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The PR to recruitment switch: what I’ve learnt

The PR to recruitment switch: what I’ve learnt

At the beginning of 2018, after 2.5 years building my skills in PR, I moved my career into communications recruitment. Why? Several reasons: I had done two agency stints and had the unsettling feeling that deep down it wasn’t for me. I wanted a change, and this was a fresh challenge, providing me the opportunity to work for a market-leading business, and allowing me to utilise my knowledge and network I had established in the industry.

I was quickly encouraged to find that making this flip is not uncommon – several of my colleagues are also former communications consultants – each respectively taking their PR experience and using it to seek out the best talent in industries we’re all hugely passionate about.

Just over a year on, and having experienced both sides of the coin, I wanted to share some of my observations and learnings:

CANDIDATES

1. IT’S A CANDIDATE-DRIVEN MARKET

Talent acquisition is more difficult than ever before. Sourcing top talent is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing businesses (both inside and outside of the communications industry), requiring huge investment of time, money and resources. As a PR professional, don’t underestimate your worth – you’re a precious and desirable commodity. Sometimes it can be hard to remember this when you’re working long hours, or you missed out on a promotion.  Thinking holistically and longer term, ask yourself if you feel valued in your role? Similarly, all prospective employers should be acknowledging this too – interviews are as much about the candidate asking questions and getting a good chemistry feel as vice versa.

2. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR RECRUITER

Your time is limited and there are a lot of messages from recruiters in your LinkedIn inbox… this can feel frustrating – particularly when you’re not looking for a new role. Build a relationship with one stand-out recruiter and let them get to know you. What interests you? What would a next move need to look like? What do you love about your current role? By forming a long-term rapport, your recruiter will be more invested in finding the right opportunities for you; and potentially challenge your assumptions by showing you something you might not have thought of or come across. It’s important to remember that as recruiters we also think long-term and can provide much more than an ‘overnight solution’ - a fruitful relationship built over several months and years can mean you have someone working behind the scenes to help grow your career at no extra cost to you. We work with hundreds of candidates, so building a relationship ensures you will remain front-of-mind.

3. THINK STRATEGICALLY

Take time to map your career and think about where you want to get to, and why. All too often we hear candidates referencing their career goals and ‘wish-lists’ – such as moving in-house or joining their dream agency – without really considering the reality and/or the steps it takes to get there. If, for example, you want to become an in-house Communications Manager, take time to think about sectors you’re passionate about and businesses you admire. Seek advice – organisations and agencies can vary tremendously and expert recruiters have great insights into market reputation.

EMPLOYERS

4. FOCUS ON CULTURE, MENTAL HEALTH AND DIVERSITY IS KEY

If you’re struggling with retention or you can’t find the talent you want – take a look at why. Culture is one of the key drivers for why candidates take roles or leave roles. Hiring brilliant and diverse talent has never been more important. Do your hiring requirements reflect this? For example, only looking at candidates with a 2:1 degree or from a Russell Group University is a detrimental and outdated recruitment strategy. Instead, find ways to encourage and enable talent from diverse backgrounds to join our industry. Assess the diversity balance at all levels of your company and break it down – gender, sexuality, race and class – and put plans in place to hit targets. There are agencies and companies who have this as an inherent part of their businesses and have brilliant staff retention and talent desperate to work there as a result.

5. THINK ABOUT THE WAR ON TALENT

We often see candidates leaving roles for what would have been a relatively minor increase for a company. Is it worth the replacement cost, hiring fees and time it takes to train someone new when you could have given that person a pay-rise?  Similarly, respect prospective candidate salary expectations if they are aligned with market value. Is that minor saving worth losing a talented candidate who wants to work for you? What is particularly baffling is that given the war on talent and the resources it takes to secure good talent, the time prospective employers take to provide feedback on CVs and after interviews. For such a high priority problem, recruitment processes and the provision of useful and detailed feedback are often treated as a low priority, with candidates sometimes waiting weeks to hear back. This juxtapose means talent goes elsewhere. Keep recruitment processes slick and be respectful of the time both the candidate and recruiter have put into making the match happen.

6. FORGE PARTNERSHIPS WITH RECRUITERS

Investing in a recruitment partner can reap great results for businesses – helping to influence the industry landscape for the better and boosting public profile and perception amongst potential new hires. Rather than briefing several recruiters – and then muddying your message amongst candidates who may get approached several times by several sources about one opportunity – build rapport with a recruiter and allow them to become an extension of your team. That way, they can really advocate for your business, and when briefs come in, you’ll be a priority.

If you would like to have a conversation about your next career move, hiring talent for your business, or have a general chat about the market, please do get in touch.

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Author: Jenny Waters

Jenny specialises in the corporate communications space at Hanson Search, working in partnership with global agencies and in-house clients. She is also Co-Chairman of the PRCA NextGen London Group, a forum providing support and advice to communications professionals.

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