Adland Secrets: Confessions of an adland recruiter playing a new era game

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 3 August 2018

This was first published in the August issue of AdNews.

Under cover of anonymity, another raconteur bends the ear of AdNews. This adland recruiter recalls drug–fuelled lunches and fabricated ideas of bad culture, compared to a new era and changing stakes.

The best thing about leaving the full–time recruiter role at a larger corp?

You grow up pretty fast and realise the world doesn’t evolve around your next pay cheque and that your job isn’t everything. Working for larger corps you build a resilience to pressure to KPIs/ targets over the years, but neglect your mental well–being. Definitely less stressful.

Why did you leave past roles and go it alone?

I’m a fiercely independent person and, from an early age, I wanted to have my own thing. I also realised that recruitment is old and dated and hasn’t changed much in the last 40–plus years. Instead of moaning and being too negative, I went alone and set my own model and values.

Typical internal politics at big corps that got you down or got in your way?

The industry is founded on the progression and promotion of good billers rather than the quality of the person. In turn, they go on to lead teams, totally unprepared as managers. Due to the lack of quality training and nurturing, these managers become robots with little empathy to people's needs, demanding KPI results on a micro level basis.

Is it all ‘work hard play hard’ like people say?

Yes. In the early/mid 00’s, people were making seriously good money. Drug–fuelled lunches, over–the–top nights out. Trips away every month across Europe to Vegas for hitting targets were a regular hing. We were taken to a new five star restaurant every month too. It was insane the amount of money being spent. It created comradery to keep spirits up and motivations levels high.

Any common irritants in dealing with adland companies?

We’re in a time of constant innovation and change in the tech and social space. We understand agencies are stretched. We’re also managing and dealing with shrinking talent pools and the end product is affected. A lot of the time, agencies' expectations on what they want are too high versus the realities of what they can get. There is an unwillingness to move or change. So, there is mistrust in the relationship.

Hiring for creative agencies, versus media shops or digital firms — which do you prefer and why?

Creative agencies. We still enjoy looking and interacting with people’s work and projects. We enjoy seeing great work that resonates and tells a story. Tough to get that from a banner from McDonald's or a website for a property development company.

What would you like to see happen to create a greater working relationship with the client?

More transparency between agency and its recruitment partner. The stronger the relationship, the better the results. Agencies need to better the quality of the strength and scope of their recruiter and, therefore, put more trust and responsibility to the process. That outcome is a much more efficient and honest relationship.

What's the dirtiest (or sneakiest) thing you've done (or seen done if you don't have one) to win over top talent? 

I’ve seen people make up total rubbish/lies on other businesses and potential new bosses in order to sway a decision. Totally fabricated ideas of bad culture, managers being too forward and touchy etc. I’ve seen a lot of things over the years, but it’s fair to say a lot of that poor integrity was more prevalent in the past. No doubt it still exists, but those recruiters won’t last too long in this industry/market. With recent visa changes too, the industry has weeded out a lot of the crap too — the smash and grab short–sighted types in it for a quick buck. I truly believe that the overall quality has improved with a reduction in dishonest types. That older 1980's management generation is also retiring etc. too, making way for a modern way of communicating.

Mature recruiters versus new agers — who is winning the race and why?

Older people are wiser and more trusted. Recruitment still carries a stigma for poor low entry level sales people. It’s therefore easier to win someone over being older. However, in a world of social media, LinkedIn and email, recruitment has become more about online conversations than face–to–face and networking events. Therefore, online activity is important too, particularly going through 80–plus pages searching on LinkedIn for that perfect person. Mature recruiters are arguably a bit more chilled and relaxed in their approach too. The new age recruiter is eager to impress — working longer hours and still driving office culture. Call it a draw.

How do the bigger recruitment agencies treat employees compared to smaller shops?

Bigger overheads equals more pressures. That filters down from the very top in larger agencies. They therefore monitor KPI activity at a micro level. That’s the only way they believe they can manage sales activities en masse. That, in turn, creates a pressured culture and environment, much bigger picture thinking, and expectations. Some do very well, some leave burnt out and exhausted with the industry. Smaller agencies on the other hand are generally more relaxed in their approach. We struggle to attract new staff due to the competition and create more agile and flexible environments to attract and keep staff. The smaller agencies are a lot more profitable too, I’d imagine, as they simply have less overheads to manage. 

What do you make of big creatives/media execs being lured to consultancies?

Agencies are openly losing money and struggling to make decent margin. Retainers are few and far between and short campaigns are thrown out like a chip to seagulls. The best in the industry are smart enough to know consultancies make serious money. They also have leverage with C–levels at the brand. That much power and influence is attractive. Unless the creative/media industry changes its practices or models sometime soon, it will continue to happen.

Are the salaries far larger and how does this impact more specialised industry recruiters who aren’t used to dealing with consultancies?

Salaries are not that much higher, at the moment anyway. Industry specific recruiters are shit–scared. It’s a whole new world corporately led, with it’s own new language. The recruiters' skill set generally reflect the needs of their best clients. Funny how a lot of the older creative–led Sydney recruiters are starting to fade now too. It’s time to evolve unfortunately or drop out. These changes are not going anywhere soon.

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