7 Steps to Successful Digital Recruitment

In the past 8 years I’ve interviewed, and subsequently recruited, quite a few people into digital roles.  Along the way I’m not afraid to say I’ve made a few mistakes.  Thankfully however there have been more successes than failures and as time has gone by my hit rate continues to improve.  Below are a few lessons I have learnt about recruitment in the digital age:

1. Don’t believe everything you read on a CV

I’m sure it happens in every sector but in the digital industry which is less established and structured there is even more scope for people to exaggerate roles, responsibilities and expertise. We also operate in a world of acronyms, buzz words and crazes which makes it easy for somebody to sound like an expert on paper.  Ensuring you interrogate each element of a candidates CV and you will very quickly start to see if any cracks appear.

2. Do your own research

Its common practice now to check out potential candidates social profiles prior to interview.  When viewing their profiles on sites like Linkedin though you need to bear in mind that they are self-edited and as such aren’t always 100% accurate.  Always check the LinkedIn profile against the CV to spot any discrepancies.  I tend to ignore Linkedin recommendations as invariably they are reciprocal and therefore inaccurate.  If you want, however, you can check this out by viewing the profile of the recommendation provider and see if there is a reciprocal recommendation.

Check if they have a twitter profile or blog and what sort of content they are sharing.  This can be a useful insight into their passion for the digital sector.  Those adding thought and insight, regardless of their level, tend to come with more passion and desire which can transcend a level of experience.

3. Use your contacts

We still operate in a relatively small market.  The most useful source of true information on a potential candidate are the contacts you make in your own career.  I always reach out to old contacts or ex-colleagues who may have worked with a candidate to get opinions about them both from an expertise and personal perspective.  This way you can not only understand more about the candidate and how they might fit with a role, but also learn from the mistakes others have made!

4. Test practical knowledge

Much like the point about interrogating a candidates CV, it is also important to interrogate their practical knowledge of digital channels.  Incorporating case studies and practical tests into the recruitment process helps to weed out those who can talk about a subject, but don’t have the technical capabilities to put it into practice.

5. Look beyond expertise

You may happen to come across an intelligent, knowledgeable candidate with great technical capabilities but if they are lacking in more basic skills such as communication, interpersonal skills or tact then you should probably just let them go.  Fitting in with a team structure and communicating with colleagues and clients is often more important.  Knowledge gaps can be filled more easily than personality based traits.

6. Trust your instincts

On a couple of occasions I’ve had a niggling feeling something wasn’t quite right with an appointment but convinced myself everything would work out OK.  Their CV and experience was right, the came across fine, things would work out. Invariably in these instances things didn’t work out and I should have trusted my instincts.  If you have a gut feeling something isn’t right, either work out what it is and address it head on, or don’t make the appointment.

7. Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake

Even if you follow all of these steps and cover off all of the bases, you can still make mistakes. The important thing to do in these situations is admit it, and take steps to remedy the situation.  Even the best recruiting managers make mistakes with their appointments; the important thing is understanding where you went wrong and learn for the future.  If the appointment isn’t right either find a role for them within the organisation which is more suitable, or take the necessary steps and find a replacement, it’s better for everybody in the long run.

Time paywall: Dont write it off just yet

times paywall

There have been many confusing messages in the media about the success or failure of the Times paywall.  Competitor publications have predictably claimed it to be a huge failure; other figures suggest a drop off of two thirds readership from free to paid is a success against the 90% drop off the Times had expected.  Claims that the Times is now “an empty world” seem inconclusive with the publication themselves have declined to comment.

For me, whatever level the user base has dropped to, this is just phase 1 of the paywall process, and it will be the next 6-12 months that dictate the true success of the paywall as it begins to take shape and there are a number of key factors which will determine its true success.

Quality of content

If you are going to charge people for access to news articles and opinion, it’s going to have to be better than other articles available for free elsewhere.  The Times will have to ensure their editorial content is going to have to be of a higher quality than their competition to justify the charge and prove that the money is going to good use.

