CA firms set to hire again, but talent is in short supply

SAN FRANCISCO: The Bay Area PR job market is heating up, with some observers claiming that it looks like 1999 all over again.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Bay Area PR job market is heating up, with some observers claiming that it looks like 1999 all over again.

"There's huge activity in Northern California," says Don Spetner, SVP and CMO at search firm Korn/Ferry International. "In the last month, the region has just exploded. It's gotten really hot."

Many agencies and companies cut their PR staffs to the bone during the downturn. And as the economy begins to show signs of recovery, they're ready to hire again. But many are finding that demand now outweighs supply.

"This is the spring after the California wildfires," said Spetner, who is aiding searches for a new VP of corporate communications at Cisco Systems and for Edelman's global technology practice president.

"Clients are emerging from the slowdown and investing a bit more in PR and marketing, although it's not gangbusters yet for sure," said Tim Marklein, EVP and GM of Weber Shandwick's Bay Area offices, who was recently poached from HP.

"The agency market is starting to heat up again," he added. "But during the downturn, a lot of people left PR. And not a lot of people were being recruited into tech PR. So it hasn't been easy finding people."

Spetner explained that many jobs are a natural outgrowth of a formerly stagnant market. The Bay Area talent pool is still a bit traumatized from the downturn, he said, when people either left the area, couldn't find work, or were overworked.

"The community ... needs to be refreshed," said Spetner. "We're seeing the same cast of characters moving into new jobs. [But] all these new jobs will attract people to the Bay Area. When a market gets hot like this, people move here."

Susan Flesher, president of Bay Area search firm Flesher & Associates, said she is busier than she has been in years.

Employers are being very particular about who they hire, some said. Agencies and companies are determined not to make the same mistakes they made during the boom, when they hired people just to fill up seats.

"I've also found that there's very little cooperation on salaries," said Flesher. "So I'm losing some good candidates because employers are not being as flexible as they used to be when it comes to salaries."

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