Savvy media buyers and media planners have options. Not only in where they buy ad space, but also in where they take a job offer.
Omnicom Media Group's full-service global agencies, OMD Worldwide and PHD Worldwide, are on a constant search for new people as business picks up and the digital landscape continues to transform, said Leroy Whitaker, the company's managing director of human resources.
"Between our company's growth and regular attrition, we're always in talent acquisition mode," he said.
Omnicom Media Group, part of the Omnicom family tree, employs 9,300 people around the world, with 2,300 based in its 12 U.S. offices. Between OMD and PHD, Omnicom Media Group is looking to fill about 240 positions in the U.S. right now.
Whitaker is not only looking to grow each agency's staff, he's also looking to improve their talent pools by attracting and training employees who are ambidextrous when it comes to digital media and traditional media buying and planning.
He spoke to FINS about what makes a good candidate:
Damian Ghigliotty: How is the improving job market affecting your hiring decisions?
Leroy Whitaker: With the economy showing signs of improvement, our competitors are hiring as well, so right now there is a lot of competition from a hiring standpoint. It's a harder sell now, so we have to give our employees a good value proposition. Candidates are being a lot more careful. With the job market picking up, they want to land somewhere that is going to offer them a solid career path, so that is what we are trying to achieve when we hire.
DG: With the media landscape continuously changing, are the qualities you look for in employees changing as well?
LW: Absolutely. The changes going on in media are changing what our current employees have to do to keep up and they're also changing who we are looking for in the marketplace. Just a few years ago when agencies hired digital media buyers and media planners they were specialized and segregated. Digital is now integrated throughout almost all of our business, so these days I'm looking for candidates who have digital experience as part of a broader package rather than a purely digital person who you put off to the side in a room somewhere.
DG: Is knowledge of print, television and radio less important now?
LW: Knowing the ins and outs of traditional media is still very important. There's an interesting dynamic right now. Candidates really need a combination of the old and the new. Part of our business is still in print, and we definitely need people for that. But we want people who understand print and understand digital channels as well--bookworms who know the intricacies of the Web. Not an expertise necessarily, but a good knowledge of where to buy media online. We certainly take a more holistic approach to hiring now.
DG: What areas of the business are you looking to hire for?
LW: We're always in the market for qualified talent at the entry level throughout all of our agencies and business units. We're also looking to fill higher level positions in account management, analytics, investment and business intelligence. We have literally hundreds of openings right now. Those positions aren't driven by turnover. They're mostly driven by growth.
DG: What are the top traits you look for in candidates?
LW: For all of our candidates, I look for people who are team players and work well collaboratively.
For positions above the entry level, I also tend to look for people who have a demonstrated history of working with efficient teams, people who have shown some history of success, and people who have shown that they can innovate and stand out. Since it can be easy to get lost with so much going on at once, I also look for people who are comfortable finding their way. We do our best to help our employees obviously, but when you work in a team, there's a lot to juggle, so it can be a challenge. We want to know that people are up to that challenge from the outset. Some people fall apart when they feel off balance in their workload, others do a better job. I look for the latter.
DG: Is there an appeal to bringing in fresh talent?
LW: Absolutely. Fresh talent means new ideas. I'm a believer that an efficient organization is one that has a little churn where people are leaving and new people are coming in. Obviously you don't want to overdo that, but it's always good to have new people coming in because it lends to the innovative experience. But when I say fresh talent, I don't specifically mean young talent. We also look to take on more experienced workers who are looking to work in a new environment and still have that fight in them.
DG: Where do you look to hire from?
LW: We bring in our talent from several different sources, including other media buying and advertising agencies, media and tech companies and consulting firms. On the entry-level side, we have relationships with several schools, including Miami Ad School and NYU. We're doing about 30 campus visits this year as well as about 12 nonacademic career fairs.
DG: Where do you look when it comes to hiring people from other advertising firms?
LW: We look at our major competitors, including the WPP family, and some of the more interesting boutique agencies. But at the end of the day, we are looking at people, not other agencies. One of my recruiters and I can have someone in front of us with all of the right companies on his or her profile, and we can tell right away that that person is not the right fit for us. Likewise, someone might not have the credentials we are looking for, but prove that he or she is a perfect fit for us.
DG: What do you do to retain your best talent?
LW: A large portion of my budget is allocated to training and development, which is a key part of retention. We work to make sure that if we have individuals here who want to grow within the organization, we can give them the vehicle to do so. That includes everything from business writing to Microsoft Office skills to learning more about the latest changes in the digital landscape. We also have specialized training in each area of our business to help our people better do their jobs.
One of the other things we do is allow people to be mobile within our organizations. If there is an opportunity at one of our other offices, we are able to move people around so they have a better experience working for our company and hopefully a long-term experience where they can grow within.
DG: What are the most common traits among OMG's longest-standing employees?
LW: They're able to change with the times and keep up with the times. Quite often you have individuals who are in a job and after about three to five years they get very comfortable, but they stop growing. We don't have that luxury right now, due to the way our organization is set up as well as the changes going on in media, so our top employees are able to keep learning and thinking about problems in new ways. The ones who have stayed here over the years have also sought out opportunities to acquire new skills. They understand that if you're in our game you have to keep innovating. If you don't innovate you die, and you lose clients.
DG: What are the best ways for OMG's employees to move up within the organization?
LW: There needs to be that willingness to grow. The more robust and well rounded somebody's profile is, the more of a chance that person has to move up in our organization. More opportunities tend to avail themselves as our employees grow.
But another part of it is getting around and meeting people in our different agencies, especially since our organization has such a collaborative environment. We encourage our employees to network within. I would be hard pressed to find a senior leader I know who is not willing to talk to company employees.
Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com