Advertising revenues

Just because the paywall is in place doesn’t mean the Times has written off advertising as a revenue channel, far from it.  In fact having registered users in a closed network opens up a host of additional options for targeted advertising.  Historically advertising in newspapers and on their online versions has been done based on readership and audience profiles.  The information required to sign up for the paywall will enable the Times to offer targeting options based on an individual user, rather than an aggregated version of the whole group.  This type of targeting general allows for more premium pricing and if they manage to do it intelligently could generate serious income.

Word of mouth

At the moment the Times are the bad guys for charging for content.  A small group have decided to stick with it and if the Times can prove the value to this group, then this group will become key to future growth.  When people find out that somebody pays for the Times content, they are bound to ask “why?”, and “whats it like?”, if the response is positive you have a potential new buyer, if its neutral or negative, then you don’t.  If the response is “awesome, great content, a great read and well worth the money” then word will spread.

The competition

The Times are the first to introduce a paywall in traditional press, but I doubt they will be the last.  Other online publications are going to have to find their own way to make sure revenues generated online cover the overheads of delivering the content.  Whilst the competition can sit back and suggest the paywall is a failure for now, there is going to come a point where they have to decide what the route forward for their own online strategy is.  And if it materialises that other follow down the paywall route, then the Times will be ahead of the game in terms of making it work.

It’s all about building momentum

All of these points will contribute to building momentum (or not).  If you present great editorial to current users, they will spread the word and your user base will grow.  Continue to add even more great content and value, and you build a snowball effect.  Similar with the advertising, if you build a solid advertising model and targeting options you might convince a few media buyers to give it a go, if it’s good, word will spread.  Obviously this requires the Times to get a few things right.  If the content isn’t good, or the advertising model is poor, then momentum won’t build and things might go into meltdown.  There’s a long road ahead, but it definitely can’t be deemed a success or failure just yet.

Which Client Gets More?

Agency client relationships can be interesting to say the least. I have a fair amount of agency side experience dealing with clients who I have been providing digital marketing services for and I can safely say that no two relationships are the same. I’ve dealt with clients who don’t seem to want to speak with you, clients who never leave you alone, clients who understand digital marketing, clients who don’t and all variations of client in between. But who gets the most out of the agency? Which is the best client for building a conducive long term relationship?

Mid adult businessman yelling on mobile phone outdoorsThe constantly demanding client often gets what they want in the short term, they will huff and puff and in many cases their account manager will be pressured into running around like an idiot to service them.  Long term however this client is going to lose out.  When it comes to added value, client niceties, or the impending contract renewal this client isn’t going to get treated the best.  The agency will realise they are over-servicing(assuming they are) and demand a higher fee, or the account manager will begin to resent the client and deliver substandard service or at least minimal effort will be put into their work.  Ultimately the client is going to lose out.

On the flip side you have the client who leaves the agency to it, and doesn’t engage them too much in their work.  This is great from a cost efficiency stand point for the agency, but is it going to make them work hard for their cash?  Not in the long term.  Work will be put in for a while but as soon as a conflict of time occurs, or workloads increase, it is likely to be this client who misses out.

I suppose its a question of timing.  Be strong and demanding when you have to be, but make sure you respect your agencies work and the time it takes and let them get on with it.  If you are happy with your agency, don’t be demanding for the sake of it, they will only resent you for it.

So Where Have I Been?

I think that’s 31 days between posts, what can I say, I’ve been busy! Busy building. Building relationship, building products, building teams, and building strategies which will hopefully lead to the building of an empire!

Oh, and I have been out and about speaking a little too. Once again for the Fresh Business Thinking guys and their excellent Hit Me Summit. Below is the presentation I gave on Holistic Search: How to Combine PPC and SEO Effectively, it made a lot more sense with the commentary but might be of use for those who were there.