How To Find the Best Agency Talent To Build Your Dream Team

How to Find the Right Talent for Your Agency

Great employees keep your agency’s wheels spinning. They empower you to deliver exceptional results to clients and keep growing the business month after month. The synergy created by a team of top performers has transformative powers, making it critical to choose the right people for the right roles. 

While the goal is to build a dream team, it isn’t always a walk in the park to find employees. 

You surely have a story (or two) about hiring someone who wasn’t the best fit. The consequences can be far-reaching, from the painstaking hours spent on training to the potential sacrifice of your agency's overall efficiency. Untimely resignations will also lead you back where you started–on the prowl to find employees.

It’s important to have a strategic approach to finding good employees to avoid the perils of wrong hires or high turnover rates. Sure–there are popular methods like using free job sites, sharing on social media, or posting job ads. 

However, finding the right talent takes much more than passively posting the job description, especially in today's workforce. It's something that HR professionals know all too well. While it often means spending more time than anticipated, it’s worth the extra effort.  

If you’re wondering how to find more candidates, attract high performers, and refine your agency recruitment process, look no further. 

Top Challenges Agencies Struggle With When Finding the Right Talent

When trying to find employees, it’s rarely as easy as seeing the right candidate pop up as soon as you post job openings. 

Here's why it’s often a struggle for agencies.

Hiring Too Quickly To Meet Tight Deadlines or Project Turnarounds

When navigating tight client deadlines, it’s tempting to make a rushed decision because of time urgency.

That said, it’s a choice that could cost you in the long run. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a media buyer to coordinate a large-scale programmatic advertising campaign for your legacy retail client. Their peak season is just five months away, and they have aggressive sales targets to meet. 

In the haste of the moment, your hiring manager shares a “Hiring Media Buyer–URGENT” writeup on online job boards. They quickly finds a candidate with some knowledge of programmatic advertising but who hasn’t worked on campaigns of that size. Since time is ticking, your agency hires them anyway.

Even though they’ve got experience in PPC, they’re struggling to meet the demands of this advanced role (such as successfully allocating an ad budget in the hundreds of thousands). As a result, your client will suffer less than favorable results–or even significant financial loss in this case–which is not something any business owner wants to hear.

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The obvious solution here would be to keep an eye on future planning, predict upcoming client needs, and start hiring for a role like this well in advance. But we all know how clients love to drop last-minute projects in our lap–unfortunately, it’s not always realistic to stay ahead of the curve.

In this scenario, refining your write-up on job boards and finding great employees will have taken a few extra days or weeks. However, it would have paid off for you and your client in the long term. 

Finding the Right Niche-Based Skills and Experience

If you’re looking to fill a niche-specialized role (e.g., copywriting for insurance clients), you’ll need to explore beyond skill sets in isolation. However, finding the right talent with niche-based experience can be tricky (as any hiring manager knows).

For example, take US-based agency The Modern Firm. They've hired copywriters with legal backgrounds to serve their small law firm clients better. In fact, some of their writers are attorneys, which helps them navigate complex legal jargon and successfully produce accurate work. 

Researching and understanding the law makes a huge difference when bringing good employees on board. Our clients appreciate the attention to detail, understanding the differences between jurisdictions, and knowledge of legal ethics guidelines by state. 

 Erin Ricchiazzi, Director of Online Marketing at The Modern Firm

Simplified SEO is another niche agency that has a similar approach. They specialize in providing SEO services to therapists and have a highly qualified staff with backgrounds in the mental health field. This helps them create custom solutions for their clients while demonstrating a unique value proposition. 

While it seems counterintuitive to narrow your hiring options, job candidates with a niche-specific background will better understand the intricacies and nuances of the field. As a result, you’ll have faster turnaround times and happier clients.

Agencies hiring qualified talent with niche-based skills will find that the process takes a bit longer.

Limited Talent Pool From Sticking To Locally-Based Candidates

Depending on the job posting, hiring in a specific geographic area makes more sense. For example, a resident may have more relevant social media recommendations for your local SEO client who wants to expand their franchise restaurant chain. 

On the other hand, stating geographic parameters in job posts could limit your agency from finding talent. It’s incredibly constricting when you’re looking for a highly specialized skill set with a limited number of potential candidates who can fill those shoes. 

