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  • Writer's pictureAnn Willets

Why Can’t PR Agencies Find the Perfect Candidate?

In the wake of the pandemic, I’m seeing hundreds of travel and hospitality PR people look for new positions while the travel and hospitality sector implodes. When a niche industry sector is economically bruised, it typically leaves its PR casualties left to search for jobs in other sectors. However, these job searches can be both frustrating and difficult.

The primary issue is that many PR agencies look for vertical expertise when hiring candidates. They search for talent that’s well-versed in a particular industry sector. Personally, I find this view to be myopic and somewhat self-destructive.

I believe a good PR practitioner can bring their skillset to a variety of industries. When I hired for my own agencies, I looked for candidates who nailed the basics of PR: writing, a creative mind, a solid work ethic, as well as storytelling and pitching. These are universal skills. However, employers don’t see it that way. Hiring managers still want sector-specific expertise, but I think they are better served when they are flexible.

Both ethically and morally, there are a lot of people out of work. If candidates have mastered the basics of the industry, understand how to write and tell a story, can conduct research on media, and form connections, I think they should be considered as a qualified candidate. If you need talent, and you can’t find sector-specific candidates, why not look toward a winning skillset?

I’ve come across really sharp people as an employer and recruiter. I’ve never shied away from hiring great people and giving them the room they need to master a new industry. Smart people usually can, and agencies will add another terrific professional to their crew.

This pandemic calls for more open-minded hiring practices. Smart companies and people look beyond the resume. They look for people that have the ability to succeed. I would rather hire someone who is intellectually curious, a great writer, and a great account manager than a mediocre candidate with sector-specific experience. Some of these critical qualities are simply intangible and can’t truly be taught.

If media connects are an agency’s determining factor when hiring outside of their sector, I’d keep in mind that the media is a moving target. People always move around and rarely last too long in their positions. It’s more important that candidates have an ability to source and develop connections. As a practitioner, I work in numerous sectors, and all I need is a good database, some common sense, and the ability to pitch.

Too many agencies overlook talented people because they’re focused on a vertical niche rather than the holistic skill set a candidate brings to the table. When agencies begin to look past the resume, they’ll be able to find quality talent for their team. Besides, sometimes you need a little chlorine in the gene pool to keep things healthy!

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