How to Hire the Best Digital Talent

By Greg Wright October 8, 2015

digitaltalent.JPGOrganizations that have cracked the code to finding and hiring workers who are skilled in using the Internet, computers and mobile technologies for business purposes say there is plenty that other companies can do to get the right digital staff in place, such as snatching up candidates right out of college and using an outsourcing provider to find talent.

“We live less than a mile away from Ohio State, so we are able to find a lot of talented candidates from the local colleges,” said Jason Parks, owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing company in Columbus, Ohio. “I would recommend that businesses tap into colleges for entry-level digital positions.”

Every day, businesses use e-commerce, search engine optimization and mobile apps to perform a variety of tasks—including engaging customers, automating or streamlining their business processes, or creating innovative products and services.

But according to the results of a recent McKinsey and Company survey, 31 percent of executives from 987 companies said the biggest challenge to achieving these and other digital goals is lack of internal leadership or talent for digital projects.

Other hurdles identified in the survey include not understanding how digital trends affect organization and industry competitiveness, an inability to keep up with the speed of digital business, and an inability to adopt an experimentation mindset.

Here’s what companies can do to find digital talent:

Outsource recruiting

In addition to tapping colleges for entry-level candidates, experts say, companies can find success by outsourcing the recruitment of digital talent. If you are in a large corporation, consider using strategic outsourcing to find top talent who can support key digital initiatives, said Stephen Bailey, CEO and founder of ExecOnline, a New York City-based company that offers companies university-certified online education programs.

Promote innovation

Digital staff should also be given the freedom to experiment and engage in intelligent risk taking and should be part of a flat management structure, Bailey said. Let digital staff play outside the rules of the larger corporation and set their own office culture, organizational structure and goals, he advised.

Ben Landers, president and CEO of Blue Corona Inc., a digital marketing company with offices in Maryland and North Carolina, said companies should be very clear on what they want digital staff to do for the company. Make sure they know what the company’s goals are and allow them to innovate in order to achieve those goals.

“One option would be to interview top digital talent and explain to them that, if hired, you are looking to them to define and execute a cutting-edge digital strategy that results in measurable progress toward defined business objectives, including the attraction of other top digital talent,” Landers said.

Parks said companies should hire a digital marketing manager to handle day-to-day operations.

Project a ‘pro-digital’ culture

John Jersin, a former Google executive who is now CEO and founder of Connectifier, a technology recruiting company in Newport Beach, Calif., said companies must make it clear that they are serious about incorporating digital strategies into how they operate their business.

“It’s important to express what kind of company you are to prospective employees. And if you care about going digital, employing sophisticated tools … then expressing that goal is meaningful even it if hasn’t been accomplished yet,” Jersin said.

Shravan Goli, president of Urbandale, Iowa-based career site, said company leaders should set an example at the top.

“Executives have to begin by projecting a pro-digital culture, such as being current with the digital tools that are in the market and placing an emphasis on digital goals and their impact on the company’s future, demonstrating the importance,” he said. “Executives should also embrace digital communication tools like Twitter [and] videos and focus on establishing a mobile-first approach to offering services to customers.”

Be prepared to pay well

Companies looking to hire good digital talent need to show that they provide competitive compensation and necessary support, said Jennifer van Amerom, founding partner at Culture and Company Inc., a Toronto-based marketing and Internet services recruiting firm.

Van Amerom said companies should guarantee that they have the team and/or budget to successfully execute a digital strategy. Many digital leaders complain they do not have the resources needed to get the job done.

She offers this advice for companies that need digital talent: You can always lure them from other companies.

“Often, it is simply a case of attracting candidates from another employer that is less engaged in digital,” van Amerom said. “When everyone is behind in their digital practice, candidates will move for another environment that is even a small improvement.”

Greg Wright is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Member Benefit: Ask-An-Advisor Service

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.

SHRM's HR Knowledge Advisors offer guidance and resources to assist members with their HR inquiries.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.