We focus on finding the best digital marketing experts from a global talent pool. This gives a better outcome for our clients than a more traditional, geographically based agency. There is a shortage of digital marketing talent, and our ability to build a team from a global, qualified talent pool gives us an advantage and better results.

Andy Hill, Founder of Distribute Digital

According to our annual Benchmarks Report, 97.5% of agencies work remotely, at least part-time. If your agency is struggling to find talent in a small local region, it’s worth considering opening the role up to the potential of remote work. 

How To Overcome the Hurdles of Hiring Internationally

While finding talent internationally has challenges (like tax implications or work authorization issues), it’s worth looking into. In these instances, it’s helpful to:

  • Set clear guidelines about the job expectations, job title, and skills you’re looking for

  • Clearly state any work authorization and residency requirements in job posts to avoid compliance issues down the road

  • If you’ve got short-term projects in the pipeline, share job descriptions on freelance platforms that give you on-demand access to global talent (e.g., online job boards like Upwork or Fivver). This is a useful way to find hourly employees 

We tend to keep going back to Upwork to find freelancers. The quality of creative talent you can find on there keeps improving. So, for short-term projects, it's ideal for a quick and easy way to get someone in.

Alex Faiers, Founding Director of Addictivity

5 Candidate Sourcing Strategies To Build Your Talent Pipeline

One of the best ways to find top performers is to continually build a talent pipeline to pull from when a role opens up. Rather than waiting until an urgent need arises, gathering a “wish list” of potential agency hires before you need them will make your life easier when the time comes to fill a role.

As the name suggests, candidate sourcing involves proactively searching for qualified and skilled individuals to fulfill current and future job roles or project requirements. There are many ways to find employees beyond a job board, such as:

1. Recruitment Marketing

Aside from job boards, there’s one way to find employees online that’s often overlooked by hiring managers–dedicating time to consistent recruitment marketing

Recruitment marketing is about showing your agency in a positive light and positioning it as an ideal workplace. That way, it becomes less about pounding the pavement or creating a million job listings. It’s more about creating a stir about your agency that attracts top external candidates over time. 

To get started: 

  • Clearly define your agency’s values, share insights about company culture, and create an employer brand (like the example below). This approach will help you create consistent marketing messaging on social media, job boards, and other channels

agencyanalytics core values

  • Encourage existing employees to share marketing collateral on social media platforms (e.g., reposting a LinkedIn job description). This step positions employees as ambassadors for your agency, which increases reach and builds credibility. It's also a way to increase employee engagement

  • Employer branding: This is the process of actively investing in your company’s online presence to attract qualified candidates and showcase why you’re worth working for. This includes:

    • Testimonials from current employees on your social media platforms and company website, along with any cultural insights (e.g., a healthy work life balance)

    • Building an up-to-date profile on employer review websites like Glassdoor (especially since these are often go-to job boards that are used by today's workforce)

    • Creating a Google Business Profile that’s populated with positive client reviews. This shows potential employees that you’ve got interesting clients and work, which positions your agency as an ideal place to work

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2. Employee Referral Programs

What better way to encourage employee engagement than a referral program? It’s a win-win situation for both parties because it: 

  • Provides an incentive for existing employees to recommend friends and colleagues for open positions (e.g., a referral bonus)

  • Gives access to employees networks. Employee referrals are convenient if you need access to highly-skilled and talented people beyond a general job board

  • May be more cost-effective than other recruitment strategies that have monthly incurred costs or significantly higher rates

  • Encourages employees to engage in the recruiting and hiring process actively. This makes employees instrumental in shaping company culture, which fosters a greater sense of belonging while growing your agency

Quote from Michelle Van Blerck on Conscious Agency Leadership

3. In-Person events

While you can find employees online or from a job board, don’t underestimate the power of in-person networking events (e.g., job fairs at local colleges for entry-level roles or events held by professional organizations). It's also useful to meet new suppliers and form productive relationships.

