Hiring Strategies in a Tight Job Market

by Insurance Marketing & Communications Association

In a red-hot job market, communications and marketing leaders who are looking to replace someone or add to their team have their work cut out for them.

Of course, the reality of today’s market doesn’t stop some hiring managers—or their bosses—from turning a search for a new employee into a hunt for the elusive purple squirrel that, like your perfect job candidate, don’t exist. It’s hard enough to find someone who has the necessary skills, an insurance background, and is a cultural fit for your company, much less a candidate who is as perfect in person as they are on paper.

In certain local markets, it’s a business-as-usual challenge to find a communications and marketing pro who also has industry-specific experience and knowledge.

“In Dallas, it’s tough to find someone who knows both insurance and marketing,” explains Mike Stahl, CMO, UnitedHealthcare. “So we focus on hiring good marketers and then teaching them insurance.”

Even in markets with multiple insurance company headquarters, the economic boom has made it harder to find someone with the right mix of insurance background and marketing savvy. In the initial stages of a recent search, Emily Hathcoat, a vice president of marketing at Risk Placement Services, wanted to see candidates who had an insurance affinity program background. Emily quickly realized she had narrowed her candidate pool too much by being so specific.

Emily acknowledges that sometimes an insurance background is critical, especially when your department is small. Before you downgrade that requirement, she recommends considering your department’s deliverables and timeframe to determine whether you can devote additional time for a new team member who will be in the early stages of climbing the industry learning curve.

Marketing your job

Because the posted job description is often a candidate’s introduction to your company and/or department, both Mike and Emily believe it’s important to get the wording right.

“Think of your job description as a high-value piece of content,” Emily advises. “And remember, it’s a scanning world.” With many candidates coming in via online job boards, she also recommends using the right keywords and thinking of your job description from an SEO perspective.

Mike views job descriptions as a good opportunity to define what his department really needs. “You need to first determine what skill sets or expertise your department is lacking. Once you’ve done that, then you can then look for the right person,” he notes.

Today’s online job descriptions often have an informal, conversational tone; some even have quirky job titles like “Brand Warrior” or “Director of Storytelling.” Emily and Mike both caution about taking this approach if it’s out of character with your company’s culture.

Rethink your approach

Other than stopping your search for purple squirrels, what can insurance communicators and marketers do to find quality job candidates in a candidate-driven market? Here are three ways to make the process more productive.

Cast a wider (and more realistic) net. Job requirements should help you find a great candidate, not chase them away. Will someone do a better job because they have 8-10 years of experience versus 5-7? Emily points out that many digital marketing roles haven’t existed very long. So a search for someone with 15 years of marketing automation experience probably won’t get you very far.

Build a candidate pipeline. Don’t wait for someone to give two weeks’ notice to identify your next department member. Use industry events and conferences as an opportunity to market your department and speak with potential hires. Mike finds that an advantage of working with an outside recruiter to fill positions is that they know the local marketing talent. This gives them a head start in identifying potential hires for your team.

Speed up the process. Who doesn’t have a painful story about a six-month interview process? Speak with your boss, colleagues, and human resources about ways you can make the process more efficient. For example, less critical one-on-one interviews can be consolidated into a team interview. The process will also feel faster to candidates if human resources sends them regular process updates via text or email.