After 6+ years of running a company in the hiring space, specifically focused on companies hiring agencies, I know that one of the hardest things for a company to do well is hiring.
Good people are hard to find or attract. Good people are even harder to afford.
But if you do a good job of recruiting and selling people on joining you (because hiring involves sales), you’ll find that being able to afford great people becomes less of a challenge.
This article is going to outline how to do a good job recruiting great full time people to your company.
Many of the things outlined here also apply to hiring a great agency (we can help you with that at Credo), so even if you’re not sure whether you should hire in-house or an agency this article will help you. You should read this other article about that too.
Have a public job posting
Because of what my company does and my professional network, I’m often asked if I know anyone looking for a new job. I may or may not depending on the role, so I always ask for the public job posting.
You’d be amazed how rarely they have one. If I had to give a rough guess as to the percentage who do, it’s under 15%.
Without a public job posting, you are relying on me knowing the exact perfect person for the role who just happened to have told me directly that they are looking. This has happened exactly zero times.
Without a public job posting, I also have no way to know exactly what you are looking for in the person or other pertinent details as outlined below.
Let me be clear – without a public job listing outlining the role and level and details, you are wasting my time and your social capital by asking me or anyone to promote it or refer anyone.
Give the role a proper title
Within your public job posting, make sure it’s clear what the role entails and what the title will be.
Almost everyone when switching roles, is looking for upward movement in their title, compensation, and responsibilities. Some are looking to reduce their responsibility by focusing on and going deep in one area, whereas others may be looking up broaden their responsibilities and oversee more while owning less directly.
With all of this in mind, you need to give the position the proper title for the role you are hiring for, not the role they could maybe move into someday. While it can be important to some to see the opportunity for internal advancement at a company, you want to hire people who want the role you need.
The position’s title is one of the best ways to signal its seniority, scope, and compensation. It’s important to get this right to attract the right candidates, whether through someone referring them or through someone finding your listing on a job site. Promoted properly, your listing should get you at least 100 applicants of which 30-40% should be qualified for a second step in the process.
It is beyond the scope of this article to do a full dive into how to title your role, but I will try to give you general guidance from my experience. I will also say that if you are a small business, such as an agency, then you should be careful to avoid the trap of inflating titles to attract people to the role. Inflated titles are a patch for bad hiring practices.
Here are my general guidelines for roles at an agency:
- Analyst/specialist – entry level role focused on delivery of services. These are the 0-2 years of experience people who make most agency business models work. This person is there to get experience and break into the market, with the goal of moving up.
- Strategist/consultant – this is the subject matter expert lead on a client account. They have a strategic mind and are responsible for not only creating strategy and getting buy in from the client, but also for getting it executed on. Can be the account manager as well (and if they are not, they must be partnered with the account manager who is a glorified project manager and not expected to provide advice). There is not usually a “junior” strategist role, but may be a senior strategist when there are multiple and one is essentially the lead. Lead connotes management usually.
- Account manager – usually someone who is good at making sure things get done on time and to the client when promised. There can be junior, regular, and senior account managers based on experience and if they’re managing or on more important accounts.
- Director – the director is in charge of the day to day of a department when there are multiple people in that department. I see a lot of agencies make the mistake of leveling a strong individual contributor as a “director” and then having nowhere to put that person when the department grows and that person can’t lead.
- VP – Vice Presidents are and should be one of the last hires made for similar reason to Directors being hired. A VP should manage multiple directors and be responsible for the P&L of that business line.
Provide compensation guidance
Some states in the US are now requiring job posters to provide a salary range for jobs available to people in those states. This includes my state of Colorado.
I think this trend is going to expand, and that is a good thing. Nothing is less employee friendly than getting through a lengthy interview process only to find out that the job pays peanuts.
Just like someone looking to move jobs is likely looking to at minimum make a parallel move if not level up, people moving jobs usually expect a pay increase. It is well established that it is easier to make more quickly by changing jobs (up to a point) than by staying at your same company.
Providing a reasonable salary range (no $30k-$140k ranges allowed) will help you attract the right people at the right price. If you make your expectations of their salary known ahead of time, you won’t end up overpaying because someone negotiated higher. They just don’t apply ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Be clear about responsibilities
This one should also be a no brainer, but within your job posting you should outline specifically what the person will be responsible for.
You should also do this so that you can tell if it’s just one role or if you should be hiring for multiple. In the agency space I see a lot of postings that should be broken into 3 or 4 different roles.
- Is this a full time or contract role?
- Is this a client facing role, or an individual contributor role?
- Will the person be delivering the marketing campaigns, or overseeing them?
- What specific marketing channels (if we’re talking about a marketing agency) do they need to know well? If a development agency, which languages do they need to know?
- Who will they be partnered with internally?
- Will travel be required?
These are just a few things for you to consider when writing the role, as they’re questions prospects are asking in their mind as they read it.
Outline what your company offers them
Along with the specific responsibilities required for the role, you should also outline what your company offers.
For example, do you offer:
- 401k with matching?
- Health insurance?
- Unlimited PTO?
