How candidates should view their opportunities in the current market and how recruiters can help them to realise their ambitions



Written by Toby Thwaites, Director, Purple Consultancy - Specialists in creative recruitment

Toby Thwaites and Paul Wood founded Purple in June 2000. Purple provides recruitment consultancy to advertising, design, integrated marketing, publishing, digital and agency office support services.

With 30 staff in London and Leeds, and with the highest paying referral scheme in the UK, they're definitely worth talking to. Through innovation and focus on client service, Purple achieves high client satisfaction levels which set it apart from its competitors.

Anyone wanting to begin, or even to continue their career, in the creative industries in the present time, has to assess what they can bring to the existing infrastructure, but also how they can adapt to it.

We, at Purple, have been in operation for ten years and it has been an extremely dynamic, and at times, turbulent time in our industry. Above all it has been a progressive time, and agencies and their staff have had to accept the changes that progress has brought. That includes the relentless changes in the needs of both marketers and the agencies that service those client needs. Clients have had to reassess their budgets and where they spend them – procurement has begun to play a major role in how they make those decisions. Agencies have had to educate both themselves and their clients in the new media that have become available. The predominant use of digital media has presented agencies with a particular challenge, because the pace of change has been so fast that it has been almost impossible to keep up with that pace and ‘staff up' and ‘skill up' sufficiently quickly.

All of this has occurred against a backdrop of economic boom and, more recently, bust. The credit crunch of recent years has propelled creative thinking and defined agency projections. Heads of agencies have had to take serious consideration of their finances in their recruitment policies and it's a well-known fact that there have been redundancies across the board.

The role that we, as recruiters, have had to play has altered as a result of all these additional pressures. We, more than ever, have to act as filters for the talent available, and ensure that we are not bombarding our agency clients with unsuitable candidates. We are committed to that, but also we are aware of the fact that it is currently a candidate-driven market and we, therefore, have to make sure that our candidates are being given the best advice possible as they enter their interview and subsequent potential negotiation processes.

We believe that it is critical for candidates to prepare carefully for any interview that they are being put forward for. The interview could be for an existing agency with a good track record or for a start-up agency and in this market, as we emerge from recession, there are a few new agencies coming through.

If we get a brief from a well-established agency then it is relatively easy to find out that particular agency's culture, who they generally look for and the kind of qualities that a candidate should highlight in their interview.

However, if we get a brief from a start-up agency the candidate is facing the unknown to a certain extent. We can research the backgrounds of the founders of the new agency and use our specific brief to identify the perfect candidate, but ultimately it will come down to the individual's ability to impress. A small, startup will be constrained in a way that a more established agency won't be and will therefore, perhaps, place more emphasis on personality/chemistry, and it might also be more of a requirement that any hiring will be able to confidently fulfill a number of different roles.

We would advise candidates who are interviewing with a new company to ask questions in that initial meeting about the future plans for the new company. Although the candidate is the one being interviewed, in a candidate-driven market it is wise to ensure that you find out as much as you can before accepting a job there. You'll need to ask what the company plans to do in terms of your own career development, how much they think they'll be able to invest in your professional development and how they see the company growing. Inevitably, working as part of a small team initially might, if the agency has a run of great success, give your career an enormous boost and take you on a fast track to a management role. Obviously if the startup does not achieve any success, if it, in fact, fails spectacularly, then you need to ensure that you are somehow protected by your employment contract so that your own career doesn't go down the drain with the agency.

Above all we would advise anyone already working within the industry, or looking to come into it, to keep their skill sets up to date and flexible. Many new roles assume across-the-board knowledge of marketing disciplines, including the use of social media and mobile marketing channels. Push your existing employer to invest in training for you and negotiate an investment in your future with any prospective employer. We, as recruitment consultants, can keep an eye on the big picture on your behalf but it is important for candidates to ‘own' their career development and weigh up what will benefit them in the long term.


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