At any point over the last eight years, if you had asked me about the number one challenge we faced as an agency, my answer would not have anything to do with market dynamics, automation, privacy laws, or the pandemic.
It would be hiring. Hiring; specifically, hiring the right people, has been so freaking difficult.
Granted, we’ve been picky. We care very much about preserving the integrity of our team and our culture—we have no room for a B-team—so we’ve patiently waited for the right candidates. For many years, this limited our team’s growth and our ability to take on new projects, but I believe it was worth it.
What’s more, if you want to be extremely picky, you need to install a thorough and somewhat arduous interview process. When we send out a job offer, we want to know with certainty that we really like this person. We therefore invest a lot of time into each candidate… probably too much time.
In the past, hiring was often done in spurts. Isaac and I would have to drop everything and dedicate months to recruiting, interviewing, negotiating offers, and onboarding. We’d often joke about the ultimate catch-22:
I’d love to hire a full-time recruiter… if only we knew how to recruit, interview, and hire one that we liked!
That all changed in 2022. No, we didn’t hire an actual recruiter. Instead, we tapped two of our most creative and organized team members to find a solution: Bruna Alves, a project manager, and Kelly McKibbon, our events director.
We realized that we should view a career at AdVenture Media as if it were a product. I feel silly admitting this, but it took nearly a decade for us—an advertising and marketing agency—to realize that we should market our career opportunities as if they were a product for one of our clients. Brilliant!
Recruiting is like lead generation: the candidates are prospective leads, our hiring managers are the sales team, and our marketing team (Bruna and Kelly) were responsible for marketing the product (our career opportunities). Sales and marketing would work together to create an efficient system for qualifying and closing leads into, um, employees.
The first step was to take stock of our current marketing and sales assets.
We already had a reliable interview process in place. Some day, I’ll write a lengthy post describing this interview process, as I’m fairly proud of it and believe it has been instrumental in helping us hire the right people. For now, I’ll summarize:
We’ve had this system in place for four or five years. It works really well—the problem is that we never had a consistent stream of candidates entering this process. Also, it was inefficient: Isaac and I were spending way too much time taking initial interviews for candidates that would not pass to the final round.
From a lead generation marketing perspective, we were lacking in both lead quantity and lead quality.
We needed better marketing. We needed to reach as many qualified candidates as possible, and improve the efficiency of the candidates that were nurtured throughout the funnel.
There are many ways in which a prospective candidate’s opinion of AdVenture Media (and its career opportunities) might be influenced. These factors are marketing and branding assets that can be categorized within the marketing funnel.
At the bottom of the funnel, we have the assets most important for converting a prospect into a candidate. These include the careers page on the AdVenture Media website, job descriptions, and our company profile on any job board / recruitment platform. This also includes any collateral that we’d bring to an in-person career fair.
The middle of the funnel includes anything that an interested candidate might come across that would help instill trust that AdVenture Media might be a good fit for them. This includes employee reviews on Glassdoor, AdVenture's “Our Team” page, and our social media presence (LinkedIn, specifically).
The top of the funnel includes anything else that highlights our work or our culture, or in some way generates excitement around the opportunity. This includes awards, client case studies, client reviews on platforms like Google or Clutch.io, and any marketing content including blog posts, podcasts, videos, courses, or books that showcase our expertise.
We then discussed how to strategically leverage these different assets together. For example, after attending an in-person career fair, an email sequence went to all candidates that included a video of Isaac presenting our core values, followed by a clear description of the interview process and a strong call-to-action to submit an official application.
The single most important change was related to our job descriptions. Not only was our messaging inconsistent—job descriptions listed on our website were different from what was found on LinkedIn—it was just bad.
It’s difficult to write a quality job description; every company seems to use the same buzzwords: fast-paced environment, autonomy, upward mobility, family-like culture that cares about YOU!, yada yada yada…
Unfortunately, those things do actually describe AdVenture! (I assume that every other company is lying). The challenge then becomes saying these things in a unique and genuine way.
After lengthy discussions, we kept coming back to the idea that our team is filled with people that could be successful in almost any field. We subscribe to Jim Collins’ Good To Great methodology of: “Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where you’re going.” We often joke that we could close the agency tomorrow and start a new company with the same people—selling used cars or operating a chain of mini-golf courses or anything else—and we would be equally happy and successful.
And so the first paragraph of our Junior Account Manager job description became:
AdVenture Media’s team is made up of passionate, creative and smart people. The work we do happens to be performance marketing but that’s less about who we are and more about what we do. We are people who respect one another and who hold themselves accountable to greatness.
A second theme that stood out was the importance of our training program. Great candidates usually asked a lot of questions about the training, and so we called special attention to this topic in the JD:
What Is A Junior Account Manager’s Role At AdVenture Media?
AdVenture Media Junior Account Manager is the first step into campaign management. We are not expecting you to be a PPC or Meta guru (although experience is a plus!), but in this role you will learn to be through training and first hand experience.