- Normal holidays off?
- Any unusual shifts (eg one evening support shift on a rotating schedule?)
Believe it or not, people see through the “fast paced work culture” and “ability to make an impact” for what it is – manipulative fluff. Leave it out.
I firmly believe that in the agency space there is not a lack of talent to recruit. I firmly believe that there is a lack of interesting jobs that pay a fair wage and are a good place to work with smart colleagues and flexible work arrangements. Even as far back as 2011 I worked at an agency (Distilled) that didn’t have trouble recruiting or retaining top talent even though most of us could have made substantially more at a roll up agency like WPP in New York City because we had interesting clients and flexible work arrangements (I worked from my apartment at least a day a week, in 2011-2013!) and smart colleagues and stature in the SEO industry.
This leads me to my next point.
Be clear about remote work policies
It is now 2022. 2020’s start of the Covid pandemic accelerated the move to remote work for many companies.
It’s hilarious to me how many people, especially fellow entrepreneurs, are now discovering the benefits of remote work that I’ve experienced for over 6 years now.
Many people in tech have now experienced the benefits as well as the challenges, and many at least want the flexibility of working remotely some.
Thus, as a hiring company, you need to be clear from the outset what your remote work policy is. If you’re inflexible on location or remote setups, you need to accept that you’re behind the times and going to have problems recruiting top talent.
Make it obvious how to apply and what happens next.
This one should be obvious, but unfortunately it’s usually not.
You need to be clear about how to apply to the role. Whether it’s sending an email to a specific email address using a certain word in the subject line or filling out an online form, be very clear about how to apply and what happens next.
Regarding how to apply, I recommend using an Applicant Tracking product like Breezy to to organize your hiring like a Kanban board.
Regarding next steps, “we will be in touch” isn’t a good next step. Make it clear when you’ll be reviewing applications and what will happen if someone is qualified (a survey, a screening call, etc).
How to get more applicants for your open roles
Before we end, I want to talk about something many of you forget to do with your open roles – market and sell them.
Unless you’re willing to pay for a recruiter (and if it’s a specialized senior role, you should be willing to) or a role made for a very specific person, you need to get your role in front of as many potential candidates as possible.
Even if there are 1,000,000 people with that job title (or one slightly below it) in your market, chances are good that most are not currently actively looking (but could be interested if your role is interesting. See above) or do not qualify for your role. Your pool of prospects is now MUCH smaller and you need to get in front of as many as possible.
Too many agencies, especially those who ask me if I know anyone, have broken or non existent recruitment processes.
Here’s how Credo gets 100+ applicants for every role we post, even contract roles. Credit goes to Dan Martell’s SaaS Academy for this process:
- Create a public job description. Be ready to post it on your website.
- Use an ATS like Breezy to create the role in their system. Paste the description from step 1.
- Post the role to your site. Use the ATS link for where people should apply so you can track them all.
- Post your listing on social media etc. Send it to people like me to consider promoting on social etc. Don’t stop here.
- Distribute your listing to main job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn. Expect good volume but relatively low quality from here. Lots of noise. Paying to promote jobs here has largely been a waste of money for us. Spend it below.
- DON’T SKIP THIS ONE – promote your listing on niche job boards and in niche communities! If you’re recruiting for a remote digital marketing role in the US, use job boards like WeWorkRemotely, Remote.co, and Remoters. Each listing will cost you ~$250 for a 30 day listing. Also consider using niche BIPOC job boards like CareerContessa (I’ve had great success here) and HireTechLadies to get more diverse candidates. Expect to spend ~$500 promoting and marketing your role. Send them to your ATS application link.
Now take about 3-5 days before you start reviewing applications. Now go in and review (or have someone on your team review) to qualify out those who are obviously not qualified. Move those who are to the next stage (we send a Google survey asking deeper questions, then review those answers and invite who we think might be the best fit to an interview).
Some companies will do onsite interviews. Some will do group. Some will have the team talk to you. My wife is the director of design at a tech company and they do full-team portfolio reviews and working sessions.
If you don’t know where to start, I recommend asking your top 2-3 prospects if they’d be open to a paid project. If you’re recruiting for an SEO manager role that includes SEO site audits, get them to spend two hours auditing your site and writing up their findings, then have them present their findings to you.
As Dan Martell says, “I can’t work with you until I work with you.”
Hopefully by now you’ve found your person and can extend them an offer. Just don’t forget that you’re asking them to change a large part of their life (their job) and that they are taking as big of a risk on you as you are on them. Make them as strong of an offer as you can and show them that you want them.
To recap, here’s what you need to know about hiring people and why people like me often won’t refer someone to your role:
- You don’t have a public job posting
- The role doesn’t have a proper title
- You don’t give compensation parameters
- You’re not transparent about the role’s responsibilities or remote allowances
- It’s not clear how someone applies
If you’re hiring, you need to make it as easy as possible for someone to apply or for someone to refer someone they know for the role. You’re asking someone to use their social capital to refer someone to you to work for you.
That is a huge ask, so do it wisely and set them up for success in doing so.