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How recruiting today in PR is changing

The recruitment process is changing in PR, partly to help create a more diverse workforce, but also because of other challenges including constantly changing online tools and new restrictions on data thanks to GDPR. Here we discuss the difficulties you can encounter when looking for new people these days, and how to overcome them.

Virtual reality
Thanks to the online world, and the possibilities it offers for instant gratification and virtual reality, fewer people want to meet in person anymore. This means that employers are resistant to meeting up with headhunters and recruitment agencies. The art of building relationships, real relationships is dying. Which is a shame, as finding new people, is obviously, a people business.

Admin tasks
The advent of GDPR is also adding to the pressure as it means recruitment consultancies have to be careful about the information on candidates they hold onto, and there is more admin red tape for employers to think about.

Not everyone is too concerned about GDPR though, Carl Thomson, director at public affairs specialist Interel and deputy chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, says: I don’t think GDPR will fundamentally change how the PR industry does recruitment, although agencies need to be aware of new process requirements and restrictions on how they use personal information.”

Movers, not shakers
But Thomson warns that there are other areas which are of concern when recruiting, Starting with candidates who move around too much: “There are pitfalls that agencies often fall into when hiring staff. I’m always cautious about applicants who’ve had a string of roles lasting less than a year. Whilst it’s common for younger employees to job hop, for more experienced professionals it suggests they’re unable to commit to anything or have struggled to deliver in previous roles.”

Likeability factor
Thomson also says it is important to find the right fit in terms of personality: “Another lesson is that experience is important, but so is personality and fit. Sometimes character and likeability are as important as a candidate’s CV. Similarly, if an applicant looks good on paper, but doesn’t feel right, trust your judgement.”

Be decent
Another piece of advice is to be courteous throughout the recruitment process: “I strongly believe recruiters should treat people decently. If someone’s taken time off to come in for an interview, it’s basic courtesy to send a polite email if you decide you don’t want to take their application further.”

Encourage diversity
Thomson’s final advice is to avoid appointing people just like yourself. “PR agencies benefit from a workforce made of different backgrounds and life experience. Diversity means hiring the best talent, exclusively on merit.”

Agency perspective
Below, two agency recruiters discuss how their recruitment policies are evolving.

Tara Williams, HR manager at PR agency Whiteoaks International, describes how the agency is focusing more of its energies on recruiting from within, and spending less on outside recruitment help. She also outline how GDPR is being taken into account: “Before going to the job market with any vacancy, we always put a lot of effort in developing talent from within. In the last year, our recruiting process has evolved to meet the changing candidate landscape and our own business needs. In practice this means we have reduced our reliance on recruitment agencies and are taking a more direct approach by placing adverts on top job boards. This has helped us to access a broader and more diverse pool of candidates and on several occasions, has highlighted people who may be suitable for other roles which in turn meets every HR team’s goal of reducing cost per hire.

“Our applicant tracking system not only ensures we are GDPR compliant, making processes more efficient and secure - it's also embedded into our new website, so candidates can apply directly on the site and send in a speculative application too. This is critical to the success of our continual recruitment policy to combat the sometimes challenging, lengthy recruitment cycle. Finally, at interview stage we use competency-based questions which reflect our values and culture, ensuring we appoint people who are more likely to succeed and be happy in their role.

"We are also a member of the PRCA Recruiters Forum, which we believe gives assurances and commitment to anyone interesting in joining our team."

At marketing agency WIRE, recruitment is a far from traditional process. Head of talent and culture Emma Koubayssi explains: “We no longer have rigid job roles and are fluid in our recruitment process. Finding the right fit for WIRE across our Clever, Creative and Famous teams is key. We predominately hire based on cultural match, capabilities and potential to grow, looking favourably on candidates with the right attitude, who are self-taught and have a real freshness within their approach.

“We’re very protective about our company culture and have invested a huge amount of time, money and effort into developing our values and personality. We pride ourselves on not following traditional recruitment methods. We don’t advertise in industry publications. We very rarely use external support. Instead we rely on the strength of our Employer Brand.

“This year we restructured as a direct result of staff feedback and introduced my role. We now have a dedicated resource focused on everything from recruitment, our on-boarding process, training and learning of staff, support networks, the development of career paths, benefits and incentives, right through to any exits from WIRE and beyond.

“In terms of GDPR, we are a relatively small organisation (a thriving team of 30) and have pretty good etiquette when it comes to looking after people’s personal details. However, we’ll be tightening up on processes, ensuring data is encrypted and only ever saved on our server. We always ask if people are comfortable with us adding them to our database and we’d never pass on anyone’s details to other companies without seeking their permission first. It’s all about ethical practise and GDPR enforces respectful behaviour like this.“

Get ready for GDPR

Joe Fernandez, communications manager at recruitment software provider WCN, explains how GDPR will affect the recruitment process: “Under GDPR, if you store data about people, you are responsible for its safe keeping, security and ensuring the right people have appropriate access. You also need to apply the necessary control over how you share this information with others.

“It's now that you should evaluate what data you need to collect for recruitment and what you need to cleanse. To make sure you understand the data you hold and how you process it, you should document the following:

  • What data do you hold and why?
  • Where is it from and how will it be used?
  • How do you get rid of it and are there risks?

“Prioritising a single system of record for recruitment – such as an applicant tracking system (ATS) – will help with this, especially if storage of data outside the ATS is minimised. All of this information must be documented in your privacy statement.

“Critically, if you are relying on candidate consent for retaining some data, then you will have to provide mechanisms to have the data deleted, rectified or obtained for reuse.

“Furthermore, any automated decision-making based on personal data must allow for candidates to obtain human intervention to have the decision reviewed and fully explained.”

Finding talent has never been easy, and it looks like it could get a whole lot harder in PR. But as long as you are well prepared, you should be able to cope with whatever new technologies, and GDPR, throw at you.

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