These past ten months or have been unlike any period I have ever experienced since the beginning of my 32 year career in digital marketing and ecommerce recruiting. The COVID crisis has turned the hiring landscape in digital marketing and ecommerce recruiting totally upside down. A year ago, certain specialties within digital marketing were in severe short supply. Candidates were receiving multiple offers, sometimes sparking bidding wars that resulted in pay increases of as much as 30%, not to mention counter-offers which were becoming routine. People were getting bombarded with calls from employers and third party headhunters with urgent positions to fill. It wasn’t unusual for active job seekers to juggle as many as half a dozen opportunities. Within a few short months, companies were announcing the first pandemic-related furloughs and layoffs.The job cutbacks reached their peak in June and July. The number of ecommerce and digital marketing-related job postings plummeted to ten year lows. As we enter 202, I’m happy to report that there has been a slow but steady uptick in employer calls and emails coming into my office. While most companies are in no big rush to bring on new talent, at least many are thinking about it. Typically after the holidays, activity on the executive search front tends to ratchet down for a month or so while everyone catches their breath. This time around, I believe, could be different. Employers are going to have some key positions to back-fill as the economy ramps back up, assuming of course the Covid-19 vaccine continues to roll out, That will shorten time to hire.
Most employers that have contacted my office so far this year are looking to fill newly created roles, while some need to backfill an unexpected vacancy. Still others are looking to make a change and trade an existing employee for someone from different environments who can bring fresh ideas. In fact, fully half the searches I’ve been involved with in the past couple of years have been confidential replacements. With many companies entering their second decade of ecommerce, I’m witnessing something of an “upgrading” phase, as it were, as companies reset for future growth.
For those in an active job search, or if you’re a hiring manager with a key role to fill, here’s a look at some of the recent trends in digital marketing and ecommerce talent acquisition:
Candidates expecting quick decisions from employers will be disappointed. Of course there are the exceptions, but generally speaking for senior level searches it’s taking as long as 4 or 5 months from start to finish- resume first submitted to final offer and acceptance. No surprise, given the current circumstances. A lot has changed over the past 30 years. Back in the 1990’s and even through the mid-2000’s when the economy was galloping along, employers had lots of chairs to fill. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be conducting 3 or 4 concurrent digital marketing and ecommerce recruiting searches for a single client. Speed mattered. But these days, even before the pandemic, it’s more about making sure each hire is right. My rule of thumb: Take the amount of time you’re hoping it will take, and double it. That’ll help put your expectations in check.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is ready for prime time. I actually lost an otherwise strong candidate earlier this year because their LinkedIn profile, in the words of the CEO, was “very shallow”. Seems amazing that can happen but it did, and it served as a stark reminder that LinkedIn profiles now factor into hiring decisions. In fact, according to some recent surveys I’ve seen, 40% of hiring managers will see your LinkedIn profile before they ever see your resume. People often ask me what they can do to optimize your LinkedIn profile. There’s a lot you can do, and while that is beyond the scope of this post, you can start by looking up the profiles of LinkedIn trainers. You’ll notice that there are lots of things they do in common, the same stuff they teach in their books, webinars and one-on-one consulting sessions. There are a ton of these trainers out there- why pay for this advice when it’s right there in front of you? You just have to do a little leg work. Be sure to take advantage of LinkedIn’s media capabilities. If you’re not, you could be leaving opportunities on the table.
Social Media Matters
Watch out what you say on other social media platforms. I also lost a strong candidate to some stuff that individual had posted on Facebook that raised questions about their judgement. If you’re not sure about it, don’t post it. It’s not worth possibly hurting your career.
The Times They Are A Changing
We’ve all heard and read about how the digital evolution has been accelerated because of the pandemic. Working habits have changed, learning has changed, consumer behavior has changed. There were a lot of “transformational” situations I worked with last year, and by that I mean anything except business as usual. Many of my searches involved fundamental change, i.e., newly created roles or flat out replacements to take the business to a new level. Two of my clients were literally century old companies looking to gain digital bench strength to power future growth. There is no force greater than digitization, and I see a lot of this coming in 2021 as businesses recover from COVID. Candidates who can scale the capabilities of digital channels, and do it cost effectively, are golden.
The Growing Importance of Bonuses
Upward pressure on bonuses intensified. As I discussed in a previous posting on digital marketing and ecommerce recruiting trends, bonuses for ecommerce and digital marketing positions have been playing catch up in recent years with more traditional marketing roles. The highly quantifiable nature of digital commerce is giving practitioners the ability to point to measurable gains, and therefore richer rewards. This will become especially important for candidates whose jobs were either furloughed or eliminated this year as they look to recover their earning power.
Don’t Low Ball
A compa-ratio of less than 1 will almost definitely put your organization at an immediate competitive disadvantage as it relates to the salary of a top performer. All of my placements were at 1 or higher, even during this COVID crisis. One of them was actually outside the client’s salary bracket, but that was to make up for a lack of 401k match. For many candidates, retirement benefits are as important as medical coverage, so if your companies is lacking in that area you may need to make it up in salary or through a sign on or guaranteed annual bonus.
The Future of Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Recruiting
Most people are too concerned right now about the health and well being of their families, co-workers and friends to be thinking about their careers. But like every other major crisis this country has faced, we will get past this. When that happens, many businesses are going to find themselves facing stark new realities. Some will struggle to adapt, others will prosper. As a veteran marketing recruiter who has been through many economic downturns, I can say with absolute certainty that how companies market themselves when they come out of this will make the difference between success or failure. For marketers, things may never be the same.
We’ve just had an amazing run. For more than a decade, businesses grew, people made money, marketers propelled their careers. Marketing shifted from offline to online. Entirely new job categories were created, marketing staffs greatly expanded, and opportunities seemed boundless.
A recent headline in Politico aptly describes the new reality: “Conoravirus Will Change the World. Permanently.”
They’re right. Big crises like this have a way of re-ordering how we do things- medically, politically, ethically, religiously, financially. And add to that list how we approach marketing. From a recruiting perspective, if you thought purple squirrels existed before all of this happened, wait until you see the breed that emerges when we return to some sort of normalcy. Whether the economy recovers in a V-shape or a U-shape or whatever-shape-you-want, companies will be facing challenges unlike anything they have ever faced in the past. That also means there will be opportunities for those who have the right background and experience to successfully pull these businesses through the uncertainty that faces them.
Despite everything we’ve been through in 2020, green shoots are sprouting. Digitization is alive and well and will only grow in importance in the years to come.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and omnichannel marketing. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 33 years. With more than 200 published articles on his blog and LinkedIn profile, and widely quoted by leading business publishers including Bloomberg, AdAge, AdWeek, DigitalCommerce 360 and Target Marketing, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences and webinars. He is also a vetted member of the Clarity.fm faculty of experts, specializing in the fields of digital commerce. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.