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Digital marketer? Get set for a golden era: veteran recruiter’s view from the top of the year

By / / In In the News /

US-based digital and direct marketing recruiter Jerry Bernhart (pictured) makes some predictions for 2014.Jerry Bernhart _028retCropped (WEB)



I believe that because of enduring economic and social forces, we are in the very early stages of a golden era of employment for those who sell and market products and services over the web, and the battle is on to lure the best talent available.

What does this mean for job-seekers in the year to come? It means more and better offers and abundant opportunities like we’ve never seen before.Here’s my top five forecast for 2014:

5. More multiple offers.

Back in the days of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, receiving just one job offer was something to brag about. How things have changed. Among actively looking candidates, those who are the most sought after are now routinely getting multiple offers. You know the ones I mean, the ones with proven track records who’ve moved the business forward everywhere they’ve been.

There’s a message here for employers: Snooze and you’ll lose. When it comes to attracting and hiring top achievers in online marketing, time is your enemy. Drag your feet, and I can practically guarantee you’ll lose them. A bird in the hand beats two in the bush any day, particularly when it comes to the best and brightest digital marketers. If you have a bird in the hand and it’s a bird you really want to hire, move quickly and make sure you make a highly competitive offer, which leads me to number 4.

4. More competitive offers.

I negotiated some amazing compensation packages last year. In one situation, one of my clients extended an offer which included a 33% bump in salary, an increase that was almost unheard of just a few years ago. While this definitely represents the exception rather than the norm, there’s no question that top candidates in recent years have benefitted from what I call ‘salary creep’ as the war for marketing talent has heated up. I look for more of the same in 2014 and, in fact, I look for those incremental increases to creep even higher. This trend is inexorable.

Many companies have come to realise that the differential value created by the most talented digital and direct marketers, the ones who can re-conceive the business and inspire people, can be enormous. Better talent makes a huge difference. Power is shifting from companies to the individual and that’s giving talented candidates more negotiating leverage than ever before.

3. Lengthy hiring process.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from candidates is how they get strung along for weeks or months before companies finally make a hiring decision. One candidate I recently worked with, interviewing for a manager level position, met with 11 different department heads during a one-day visit and that was on top of a separate meeting with an industrial psychologist.

These marathon interview sessions used to be commonplace only for top retained searches at the C-level. While this example is extreme, I can tell you from my own experience that the average duration of the interviewing process in digital and direct marketing has easily doubled over the past ten years. The reluctance to pull the trigger and make candidates jump through so many hoops is understandable. Hiring managers face a wall of worry including fears that the fragile economic recovery will sputter and hurt their business. But perhaps more importantly, there’s the fear of hiring the wrong person, a fear that has become much more pervasive since the Great Recession.

Studies have shown that a bad hiring decision can cost a company up to five times the annual salary of the person hired and that carries with it some potentially hefty implications for the manager who did the hiring. The decision to hire is the biggest decision a business leader makes. Unless the need is urgent and the company is losing big money while a desk remains vacant, expect hiring delays to continue to be the norm in 2014.

2 More counter-offers.

I am not a fan of counter-offers, but like them or not they’re a fixture of the recruitment landscape and they’re driven by this inviolate law: as the supply of sought-after talent diminishes, the frequency of counter-offers goes up.

Talent shortages are already appearing in small to medium-sized markets, particularly in the red hot field of digital analytics. Your need for an ace digital marketer is exceeded only by the pain another company will experience if they lose one, so it’s no wonder that counter-offers have been on the rise and, for better or worse, we’ll see more of them in 2014.

1. More opportunities!

It may be hard to imagine for those of us who work in this space, but there are still tens thousands of companies out there that have little more than a rudimentary web presence. I regularly receive calls and emails from companies that are still very rooted in traditional marketing. Their online marketing strategy starts and stops with an ecommerce shopping cart and an occasional email blast.

For many of those businesses, digital marketing is becoming their need of the hour. In 2014, traditional media will continue shrinking, digital media will continue growing and career opportunities for digital marketers will only become brighter.

Jerry Bernhart is the owner of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, established in 1991.

Sally Hooton
Author: Sally Hooton
Editor at The GMA |

Trained as a journalist from the age of 18 and enjoying a long career in regional newspaper reporting and editing, Sally Hooton joined DMI (Direct Marketing International) magazine as editor in 2001. DMI then morphed into The GMA, taking her with it!

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