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Partner Article: The 6 Most Common Recruitment Challenges for Digital Agency Leaders…

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Joseph Taylor

…And How You Can Overcome Them

After the post-pandemic boom, the digital recruitment market has become increasingly competitive. There are fewer digital marketers on the job market than in previous years, and digital agencies are having to work harder to attract new talent.

But the costs of failing to recruit haven’t changed. Projects and campaigns can be delayed, you may have to turn down new client opportunities, and your team’s morale will suffer. 

All of this means your recruitment strategy and processes are more important than ever.

6 Common Recruitment Challenges for Digital Agency Leaders and How to Avoid Them

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most common recruitment challenges that digital agencies and agency leaders face in today’s market and how you can work to overcome them.

1. Making Bad Hires

A common reason digital agencies choose to work with a digital recruitment partner isn’t that they can’t find digital marketers on the market. It’s because they hired someone who looked great during the interview process and ended up not being right for the role. Maybe they didn’t mesh culturally with the team or didn’t have the skills they claimed to.

Setbacks like these can be incredibly costly, with some studies costing a bad hire around £13,000. As well as preventing you from accepting new projects and new clients. 

But how can you decrease the number of low-quality employees you hire and improve your hiring process?

How to Improve Your Interview Process to Avoid Making Bad Hires

A lot of digital agencies use a “matrix” to help them recognise the potential good hires from the bad hires.

This means mapping out the day-to-day responsibilities of the position you’re looking to fill. From this, identifying the skills and experience needed in order to be able to perform the role at the required standard. In addition, what are the attitudes and values that you are looking for? Do they align with your business or with what you want your business to be?

For example, someone in a client-facing role needs to be an effective communicator with the ability to engage and build relationships with strangers. They also need to be organised and be able to coordinate with project managers of other teams. Experience with upselling and new business pitches would also be nice, but it’s not essential as that wouldn’t be their primary responsibility.

So before the interview, take the skills, experience, attitudes and values they need to have and rank them. Give each skill or competency a score out of 100 based on its importance. The next step is to prepare interview questions that will enable you to identify if the candidate has the required skills or attributes you are looking for. 

After the interview, score each candidate. Ideally, you would want at least two interviewers to compare their scores. Interview techniques like this will help to ensure a fair process for all candidates.

This is just one strategy of many: Read here for more strategies on reducing bad hires for your digital agency.

2. Finding Candidates That Are the Right Fit for Your Business

No two roles are the same, and your agency’s needs aren’t the same as your competitors, making it difficult to find the right digital marketers for you and your agency. 

For example, your agency might need an SEO Manager. Sounds easy enough on the surface; thousands of SEO Managers are in the UK. 

But when you add in other factors such as Team management, e-commerce experience, content and technical SEO experience in the London area, and actively looking to move to a smaller digital agency, your position becomes significantly more of a challenge to recruit for.

So how can you find candidates who fit all the criteria for the role and for your business?

How to Find Candidates Who Are Right for Your Business 

Finding candidates who are right for your business is all about realistic expectations and knowing where to compromise and where not to. Sometimes agencies are so eager to fill a role that they’ll compromise in areas they shouldn’t. And while flexibility is key with hiring, it shouldn’t come at a cost to the business.

As discussed earlier, when you’re mapping out the skills and experience that a candidate needs to be successful in the role, separating these into “negotiables” and “non-negotiables” can help you be more flexible in your hiring process.

If you’re hiring for the aforementioned SEO Manager and they tick every box except the years of content SEO experience you were looking for, can you offer a slightly lower salary for a trial period to get them up to speed?

3. Reaching Quality Candidates Who Aren’t Actively Looking for a New Job

Sometimes the best digital marketers are the ones who aren’t actively looking for a new job. Which means you need to go to them. 

But how can you find these digital marketers when they aren’t applying to your job adverts or are ignoring your cold messages and emails? And how do you make your business more attractive to work for than theirs?

How to Reach Digital Marketers Who Aren’t Looking for a New Role

Make your team ambassadors or advocates for your business on social media. Encourage them to share personal content or social event images on their profiles.

It can be difficult for someone to take the risk and move jobs, especially when they’re comfortable in their current role. So using your social company culture to make your business look like a fun place to work can help ease that apprehension about joining a new company.

And having a very competitive employee referral scheme can make your employees become your biggest recruitment partners. While it can seem unnecessary, the most expensive employee referee scheme is cheaper than a recruitment agency. And like working with a recruitment agency, you still only pay if you’re happy!

