Digital acumen and content marketing skills are the hottest commodities in today’s marketing world, but all the experience in the world won’t help you land your dream job if you can’t effectively communicate your accomplishments. So says Robert Merritt, managing partner of sales and marketing recruiting at Chicago-based executive recruiting firm Lucas Group, who has worked with companies such as Kraft, BP and Diageo, as well as small- to medium-sized firms, over his 10-year recruiting career. Marketing News caught up with Merritt to get his advice on how marketers can build up their own career experience to make themselves more attractive to recruiters and potential employers.
Q: Tell me about your experiences in the marketing recruitment field. What has changed throughout the course of your career?
A: I don’t think there’s been a tremendous amount that’s changed in what people have looked for in sales or marketing professionals. Obviously the technology has changed, and what companies are doing has changed at a rapid rate. Recruiting used to be about access. It used to be about a rolodex of contacts that a person has accumulated throughout their career, and, as long as you had access to talent, you provided something of value to your client. Access is still important today, but recruiting isn’t about access anymore. If you have a LinkedIn account, you have the ability to get access to the same tools that every firm in the marketplace is using, whether they want to tell you the truth or not. Access isn’t what our business is about. Our business is about marketing, being able to identify, engage, position and sell our client’s opportunity to the candidate pool. That has changed drastically. Because access is everywhere, there’s so much competition and people have more connectivity and more options. Recruiters have to be really good at crafting the message about who their client is and go out in the marketplace and identify the number of people that match that profile and engage with them. When they do engage, you have to be able to capitalize on that conversation and convert them into interested candidates. That’s the real paradigm shift we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years in the recruiting industry.
Q: What are sales and marketing recruiters looking for in an ideal candidate?
A: In sales and marketing, the search changes from client to client. A few of the commonalities that always stay the same are that we’re looking for really high-impact individuals: A person who is able to bring both quantitative as well as qualitative data to the conversation. Qualitative data in the sense that they’ve experienced great things in their professional career and they have great accomplishments to talk about, and they can weave that story. Quantitative data is really the results that they’ve been able to drive in their organization. In the world of marketing, that’s become so paramount. With all of the new platforms in the world of marketing, and the ability to measure activity, there’s really no room for fluff anymore. We want to see both a marketer that understands how to connect with their consumer and also knows how to analyze and drive the data that shows what they’ve been able to do. When I say ‘high-impact,’ I mean someone who can tell a really impactful story about what they were asked to do, what the strategy would be, how they pulled through the strategy, and the quantitative results at the end of the day.
Finding holistic marketers is becoming harder and harder, and the marketing function is fragmenting more every year. There are more technical specializations, and each marketer has to know their specific area of focus, be highly specialized and have great technical aptitude. As they rise up the chain, they need to be able to understand how all of the parts of the system work together. They don’t necessarily have to be an expert in that one particular area, but they definitely have to be able to pull together internal and external teams, and get everybody focused in a common direction and understand how all of these levers have to be pulled in order to effectuate the desired outcome.
Q: What skills or experience are your clients asking for when it comes to new sales or marketing talent?
A: Digital [experience] obviously is one of the most common that we run into in the marketplace. The major areas are paid media and paid search, and SEM experts. We hear a tremendous amount about research and analytics roles: Data science, consumer insights and marketing analytics positions are very hot in the marketplace right now. Understanding the digital ecosystem and the full digital stack and how it works together is important. Content and content marketing is something that we’ve seen more and more of in the last 12 months, and it’s because companies don’t know how to distribute their content. They don’t know all of the different channels at their disposal. People have been creating content for years, so that’s not really the problem. It’s how you build a process to understand what your consumer wants to read and how to get it in front of them in an appropriate manner.
Q: What’s your advice for marketers for beefing up their career experience, LinkedIn profiles and résumés to advance their careers and make themselves more attractive to recruiters and potential employers?
A: Anybody who is looking to make a career move has to have a vision of where they want to go. A former CEO told me, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there.’ If you don’t know where you want to go, then you have no idea how to make decisions based on future career opportunities. You have to have an end goal. It could be long term, a CMO positon or a CEO position, but you have to have an end goal and the steps to get there. You have to be able to have a career mindset that’s not married to title, rank or authority, but more so married to skill sets and opportunity. You have to be on the lookout for opportunity because if you’re not, it will present itself and you won’t respond to that e-mail or take that phone call. You have to put yourself in a position where, no matter what the situation is, you will do your best to engage in an open dialogue with the external world that will allow you to keep your ear on the marketplace and see opportunities. Ultimately, something will come across your desk that gets you excited. Don’t shut yourself off. Have a real idea of where you want to go, and do your best to plan your career in that sense. If you do that, you’ll make more good career decisions than bad.
Build your résumé around the stories—the things you accomplished—and the numbers. That thing should read like a baseball card. If a person is going into an interview process and they have a technical specialization with paid media, that person needs to have put a lot of thought into what they’ve done in their past, the technical areas they’ve worked to develop, and how the organizations used their technical skills to drive results. When someone goes into an interview, eight times out of 10, they know more about their individual specialization than the person sitting across the table, and if they don’t communicate what they’ve done and how they did it, they could lose their audience. You could be an overachiever in that role, but because there’s an information gap between the interviewer and the person being interviewed, some talent falls between the cracks. So when you’re going into an interview process, take control of your own destiny.