Some of us technology PR practitioners are wishing we had a nickel for every headhunter with a job offer for us in any one-month period prior to 2001.
From being hotly sought to being fully ignored, a great deal of talent in the PR industry is walking around without an agency team. One excellent Java-knowledgeable guru is working Kinko's from the other side of a help desk, and others are taking extended leaves of absence without pay. Why aren't agencies and in-house communications teams refurbishing this reliable, smart crew?
This scenario offers food for thought and opportunities for the forward-thinking HR exec. Senior-level hiring is not likely to move upward until the fall, or even 2003. By then, those laid off this go-round will stand a slim chance of finding new jobs in technology, as the formerly junior move up. The senior-level downsized may never work in PR in this town again.
During this turmoil, privacy has been tossed out the window, as personal information and "profiling questions are working their way back into interviews and onto websites. The emphasis on tossing one's resume onto a website gives us all real concern over identity theft. HR execs, take note.
Observing that the healthcare sector is currently white-hot, we are told there is no room for practitioners coming from the tech side - despite the fact that some techies worked healthcare as a typical sector play.
We do appreciate that practice leaders need to be steeped in healthcare-industry protocol, but for big agencies where process is part of the package, many tech PR folks can easily quick-study their way into certain aspects of healthcare PR. In fact, fresh ideas often come about when fresher eyes have a chance to evaluate the challenges at hand.
While not every manager is flexible enough to play musical sectors, many PR people I know love the opportunity to try new markets to keep fresh.
Tech practitioners saw real rock 'n' roll when it came to media changes these past two years - anyone fast enough to have stayed on top of that scene deserves some real consideration. We also developed, created, and killed numerous practices to reflect a mercurial industry. We are accustomed to rebranding ourselves and our practices where needed.
Meanwhile, we non-working, senior-level PR pros observing the process from down here on the curb would like to offer some friendly observations to HR folks, based on our joint networking and discussions on surviving the interview process.
First off, PR folks gossip. How your HR department handles job seekers could come back to haunt you. And you should check out the careers part of your website. Does it consider the difference between hiring executives and entry-level staff?
Also, you should set expectations up front, letting candidates know if you are mainly just tire-kicking. You also need to teach your execs how to interview other execs. Should your junior manager be the first person to interview senior talent?
Teach your execs to take notes. It's doubtful that after a month of interviewing a dozen candidates that you remember each person well enough to make a decision, when you were probably running between client meetings and interviews.
If you get follow-up emails from candidates, take time to refresh your memory as to who they were. There's nothing worse than tailoring your response based on a candidate with the same first or last name.
Downsizing is part of agency life. But HR should offer accurate job search and COBRA information upon exit. Longtime and/or executive-level employees should be especially well managed. An agency's own reputation-management plan should be at work here.
I haven't named the top-10 worst agency websites or the worst HR downsizing scenarios, since I truly want to work again. But remember that the people you meet during the downturn may be your ticket on the uptick.