Use these events to:  

  • Meet qualified candidates face to face, which gives you an initial sense of personality and demeanor

  • Recruit employees faster and move top talent further along the hiring process

  • Create brand recognition and generate word-of-mouth referrals. Take it a step further by leaving physical marketing collateral (e.g., branded tokens) at strategic locations or events like career centers, job fairs, and local colleges 

  • Hire local candidates who have a better understanding of a geographic area, which is useful for agencies who serve primarily small businesses with physical locations (e.g., a dentist or lawyer)

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4. Hiring an HR Consultant or Recruiter

Sometimes, extra help is needed when finding qualified applicants. Imagine that your agency is in the midst of a peak period, too busy to juggle multiple posts on job sites. On the other hand, you may be moving further along the agency life cycle and realize that you need to tighten up processes. 

That’s where an experienced HR consultant or recruiter comes in. Wondering what’s the difference and how they work to find employees? 

The Role of a Recruiter

To put it briefly, an external recruiter:

  • Creates a detailed job post or a job ad on your behalf (e.g., on popular online job boards like Indeed or Monster). They’ll manage and post job openings, which means you won’t have to get bogged down with administrative work

  • Leverages their extensive network and determines the best ways to find employees (e.g., direct messaging top talent on LinkedIn). Plus, it's likely they know of active candidates that are qualified and pursuing opportunities. They'll also have key industry contacts if you’re looking to hire business leaders or you've got more than one job opening

  • Conducts the first round of interviews to validate credentials, experience, and eligibility for the role

The Role of an HR Consultant

On the other hand, perhaps you already have an internal recruiter, but your overall agency management needs refinement or an overhaul. 

In this case, consider hiring an HR consultant to:

  • Offer an objective view of your current hiring process and provide recommendations

  • Develop guidelines to hire employees ethically (e.g., diversity and inclusion guidelines, best practices to maintain company culture)

  • Provide industry insights to refine job postings, such as competitive pay benchmarks and legal compliance guidelines

The biggest challenge was people–not necessarily finding the right candidates but ensuring that we had the right mix of people while focusing on the company as a whole. Having tools in place to support peoples' different needs was also a challenge. We found that hiring an HR consultant was the best way to manage that. It was the right decision, and I am glad we did it early on.

Yanira M. Castro, CEO of Humanity Communications Collective

5. Choose the Right Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

With a ton of resumes coming in, the last thing you want is to lose potential employees because their applications slipped through the cracks.

That’s where an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) comes in (e.g., Bamboo HR, Taleo). It’s a systematic way to organize applicant information, making tracking the entire recruiting and hiring process more manageable. 

Plus, consider the time and effort that job applicants spend–the job search process isn’t always easy. Having an ATS automatically sends important updates (e.g., acknowledgment of application, rejection notifications), which keeps job seekers in the loop. 

Efficiency is the name of the game, and you can’t afford to have any outdated manual processes slowing you down. Whether systemizing your recruitment approach or streamlining client reporting, invest in the right solutions to make things easier. 

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Building a Talent Pipeline vs. a Talent Pool

An ATS helps you store promising resumes or applications for future reference, which makes it much easier to find employees for upcoming roles. 

Traditionally, when a role needs to be filled, employers gather a talent pool consisting of unvetted resumes or applications and pull candidates for interviews. 

As we mentioned earlier, creating a talent pipeline is a much more proactive and effective way to find candidates for current roles and keep a running list for the future. 

A talent pipeline means you’ve already vetted these job seekers to some degree, even if it just means reviewing their resumes. This simple step streamlines the recruitment process and lets you identify potential employees in advance. 

4 Steps To Find The Best Candidates for Your Agency

Put these actionable steps into motion to get the most from your recruiting process.

1. Set Criteria for Your Ideal Candidate

To hire great candidates, your agency should create a structure that job seekers will easily understand. 

To create a good job description and attract potential employees, consider the following questions: 

  • What job title are you hiring for?

  • What’s the job description for this role?

  • What are the soft skills that a great hire should have?

  • Is this a full-time or part-time job posting? Are you hiring hourly employees for short-term work?

  • How many years of experience should this candidate have?

  • Are there any academic qualifications or preferences for this job posting?

  • Where will you share this job post (e.g., social media sites, free job boards)?

  • Does this candidate need any managerial experience?

  • Are you hiring employees for an in-person, hybrid, or remote marketing team?

  • If you’re hiring remote employees, do they still have to be in a particular country or state? Are remote employees responsible for their own equipment? 

