it brings new, innovative products and capabilities to market.