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Finding top talent

Hiring at the mid-level and senior level roles in the PR, communications, and marketing industries is a whole different ball game compared to sourcing for junior and graduate roles..

It makes perfect sense – the higher the salary and greater the responsibility level for a role, the more pressure employers are under not to drop the ball when they make a final decision. Hires at these levels can bring a very tangible impact, one way or another, and this might be felt throughout the company for years to come.

To give a fresh perspective to employers who aren’t entirely sure what to look for yet, we spoke to Stan Livingstone, a consultant for PR and Marketing roles at Henry Nicholas, who helps companies find their next ideal candidate for roles across account executive level right through to  account director level.


Who is qualified for a mid or senior position?

In a nutshell, the ideal candidate background and skills needed for the job can vary significantly depending on both the client and the industry.

“I have clients in the automotive industry, the property industry, and the hospitality industry. All of them want candidates with a couple of years in PR, but some are more open to hiring those with in-house experience than others, for example,” Stan says. “Similarly, more technical industries are also more likely to prefer candidates with industry experience, while others are happy to take those who’ve built up an arsenal of transferable skills.”

Candidates with agency backgrounds are always an interesting case for employers compared to their counterparts who’ve held predominantly in-house roles.

Agency candidates often see fast career progression, and might have risen through the ranks from account executive to senior account executive in just a couple of years. “Since they arrive at the senior pool early, their jump to account director may not take so long in these cases,” Stan says.


Striking a balance between salary and the skills you need

Once you reach a certain point on the ladder, it’s hard not to have developed a vague idea of what you’re looking for in a candidate. But you need to be realistic too, as Stan noted.

“I’ve had clients looking for a candidate who has everything – a deep understanding of all marketing channels, years of experience, and everything else… but they sometimes need to figure out how to reconcile that with what they can offer salary-wise to find the perfect balance.”

That being said, years of experience isn’t as important as the results themselves. Employers will often look at the calibre of the specific influencers candidates have worked with, or the magazines they’ve landed placements in, for example. A candidate who has achieved the same number and standard of great PR placements in two years is going to look stronger than a candidate that’s done the same in three.

Once a candidate gets to a more senior level, other factors come into play too, such as the ability to effectively manage clients and their own direct reports. For those new to this territory, it’s normal for the acclimatisation process to take some time as well.

“Most hires need a bit of time to settle in and adapt to the new, managerial sides of their role,” says Stan.


PR, communications, and marketing are candidates’ markets

With more roles than candidates at the moment, employers certainly have to move fast to secure the cream of the crop. These days, companies are navigating a candidate’s market, and that has an impact on more than just the kinds of salaries they’ll need to offer.

For instance, there’s a chance candidates will have multiple applications on the go at the same time. By the time they’re speaking to your company, they may already be on their second interview with another one or two companies – weighing the merits of each place against what they value, whether that’s a higher salary or a focus on corporate responsibility.

So the onus is on employers to really make sure they’re conveying the value of a role to hook candidates in and make the interview process seamless – otherwise candidates’ wandering eyes will have them looking at seemingly greener pastures elsewhere.

Generally speaking, the less moving parts in the process, the better. At a minimum, you should be able to confidently describe the kind of candidates you’re going for. What skill sets might you be looking for? Does agency experience have any bearing on your choice? If you haven’t asked yourself those questions properly, take some time to reflect.

Cranking it up a notch, if you can eliminate the process of having to generate your own pipeline of potential top talent, even better – you’re certainly in for a much smoother ride. The quickest way to find out what you really want and to source the people who fit the bill is by getting your foot in the door with someone that knows the lay of the land


Henry Nicholas’ experienced team are experts in helping employers fill roles organisation-wide in record time, gearing them up for long-term success by matching them with individually screened candidates and becoming a trusted partner over time. Ready to meet your next mid-level to senior hire? Get in touch with our team today!