Unorthodox Recruiting Efforts On The Upswing

For senior PR pros grappling with how to attract (and retain) new talent, the local pharmacy is an unlikely spot for recruiting. Don't laugh. The next time you get a prescription filled, you might want to ask your pharmacist (who, after all, is in the business of communicating to lay people what can sometimes be complicated medical information) what his or her background is. You may find he or she has a flair for the skills you should be looking for now in a PR executive: Someone who can think strategically, who has a solid business sense and, oh yes, who also happens to know how to write and communicate effectively. "You want to have at least one 'gee whiz!' credential for the (job) candidate that will help sell the person to your managers or client," says Rich Jernstedt, chief marketing officer, executive VP and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, who also sits on the board of the Arthur W. Page Society. "Saying the person is well-practiced in [traditional] communications may no longer be enough...It could be someone who has been working in health care and who is a strong communicator." Jernstedt, who works in the agency's Chicago office, says Fleishman, within the last year, has added to its employee roster -- no hard numbers were provided -- but he concedes that it's difficult to find "people who fit the job description." Part of the problem is striking a balance between hiring the right number of generalists compared to an adequate number of specialists, a delicate task when new PR practices pop up most every day. "It's finding that combination, being flexible, fluid and being anticipatory to the company's needs to make sure you have the right mix at all times," Jernstedt says. While searching for talent in PR is seldom easy -- particularly when targeting mid-level employees -- the recruiting process must change dramatically if the profession wants to protect its hard-fought gains in the boardroom and to groom the next generation for managerial-type positions. Long gone are the days of hiring candidates "who like to talk to people," says Helene Solomon, president-CEO of Boston-based PR agency Solomon McCown, who is currently is in the market for a VP, an account executive/public affairs and crisis communications, an account supervisor and an account coordinator. "What's now important is to find a good analytical mind and a person who understands the building blocks of strategy," Solomon says. What's more, PR executives need to stay abreast of all the cultural and demographic changes that will impact the U.S. workforce. Of course, there are several traditional ways for PR (at both the corporate and agency levels) to recruit new employees, including prominently posting job opportunities on the company's Web site (or on PR-related Web sites); running job listings in various trade publications; and good, old-fashioned networking and word-of-mouth. In addition to reaching out to the universities, Solomon even recommends recruiting at the high-school level. "We need to start educating younger people" about the profession, she says. Still, the expenses associated with recruiting, if left unchecked, can be prohibitively higher than the costs of retaining employees. "There's too much foot-dragging and a lack of clarity on what employers are looking for," says Ilene Gochman, national practice leader for organizational effectiveness at Watson Wyatt (Washington, D.C.), a global human-capital and management-consulting firm. A Watson Wyatt study released earlier this month found that organizations with superior recruiting practices -- such as filling jobs quickly, hiring the first-choice candidates and using employee referrals -- financially outperform those with less-effective programs ( One way PR execs can expedite the hiring process is to have staggered interviewers rather than having the same person conduct multiple interviews. "You, as the PR director, shouldn't be the only person to interview the candidate," Gochman says. "You should first screen the candidate, and then have them meet with the executives from the other business silos you deal with -- advertising and/or marketing -- as well as have them meet with your subordinates, which gives the candidates a chance to let their hair down. You're able to get very good information [about the candidates] that way, and it forces the PR director to more clearly define the goals." Solomon amplifies Jernstedt's comments that, in the current climate, it's crucial to go beyond the normal PR precincts to seek new blood. "I like to see people who come from politics, government and leadership roles on the nonprofit side," she says. "I'm much more open-minded to non-agency backgrounds." (This is the first article in a series on recruiting and retaining PR talent. The second article, which will focus on how to keep - and grow - talent, will appear in an upcoming issue of PR News.) Contacts: Ilene Gochman, 312.525.2105,; Rich Jernstedt, 312.751.3528,; Helene Solomon, 617.933.5016, The Workforce Of Tomorrow According to demographic projections, in a decade, the workforce will look dramatically different than what is today. A 2004 Hewitt Associates study of 27 major companies found four major trends fueling these changes: An Aging Workforce: By 2010, the U.S. workforce will see a 29% increase in the 45-64 age group, a 14% increase in the 65+ age group and a 1% decline in the 18-44 age group. This trend is a result of the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) not leaving the labor force completely but, rather, moving to nontraditional post-retirement jobs. A Shrinking Workforce: The math is that in the next 10 years, 32 million jobs will be vacated and 20 million new jobs will be created (52 million jobs will need to be filled). However, projected labor-force availability will only be 29 million, leaving a 23 million-job gap. A More Diverse Workforce: By 2008, 70% of new workers will be women and minorities; by 2010, the U.S. workforce will be 34% nonwhite. Globalization Of The Workforce: Predictions for the next decade are that North America and Europe will only produce 3% of the world's entering labor force, while 75% of these new workers will come from Asia. Source: Hewitt Associates, 2004

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