The business landscape and resulting service needs of in-house agencies (IHAs) continue to shift quickly and in ways none of us could have predicted. So how do you adapt to those changes? How do you ensure that your in-house agency stays relevant? And how do you do this in a cost effective and efficient manner? The key to these questions is having the right team in place that can quickly pivot to address new business needs and expectations. This necessitates that you take the hiring process very seriously and consider it one of your most important responsibilities. Here are some questions to carefully consider when assessing your hiring needs:

What resources do I need the most for my in-house agency?

First, assess your business and map your team structure to your company’s creative service needs. Look for gaps in addressing work volume. For instance, do you need more talent in a specific discipline you already have in place? Or are you in need of niche skills and expertise that don’t currently reside in your team. Or both? You also may need a higher level of experience and expertise in existing disciplines. For example, if you’re seeing an increase in tier 1 projects you may require more senior-level designers. The bottom line is you need to understand the nuances of your company’s expectations and hire proactively to meet those expectations.

Hiring for your in-house creative agency?

Am I crystal-clear about the roles I’m hiring for?

Because you’re so familiar with your creative team and the roles within it, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being too ambiguous in defining your hiring needs. Yet in order to appeal to the right job candidates, it’s critical that you have a clear idea of the open position and how to best communicate and advertise it. Make sure to have a job title that matches to the role and also to how the industry typically labels that position. Candidates can get attached to a job title as it lets people know both within and outside of the company what their true expertise is. Crafting a well thought out position description is a must.

What about their skills?

Cella has been establishing and sustaining IHAs at various organizations for a decade and has gleaned critical insights and best practices when it comes to matching team members’ skills to the client companies’ needs. Over the past few years, we’ve seen corporations undergoing major shifts in how they develop and distribute marketing and sales materials. This evolution includes a greater focus and reliance on digital and social media. Often the members of these digital teams need to possess multiple skills and the ability to work within various workflow systems such as Waterfall and Agile. It’s not uncommon to find talent who not only have expertise in both the print and digital disciplines but video capture and editing as well. At many of Cella’s engagements, we have art directors who can concept for environmental projects, print assignments and digital campaigns along with storyboarding. Besides allowing your team to be able to quickly pivot to working on very different projects, having talent with diverse skills also helps with utilization and productivity as these multitalented individuals can work on a wide variety of project types.

What should I look for beyond functional expertise?

Hire for attitude as well as aptitude. Though the talent market is tight right now, you can always find candidates with robust functional expertise, but it’s important to screen for other characteristics as well. Through your interactions with the candidates, you should be asking yourself questions such as:

  • Is the candidate a team player?
  • Will they take coaching well?
  • Are they a good fit for my particular in-house agency?
  • Are they kind and respectful of others?

If you can’t check off these soft skills boxes you shouldn’t hire the person. They’ll cause a level of pain and distraction for your team that will absolutely impact the quality and timeliness of your team’s creative deliverables – as well as morale.

How do I want candidates to feel about the company?

Company reputations matter and the hiring process is a two-way street. So, regardless of whether you want to hire a particular candidate, the talent should end up after the recruiting process wanting to work for your group. In the course of your interactions with the candidate, sell yourself and your IHA. You should assume that they have a network of colleagues whom they communicate with and you’ll want them to be your advocate and evangelist with other potential hires.

How can I get candidates to come to me?

Look for opportunities to make your IHA a destination. Enter industry awards competitions. Strive to establish yourself and members of your leadership team as thought leaders by contributing to industry organization blogs and speaking at industry events. Make sure your and your team’s LinkedIn profiles are compelling and current. Some IHAs even put out press releases to publicize their successes. Candidates pay attention to and seek out leading-edge IHAs that would afford them opportunities to enhance their professional development and careers.

How else can I spread the word about my in-house agency being a great place?

The most effective way to be clear about whom you want to hire and bring in good talent is to network with potential candidates. Attend virtual industry events, hold virtual open houses and studio tours, participate in online portfolio reviews and join in on industry media. You’ll get to know potential candidates on a personal level and have an opportunity to sell your agency at the same time.

What internal support can I leverage when hiring?

Partnering with your HR staffing group will afford you the opportunity to take advantage of their expertise and guidance in the recruiting and selection process. If they’re truly expert in their roles they should be able to give you insights on what to look for in candidates that would make them a good fit for the greater organization, provide tools for the interview process and give you access to recruiting resources you might not be able to get on your own. Your HR partners will also be critical in determining compensation, benefits and the positioning of the role within the company’s hierarchy. For additional context and perspective, consider sharing Cella’s 2022 Creative, Marketing and Digital Salary Guide with them as a benchmark so your offers are in line with market rates.

How can a staffing firm help me?

While it’s critical to partner with your HR team on the recruitment and hiring of new talent, there can be some limitations; primarily their lack of experience in recruiting for the creative disciplines. If you have the opportunity to work with a specialized staffing firm, you should take advantage of it. They’ll not only help you refine your search, but also publicize the opening in a way that will attract the most candidates and vet identified talent prior to your meeting them. Having proactively developed pools of talent, they can quickly tap into resources for both your permanent and freelance needs. Specialized staffing agencies can also act as advisors helping you define your needs and supporting you in the negotiation process once you’ve identified a candidate for hire.

Engaging in hiring best practices is the most critical responsibility you take on as a leader of an in-house agency. Your team and its value to your company is only as good as the people you bring into your group. Follow the hiring practices outlined above and you’ll set yourself and your in-house agency up for long-term success.