THE AGENCY RECRUITING PRIMER: Defining Roles for Your Team


The Role of HR:

Most mid-sized regional agencies don’t have the luxury of a full time HR person. Often, the person charged with HR issues is an operational employee, usually doubling as bookkeeper or office management. This person should not be responsible for agency recruiting. While they can help in coordinating recruiting efforts, especially as they relate to policies and guidelines – they should not be responsible for attracting top talent to the agency. In the absence of a full-time agency director, the agency should designate a key management team member as “Recruiting Director”. That’s the second tip from this series: appoint a Recruiting Director. One key person at the agency must own the function and be accountable for agency recruiting since talent is the lifeblood of our business.

In the event that an agency is fortunate enough to require a full time HR Director, this person assumes the role of Recruiting Director. This role requires:

  • Maintaining current and effective agency recruiting tools
  • Keep agency presence current in databases and online trade media
  • Keeping an agency database on top talent in the region, by discipline
  • Maintaining relationships with recruiters and influencers

The Role of the CEO or President

What’s at the top filters down. Very often, the role of recruiting director falls on the shoulders of the President – especially in the world of mid-sized regional agencies. But, the additional role of the President is to establish a culture. There are many articles written about agency CULTURE. This is not one of them. Even if you don’t want a culture, you have one. Usually, it’s the mirror reflection of your clients and their personalities. But, it’s the CEO’s job to protect it by hiring “fits”. A “fit” can actually be someone who doesn’t appear to be a fit. Sometimes the best “fits” are exactly that. That’s why you’re the CEO – you are supposed to have the wisdom and discernment of a visionary. Visionaries also do their homework, however. Your assignment is to create a “fit” profile for you agency. That’s tip # 3 from this seriescreate an agency “fit profile” – a hiring manifesto.

This role, as it applies to the recruiting process, requires:

  • Decisiveness
  • The courage to keep looking
  • Patience in the Flywheel Effect (see “Good to Great”)
  • Strict adherence to the agency mission
  • The courage and flexibility to transcend the agency mission through talent

The Role of the Management Team

Senior management teams at ad agencies are a lot like assistant coaching staffs at college athletic programs. They form the core of the agency and help shape its direction. Their contribution to agency recruiting, however, is often far too serendipitous. To maximize your management team’s network, consider asking them to:

  • be a “talent scout” in their discipline
  • attend trade events and network with rising talent
  • befriend one or two top specialist recruiters in their discipline
  • feed resumes to the recruiting director

The Role of the Search Firm (the Agency Recruiter)

Recruiters are a strange breed. This is not a series about recruiters. But, a good recruiter who understands your culture and your business can save you a lot of time. It might cost a little more than the mid-sized, regional agency cares to spend in fees, but time and talent are the only resources an agency really has. Find one or two in your industry and make them your friend. Good recruiters have been invaluable to virtually every successful agency.

There are two kinds of recruiters:

  • a) Specialists in filling key senior positions, usually in one specific discipline
  • b) Generalists that usually focus on junior-to-mid level positions across several disciplines

Good recruiters take the time to understand their client agency’s business – their clients’ client rosters, their points of differentiation, their case studies and their creative work. They also invest the time in understanding their client agencies’ cultures. There is an entire section to follow that addresses the best ways to engage and work with a recruiter on your agency’s behalf..

The recruiter’s duties in the recruiting process:

  • Scout and attract the top talent in the industry and understand what will make them move
  • Specialize in one or two disciplines
  • Take a thorough search assignment
  • Present qualified candidates who are sincerely interested in the opportunity
  • Coordinate interviews and telephone screens
  • De-brief candidate and client after interview
  • Negotiate and close the deal

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