When you start as a Junior Account Manager, you will be expected to complete a training program that will arm you with the knowledge you will need to begin managing client’s accounts. As you grow, you will be expected to support day-to-day communication across client and media teams, as you will be first-hand managing ad accounts. You will be responsible for managing the tactical execution and reporting across all channels, creating workflows to ensure seamless and flawless communication flows.
The key here is that great candidates cared about this topic. By addressing this directly, we increased the probability that we’d catch the eye of the right people.
Turns out, copywriting matters!
The next step was to determine which channels and platforms to promote our opportunities. There are an overwhelming number of recruitment websites available, but we categorized them as such:
Job Listing Sites are channels with massive volume and scale, but without a specialty or quality filter. ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor are a few examples.
Recruitment Platforms are a hybrid between a Job Listing site and an actual Talent Agency. They act like matchmakers, placing more emphasis on finding the right fit for both candidates and employers alike.
In the past, we’ve worked with Recruitment Platforms like Scouted and Hired (formally Vettery). Hired is rich with experienced talent, whereas Scouted includes a mix of college students and experienced talent. Both platforms were successful in finding quality candidates, but the downside was limited scale and/or expensive costs.
A Community Platform is like a bulletin board at a local town hall. Community Platforms don’t offer the narrow focus of Recruitment Platforms, but they're less expensive and allow you to differentiate yourself more so than traditional Job Listing sites.
LinkedIn is one example. If a candidate discovers our job post on LinkedIn, they can easily click into the full AdVenture Media LinkedIn profile to browse other posted content or even stalk the profiles of AdVenture Media employees.
Handshake is another Community Platform specifically geared toward current college students and recent graduates. Colleges often have their own Handshake communities—as if they were sub-Reddits within the larger Handshake ecosystem. Employers can set up a profile and post their job within individual university communities.
We decided to focus on LinkedIn, Handshake, and Indeed.
We opted against a Recruitment Platform because we felt that our exhaustive interview process would help ensure that only the best candidates made it through to the end of the process. (Also, Recruitment Platforms are expensive… so we wanted to see if we could get away with not using them. Spoiler Alert: it worked).
We collected a list of colleges physically located near our three office locations, then posted our job with those that offered programs likely to produce the kind of talent we were interested in.
For example, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia has fewer than 5K undergrad students, but their marketing department places a strong emphasis on analytics, data visualization and consumer behavior. This contrasts from other marketing programs that might funnel students toward careers in sales or retail, and is therefore more likely to get us in front of the right kinds of people.
We did not pay to advertise or promote our posts, although they do have the option to do so.
While you can optimize your page and job description for organic traffic, LinkedIn is a pay-to-play platform. This was our primary paid channel, and ran ads as if it were a traditional PPC campaign (but specifically for job postings).
Again, we were able to tailor our advertising based on university, but also include other attributes like skills and other keywords.
Aside from optimizing the targeting over time, the most significant optimization came from testing new headlines and ad copy. Specifically, the name of the title we were looking to fill made the most impact. Internally at AdVenture Media, we broadly use the term Account Manager to describe anyone that is working in client accounts, communicating with clients, building reports, conducting analysis, developing strategy or creative, and a host of other roles.
However, externally, the phrase Account Manager could mean a lot of things. It’s most often used within the sales industry, and we certainly don’t want your average LinkedIn user to think that we’re looking to fill a B2B territory sales role.
Eventually, we found that “Paid Media Manager” was the best way to describe the role. This helped catch the eye of those candidates with an interest in our field while warding off any confused candidates that might be searching for something different. (Of course, it’s ideal to be consistent with your naming conventions, but this was a worthwhile sacrifice).
Indeed works similar to LinkedIn, but after a short while, we pulled our budget from this platform as the costs were climbing and the quality of candidates did not match what we were seeing elsewhere. We might revisit this platform in the future.
In six months, we successfully grew the team by 40% at a cost-per-hire of less than 1K. For comparison, most recruiting firms would have charged us between 7-12K per hire.
And these people rock. They are top-tier team members that have hit the ground running and are great additions to our culture.
What’s more, we drastically improved the efficiency of the operation. Bruna and Kelly automated much of the process with tools like Calendly, Slack, and Monday.com. By the time a candidate reached the third round—the presentation—they were so qualified that approximately 50% of them went on to receive an offer. This is an unbelievably high success rate.
There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I’ve never felt better about our recruiting and hiring capabilities. Six months ago, Isaac was adamant that there must be a better way, and thanks to some creative problem solving—mostly by Bruna and Kelly—we’ve pulled it off.
For the first time ever, I am confident that we can turn the dial and quickly scale up our team without having to overly invest too much time or money to do so.
We'll get back to you within a day to schedule a quick strategy call. We can also communicate over email if that's easier for you.