Here’s a tip: consider sharing the KPI expectations for job openings for greater transparency. This gives potential employees an idea of what success looks like and whether they want to follow through on applying for the job post.

If you hire someone for a marketing role, define important numbers that will demonstrate their abilities. These core KPIs let the person you’ve hired know whether they’re succeeding in this role. It also allows their manager to know the same. 

Travis Weathers, CEO of Rotate Digital 

2. Build a Robust Pre-Screening Process

To filter any candidates that aren't the best fit for the job, create a pre-screening recruiting process. This means:

  • Creating a pre-screening questionnaire for job seekers to share their years of experience, academic qualifications, and skills

  • Asking potential candidates to outline salary expectations. Consider listing this range or figure in job postings to increase transparency

  • Requiring a short introductory video to understand a potential candidate’s personality and soft skills. This added step also shows that they’re interested in applying for this position (as opposed to hitting ‘Apply’ passively on a bunch of job postings). In other words, it's a way to differentiate between passive and active candidates.

The main thing we do to filter out bad hires is having them go through more hoops so we get the people who are most committed and have the desire to work with us. When a job posting goes out and someone applies, they instantly get the first request to send a video. We use it to gauge their personality, energy, and responsiveness. 

Jason Call, Owner of Handyman Marketing Pros

3. Mock Assignments

There’s no better way to assess competence than through a mock assignment. This gives you a tangible way to evaluate a potential candidate’s skills beyond what’s listed on their resume or in portfolio. 

It’s also an opportunity to evaluate other related job skills (or a skills gap), like project time management. After all, finding employees is much more than what’s listed on a resume.

My #1 piece of advice when hiring is to start with a small project so that you can see the quality of their work and communication style before assigning a client task. For us, quality of work and speed are even more important than price, so this is a great way to test the waters.

Will Rico, Principal Consultant at CommonMind 

Keep in mind that your potential candidates’ time is also important. Be sure to:

  • Assign a mock project that’s detailed enough to assess their skills without being too intensive. For example, asking a potential candidate to create three social media posts is much more reasonable than assigning them an entire content calendar

  • Consider compensating for this assignment, especially if it requires significant time investment and technical expertise. Be upfront about compensation and any terms of payment (e.g., completing project milestones)

Understanding the Difference Between Skills and Talent

As we’re on the note of mock assignments, it’s crucial to find employees with the right skills instead of just raw talent.

A skill has been refined over time, and the best candidates have extensive experience in their chosen field (often with a portfolio to back it up). On the other hand, talent shows a natural inkling towards a particular field. Even if a candidate has raw potential, more than talent is needed to fulfill the needs of the role. 

For example, a potential candidate may have a natural understanding of color theories and how to arrange graphical elements. However, on its own, this raw talent simply isn’t enough if you need to hire an experienced Graphic Designer for your biggest account.

Think of talent as unmolded clay–undoubtedly, it’s fantastic and has tremendous potential. That said, it's not always the exact chiseled shape you need to get the job done.  

4. Reference Checks

Conduct a reference check before asking a potential employee to sign the dotted line on their agency contract

Reference checks provide a more comprehensive view of a candidate's qualifications, skills, work history, and character. They also help you make informed hiring decisions and ensure new employees are a good fit.

Insights from previous employers or colleagues can also reveal any potential red flags or concerns that might not have popped up in the interview process. Speaking with references also helps you assess a candidate’s skills in action and whether they match what you’ve learned about them. 

This ensures you’re doing due diligence and hiring the best candidates for your agency.

Hire Carefully and Put in the Work To Keep Employees

After you’ve put in the effort to find candidates and bring in the right employees, there’s another vital part of the mix–retaining the right talent. 

The last thing you want is to find employees who tick all the boxes but leave after a short period. 

To avoid this from happening, be sure to:

Lastly, why not eliminate the hassle of manual reporting to make your new employees’ lives much easier? No newly joined Social Media Manager or SEO Specialist wants to be bogged down by Looker Studio errors. It certainly wasn’t a listed duty on their job posting!

Luckily, there’s a better solution–using a client reporting tool to cut down on labor-intensive reporting and wasted billable time. 

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Faryal Khan

Written by

Faryal Khan

Faryal Khan is an experienced marketer and brand photographer with a passion for content creation. She creates value for brands through storytelling and captivating visuals.

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