Slow & Steady Wins the Race in Today’s PR Hiring Market

Roberta Carlton waited seven months to fill a position in her PR department before hearing a former colleague was in the market for a new job. Carlton, the director of global PR for software firm PTC, immediately snatched him up. With a job market teeming with experienced PR professionals and qualified candidates, why was Carlton so slow to hire? "It's a reaction to what's been going on for the last several years," she says. "All the good folks were tied up, making their fortunes with start-ups, and hiring companies were left with were very limited [choices]." Now, with the choices seemingly unlimited, there's a new concern for PR executives in hiring mode. Carlton says she worries about whether she's found the perfect candidate for the position. "Am I settling too soon? If I look a little longer, [in today's market] I might find the right person," she says. With corporate America wracked by scandal and distrust, PR executives are understandably hiring slowly and methodically, bringing on only those employees they feel they can trust with their companies' reputations. Carlton, for example, only felt comfortable making the hire when she knew the candidate. Searches More Thorough Smooch Reynolds, president and CEO of The Repovich Reynolds Group, an executive search firm specializing in communications, says she sees the same trend among hiring managers launching lengthy searches and then "in the eleventh hour, putting internal candidates in those jobs. It's an indicator of the nervousness on the part of corporations to bring in new talent during such a difficult time." When companies do hire a new communications employee, the interview process is rigorous and time-consuming, as well. Maryanne Rainone, SVP and managing director of executive search firm Heyman Associates, says in years past a potential new hire might have met two or three members of the communications team. Now, interviews involve peers, colleagues, everyone on the senior management level. " And since candidates have fewer options, they're more willing to wait out the extensive process. End the Waiting Game Stalling for too long while you consider the multitude of candidates can be frustrating for all involved, however. Prospective employees obviously are anxious to get word of your decision, but you're also spending a lot of your time and your colleagues' time interviewing and covering the requirements of the empty position. Plus, says Barry Shulman, the notion that you'll find the perfect candidate is false. "The consensus among hiring managers is that they should be able to get everything they want," says Shulman, of Shulman Associates Executive Search, which specializes in communications searches. "When have you ever gotten everything you want in your life? It's impossible. You've elongated the interview process, and ultimately you end up settling" for the best candidate, not the perfect candidate. Meanwhile, Carlton has just begun her search for a senior employee to integrate PTC's communications in Europe and, like most other hiring managers, is gearing up for an exhaustive process. She's working with an executive recruiter, but she anticipates another challenging hunt: She is extremely flexible about the geographic location of this PR pro, but her job description is "very, very detailed," meaning there will likely be many candidates and a great deal of interviewing to be done. (Carlton, 781/370-5479; Reynolds,; Rainone,; Shulman; 415/383-7094) Skimping on Senior Execs Shulman says hiring companies are costing themselves time and money by turning to search engines and job boards for high-level communications posts. Companies are skimping on the costs of a recruiter, Shulman says, since most already pay for job boards. But most companies end up paying for a recruiter in the end. The message is admittedly self-serving, but companies like a major biotech company have had disastrous results posting senior PR roles on job boards. The company posted a high- level communications job on an online engine, to be deluged with more than 800 applications in two days. HR now has to sift through the candidates, most of whom are under- qualified, Shulman says.

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