Recruit the best digital talent

Working in digital recruitment I've been fortunate enough to work with some amazing brands, and even more amazing digital specialists. I've had exposure to a wide variety of client and candidate requests and challenges. I’ve worked with both big brands and small; with well-established pure play digital heavy hitters and businesses taking their first steps towards digital change. One challenge that often arose back in 2011 and now comes up regularly, is clients telling me how tough it is to find and retain top-quality digital candidates.
Having said that, the UK’s digital market represents some of the best candidates in the world yet they often have some of the toughest interview processes to go through. Digital professionals are typically required to leap through a number of hoops when applying for a role, so helping talented digital candidates find great roles directly benefits all parties involved in the process.
To ensure you are attracting the right candidates for your vacancies, here are my top ten tips to recruit (and retain) the best digital talent.

1. Decide exactly what you want before you start

Many of our clients are entering the world of digital recruitment for the first time, so it is especially important for us to work closely together during the early stages of the recruitment process. Establishing a clear description of the role and ideal candidate as well as determining a fair yet competitive salary for the position is key to a smooth and successful process. Very often businesses end up using their first few interviews as a way of exploring the market, however, working closely with your recruiter, benchmarking and approaching other industry experts before starting to recruit can help overcome this.

2. Be realistic

As digital skill sets are in such high demand and top talent is difficult to attain, professionals within the digital sector often earn salaries above the average for their level of experience. We have on occasion had requests to recruit very niche specialists for salaries which sit well below the average for the market. These cases are very rarely complete to everybody’s satisfaction. 
I’ve experienced many client meetings with clients looking for candidates with a broad mix of acquisition, optimisation and web build skills, a background working with a competing product and a salary expectation 10k below market value. With such a high demand for these skills the best candidates usually have a number of opportunities that they are in the process of applying or interviewing for. Being realistic with salary packages from the get-go can save a lot of time and effort down the line. 

3. Consider flexibility, consider incentives

Digital tasks can often be completed remotely and the results are tangible and immediate. The best candidates are extremely proud of their growth in web traffic, conversion rates, open rates or digital project delivery times. Consider offering them additional bonuses for hitting targets and dynamic working options. 
In our recent benefits survey of 1000 professionals in the UK, 71% of people listed flexible working hours in their top five most wanted benefits and 55% listed work-from-home options. Seven in ten also identified flexible working hours as a must for them when considering a new role. To ensure you are a standout employer to candidates, offer a benefits package that includes dynamic working - you can be sure that one of your competitors will be.

4. Be diverse and inclusive; focus on achievements

When looking for a new hire, previous or current job titles are very often of lesser importance than a candidate’s past experience and achievements. For example, let’s assume I’m recruiting a Digital Marketing Manager to own SEO, PPC, programmatic and social acquisition. In a week, I might meet five candidates currently titled Digital Marketing Manager (DMM) but each has a different mix of skills. Some may not currently work with some of those channels but instead may be more focused on conversion rate optimisation or come from a business with less common job titling. Conversely, I could meet five candidates with experience working with each of those channels and it’s quite likely that none of them will currently be titled Digital Marketing Manager. 
Digital skills are still new enough that businesses are creating bespoke titles. As such, I encourage my teams to worry less about titles and focus on tangible examples of driving improvements in each of their respective skills.
In addition to this, it’s important to remember that digital professionals come from very diverse backgrounds. Try to avoid hiring in your own image; clients often find they gel best with candidates who look and sound a lot like them, but in practice, and particularly in the digital world, this can cause long-term problems. Hiring professionals with similar experiences and approaches to challenges not only leads to a team of individuals who all tackle problems in the same way but can also result in less innovative ideas, which is particularly problematic in digital. Being open to candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds will ensure you have access to a far stronger shortlist.

5. Run smooth processes

The average digital candidate will have three or four high potential roles underway at any given time. We have to assume that most of those will be of interest to the candidate, or else they wouldn’t be going forward. Most of the best digital candidates are also working when they start looking, so it doesn’t always take a lot to convince a candidate to drop out. We encourage each of our clients to run quick and agile processes, ideally with one or two stages where possible, to ensure the best candidates are still available when it’s time to make an offer.

6. Demonstrate commitment to digital change

One of the most common reasons digital candidates approach us is out of frustration at their current business’ approach to digital change. Often digital transformation is signed off at a senior level, candidates are hired then put evidence-based business cases forward to the board but struggle to get these plans signed off, or find themselves spinning their wheels waiting for internal processes. As a result, digital candidates are often nervous about joining companies that aren’t truly ready to commit to digital change. The best thing you can do to allay these fears is show evidence that your team does not face this challenge.

7. Defer to their speciality skills

Another reason candidates often drop out of processes is their perception that their manager-to-be isn’t going to respect and defer to their speciality skill set. However, as the client, you need to test the candidate’s knowledge to make sure you can trust them with ownership of the challenge, which can create a problem. One potential solution, if you’re hiring an area you don’t specialise in yourself, is to bring in your agency support to test them, or your recruiter if they have some technical specialist skill, to give you an idea of how good the candidate actually is.

8. Offer quickly and try not to negotiate too hard

Digital candidates can be a tough bunch to please and with multiple other offers on the go, a mere 24-hour delay in offering can have a huge impact on the outcome of your recruitment process. A fast and competitive offer compared to a delayed or unexpected lowball offer can mean the difference between a successful hire, a begrudging acceptance or, worst case, a rejection. If your top candidate rejects your offer it might mean you have to start the whole process again, from scratch. 
Be sure you are offering a fair yet competitive salary package and if you find a candidate you like then make an offer quickly. 

9. Keep in touch

So you’ve offered and they’ve accepted the role but you’ve got a couple of weeks before they start. The easy temptation is to sit back - job done - but if they are as good as you think they are, just because they aren’t proactively looking, doesn’t mean that all the recruiters who knew they were looking last week will stop trying to brief them on new roles. The best thing you can do is continue to engage with your new hire however you can; whether that’s drinks with the team, odd half days in the office to do handovers or just regular calls.

10. If you choose to use a recruiter take the time to find a digital specialist you can trust

A good recruiter can help you with all of the above points and make a potentially tough process feel easy. The reverse is equally true, so invest the time in understanding how much the recruiter in question knows about digital, how technically they can question the candidates, and how invested they are in a long-term relationship with you.
So there you have it; my top ten tips. 
If you would like any more information or to discuss how we can help with your recruitment needs, get in touch with Richard Cobbold, Manager, Michael Page Digital. 
Richard Cobbold
T: +44 207 269 2428