Hiring in the middle ranks

In a recruitment market that is bustling, companies are finding ways to recruit in the elusive 5- to 8-year experience level.

In a recruitment market that is bustling, companies are finding ways to recruit in the elusive 5- to 8-year experience level.

Harry Pforzheimer, VP of communications at Intuit, has no trouble finding recruits in the early stages of their career. Nor does he lose sleep at the lack of senior talent out there. But like many senior PR executives with hiring responsibility, he is sometimes confounded by those in the middle.

"What happens to those people with 5 to 8 years' experience, I don't know," he says. "The surplus seems to dry up."

Pforzheimer offers two main reasons for the shortage that he sees. "A good part of the time," he says, "the good people in this experience range are comfortable in a job and not actually looking."

And then, even for those who are on the hunt, "There are a lot of people in this range who can do the basics of the job," Pforzheimer continues, "but it's hard to find those people who have the passion for PR and who are builders instead of maintainers."

So, rather than relying on just one or two sources for recruitment, Pforzheimer and many of his peers take a 360-degree approach to the talent pool, and know that it takes time and effort to find even one person. This is paying off, he says, as he and several other recruiters say the job market in general is flourishing, and is the best it has been since the boom prior to 9/11.

Pforzheimer notes that hiring is going particularly well in Silicon Valley - an area that was hard-hit in terms of talent when lots of junior to mid-level practitioners left the industry during the dot-com boom.

"We've hired five or six people in the past six months who fit into [the 5- to 8-year] category," says Pforzheimer, "and they seem to have become smarter about the overall opportunities - the culture, the compensation, the work/life balance. We've been able to hire the best of the best."

Rachel Euretig recently joined Pforzheimer's team as PR manager for the Quick Books product suite at Intuit. "I was interviewing with other Silicon Valley companies, as well as Intuit," she said. "But with Intuit, I knew where I stood every step of the way and I really knew that they wanted me to be part of their team."

The Intuit recruits stress that culture was very important in their decision to join the team. "Right now seems to be a pretty good job market, and even though compensation is always important, the intangibles are what really made the difference," adds Euretig.

The values of the company, where the company is going, and what success looks like for an individual are traits that are standing out amongst recruiters as being important to potential candidates, more so than compensation.

"This is a complete flip from what went on in the dot-com bubble," says Pforzheimer. "People in the 5- to 8-year [range] have matured in their thought process in what is really important. They're not looking for the next gig based on stock prices and compensation."

Pforzheimer and Intuit have looked all over the country to find talent. He says that while much of the talent is coming from local markets in Northern California, it's also coming to Intuit from the Midwest and the East Coast.

Indeed, finding talent that has a good mix of previous job experience and skill sets is more important than just geographical location, even though some employers remain reluctant to go through the extra steps necessary to enable potential recruits to relocate.

Beyond first impressions

Bill Heyman, president, founder, and CEO of PR recruiting firm Heyman Associates, says it's important that recruiters take the time to get to know the people in the 5- to 8-year experience range. Rather than looking for a cookie-cutter fit, it's important to get to know the individuals to see what they can bring to a team.

"The vital issue with people at that level is whether they've had meaningful experience," Heyman says. "It matters if they've had good, strong agency experience, and maybe had a split between agency and journalism experience, or have worked on Capitol Hill. People who have had diverse, deadline-oriented experience in the first five years tend to be the people most sought after in a marketplace that is strong, like the one we have now."

Of course, finding those people in the first place proves even harder than figuring out if they're the right fit or not. Don Spetner, CMO at Korn/Ferry International, says, "There is a broad demographic reason for this gap in experience because there just aren't as many people that age."

Spetner recommends that senior professionals with recruiting responsibility get out into the field.

"I find that if you are a more senior person, it's an asset to do the speaking circuit," says Spetner. "Generally, the more talented, outgoing people in that age range will seek you out after you are done speaking."

Laura Kane, second VP for corporate communications at Aflac, also relies on networking.

"We go to PRSA and we go to IABC, which is usually where we have our best luck in finding people," says Kane. "[Those that attend] are people who are committed and interested in a career path that is in PR."

Once a recruiter has found the right people, it can be hard to lure them away from a comfortable job. Any extra effort is definitely noticed by candidates, including Intuit's managing editor of online communications John Parkin, who relocated from Dallas. Parkin was concerned about the higher cost of living in Silicon Valley.

"Intuit put me in touch with a lender and realtor who I spent hours on the phone with asking questions about the area," he says. "Other places that I interviewed with didn't take that extra step."

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