Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Tom Jenen: Recruiting talent? Time to tap your team

Tom Jenen, CRO, Brand Metrics, is an adtech legend and on top of being one of our industry’s loveliest people, is also now NDA’s latest regular columnist.

If you’re not frustrated by today’s talent market, you’re just not trying hard enough. These days it seems like everyone is looking for the unicorn resource, that “account exec with three years’ experience but a great network” or the “integration specialist with front end dev skills yet knows how to satisfy customers”. The most experienced people? Too expensive. Grads? You like the price, but who has the time to develop them? Your VC needs results now!

While the adtech boom is the bane of publishers and agencies, who are constantly getting raided, the reality for many companies is that there’s always an Amazon or TikTok around to pluck your best candidates, or even colleagues, away. I just had that happen last month. Frustrating, of course, but one understands. There’s only so much that some fun photos on your careers section can do in the face of a foundational qualification like those brands.

Downsizing and consolidation creates more confusion. The best candidates are often getting promoted by their current employers, making them less interested in leaving. And while other experienced people are released into the wild, there’s a headwind: A post (hopefully)-pandemic trend of experienced people retiring, and others feeling freed up and empowered (or disillusioned) enough to go out as consultants.

Hiring some top-notch recruiters is a great option, but be prepared to talk to a few – most are also struggling to get the right candidates. (Don’t @ me, recruiter friends.)

So what should fantastic, transformational, empowering, cash-positive businesses like yours do? You could wait for this talent-crunch to pass. (It won’t, for quite a while.) Hopefully you have reviewed your job descriptions for diversity-limiting language and your hiring process has been reviewed for bias. 

You’ve tried the marketing approach to recruitment; now try sales.

Try helping your employees help other people. In practice, we all offer a bounty for bringing in a friend to the business. In reality, we don’t usually give them the skills necessary to recruit, nor what to say, nor the right encouragement to put the welly in and make it happen. 

On the skills front, it’s time to actually train your team in how to network. If you’re in sales, accounts or leadership, you think you’re already good at this. Let’s pretend you are. Literally everyone else in your company either sucks at it or actually will tell you it’s not worth their time while secretly thinking they should do it a lot more. 

To begin, trust yourself and your company. Think your employees are on to something great? Sit down with each of them and talk about what they like (love?) about the company, what they like about their own job and what their future might be, and write it down with them. Help them be confident in their own opportunity – because if they’re not, they’re certainly not going to win over any friends.

Next, help them to grow their network. Show them how to improve their own LinkedIn profiles; pictures, headlines, and of course the description of their job and company. Write down how many connections they have; then, discuss how they should connect with all the people they know, and actually set some targets for numbers of new connections.

It’s a combination of mentoring, recruiting and personal development. At Polar, I led a session for employees to get better at connecting with each other. You would be surprised at how much employees value this kind of attention from their company, the commitment that it shows to them as people.

The final step is actual outreach. Help them identify good candidates in their networks. Write an intro they can use to ping those candidates and set up a coffee (or “coffee” as people aren’t actually in offices yet). Discuss what they might talk about. And help them earn that bounty.

Sure, your team might get pitched themselves, but if you’ve prepared them, you’ve reduced the risk. And they will thank you for the respect, attention and new skills you’ve shared with them. 

Which, by the way, is another amazing reason people should come work for you.