Are We Hiring Social Media Quantity or Quality?

It was probably most highlighted to me recently by my own hire of Holly Hunt to run CloudNine’s social content and conversation, that sometimes, traditional rules of hiring do not always ring true in social media communications.

I’ve recruited for 19 years. I’m a stickler for meeting specific cultural and capability needs in selection – so most clients would agree a rarely waste a CV submission, rather than deliver 10 randoms – unless agreed with the client. The aim is always to absolutely reach and surpass the expectations of a new hire, or a new job. The thrill factor applies. This means finding nailed on experience – often at my advised rule of hiring at 80% capability.

do-not-obstruct-raw-talentHowever, I hire social media talent, and there is a thing about social media expertise. It doesn’t always come in a perfect CV shaped box. It’s a relative new phenomenon in career choices, and as an evolving art; more than that, a fast-evolving art; it is less easy to judge the true talent. Often the client expectations alter wildly from assignment tot assignment.

I will often be heard saying the words, “Look at the quality of the experience, rather than the quantity of the experience” – something again my clients will vouch for.

So an example with a client last year highlighted an interesting thing. They were recruiting an Account Exec, and a Senior Account Manager. A graduate plus 6 months role at c£20k, and a 2-3 years experience role at c£30k. The second stage interviews required a presentation – a really good practice in hiring social media people – see how good their research and presentation skills are, and you soon have a good idea of their grasp of commercial social media.
The results of the presentations was astounding. Delivering the same piece, the AE level candidates with minimal experience knocked the socks off the apparent ‘professionals’. There seemed to be a better natural understanding of the brief, a respect for budget, and most evidently a demonstration of creative instinct. The client nearly hired one of the AEs as an AM. She didn’t, but the promotion came within 6 months.

Other recent client examples demonstrated the same – often with my advice to consider raw talent. When he was a client in the UK,  Jon Holloway introduced to me to the phrase  ‘Digital Natives’ when he captured the calibre of the  ‘right’ person for his company – and it meant sometimes experience was usurped by natural ability.

Holly I’m sure won’t mind me saying this, but she didn’t really have a career before her role with CloudNine. She’s a great lifestyle/fashion blogger, a graduate in Journalism, and a part-time social media consultant. In comparison to some of the solidly experience options I could have chosen – largely from digital agency land – her instinct for my brand, my objectives, my market, my consumers and what solutions to present – were incredible. Her natural creativity made her irresistible from a hiring point of view; whereas some of the creative oomph had been burned out of some of the experienced options. Sad, but indicative. Holly possesses confidence in her skills as a content creator, where reticence existed in others.

So, in an age when graduates find it tougher to get on the career ladder, are we considering a search for the ‘Digital Native’, in your recruiting targets. I see many of them, I’m a passionate supporter of them – and believe we should be facilitating this natural talent rather than dismissing it. It won’t always be the best option at interview, and not always the person you hire – but if you find the genuine talent – you save money and creative budget in the meantime.

Our instinct in selection is to look at a CV and reject the shorter experience examples. I don’t think its that simple with social media talent. Sometimes the quality in 6 months employment is so potent, and the 2-3 years experience can be quite shallow. Not always, of course – but we have to recognise the difference. Recruiting social media talent is not simple, given the dynamic nature of the evolution of the industry, and the variance in `grades` of social media execution standards.

In no other area in these 19 years have I seen a more natural avenue of opportunity for graduates or early career people. Often with their own websites, their cultural tendency to social media active, the understanding of social media etiquette, and their position as social consumers – combined with a smart, relevant degree maybe.

Taking the plunge to hire the raw talent is the challenge. It might just be the perfect option. It needs considering, not dismissing.

3 thoughts on “Are We Hiring Social Media Quantity or Quality?

  1. Funny that – my presentation skills are untested (potentially rubbish) but I genuinely like to help people via social outreach. I suppose a lot depends on the requirements of the role.

    • Ha, thanks Ben. Ref the presentation, I was using an example to demonstrate how sometimes raw talent have some fresh and worthy outlook on social communications – whereas predominantly they are overlooked. We’re talking presentation of research, moreso than `stand up and present`.

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