4. Competing for the Best Digital Marketing Candidates

Strong digital marketing candidates are often messaged on LinkedIn or emailed by multiple recruiters. And the digital marketers you interview may also be interviewing or entertaining several other job prospects and offers.

So when you approach these candidates, how can you separate yourself from the other digital agencies you’re competing with?

How to Compete for the Best Digital Talent

Competing for the best, high-demand talent is about separating yourself from the competition in a good way. So here are three tips for beating the competition:

  1. Obviously, the best way to recruit people is to retain people. But you can also use the retained employees in your recruitment efforts. When you want to expand your team, they are your strongest examples of why your agency is a great workplace!
    Look at the people in your team who have had great career progression and could be seen by your candidates as a success story. Create content about them on your careers page, interview or videos. Because while you can tell candidates how your company is a great place to work, having testimonials and social proof can show that you mean what you say.
  2. One of the most important things for candidates in today’s market is flexibility: Hybrid working, flexible working hours, opportunities for working abroad… Our advice is to be as flexible as possible as long as it’s right for your business.
    It attracts candidates and shows that you trust them to get the work done, regardless of where they do it.
  3. And last but certainly not least, it is to be available to interview candidates when convenient for them! This can mean giving up time before or after work, which is less than ideal. But if it means you can fit in that interview two or three days earlier, sometimes that can be all it takes. While being the first agency to make the offer to a candidate isn’t everything, it certainly helps!

5. Losing Candidates to Counter Offers

For a hiring manager or agency leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than losing candidates to counter offers. You’ve invested the time and money into the interview process and made the candidate the offer they’ve been expecting, only to lose them to a counteroffer.

But with how competitive the digital recruitment industry is, competitive counter offers are becoming more commonplace.

So how can you avoid losing great candidates to counter offers?

How to Avoid Losing Candidates to Counter Offers

Counteroffers can sometimes feel like they’re outside of your control. But they’re absolutely not, and there are steps you can take to prevent them while also boosting your overall chances of hiring high-demand digital marketers.

  1. Make a great first impression. We always advise using the first interview as less of an interview and more of a chemistry meeting. Show a genuine interest in what the candidate is looking for, why they want to leave their current company and have an open conversation and why your opportunity may or may not be right for them.
    This helps build a positive relationship with the candidate, gives you insight into what motivates them, and gives them the trust to be honest with you about counteroffers when they receive them.
  2. Address the elephant in the room. Get it all out in the open by asking them what their current company could do to keep them. Again, this lets you know how to beat any counter-offers should you need to. And if they say there’s no way they will accept a counteroffer, it will be much harder for them to accept it when they receive one.
  3. Finally, when making an offer, make your best offer first. This will ensure you will have the candidates’ trust that you’ll do right by them, making it harder for their current employer to put together a competitive counteroffer.

These are just a few of the steps you can and should take to prevent counteroffers. For further information, you can read here for more tips on avoiding lost candidates to counter offers.

6. Your Job Advert Isn’t Bringing in Enough Applicants

When your business pays for job advert slots on websites like LinkedIn and Indeed, you want to see a return on your investment. And if your job adverts aren’t receiving any applicants, that’s a problem. It is a waste of money paying for those job slots and can also hold up the overall hiring process. 

But how can you improve your job adverts to make them stand out and attract more digital marketers?

How to Improve Your Job Adverts

If you’re not already including the salary for the position in the job adverts, then you should be… If it’s right for your business. Let us explain.

Every article out there says you should be absolutely transparent about salary. And there are statistics to support that argument. An internal study from Reed found that when a job advert has a salary listed, applications were 27% higher. 

But conversely, for some agencies, salary isn’t the biggest selling point. Some agencies have award-winning training and development programs that will greatly boost candidates’ careers. Others offer remote and flexible working that is worth a lower salary.

But if your salary turns away potential candidates before they even see these perks and benefits, you could lose out on good potential applicants. These are just examples but do show you the potential downsides of listing a salary. At the end of the day, it’s important to analyse what is best for your business.


From making bad hires to underperforming job adverts, these six common recruitment challenges highlight two of the biggest problems digital agencies face: Candidate attraction and candidate retention through the interview process.

Competition for digital marketers is fiercer than in previous years. So, if your digital agency is struggling to hire, then you may need to revisit your agency’s selling points and ask yourself: How can you use what’s unique about your agency, the position on offer, and the clients you work with, to attract the right people to your business?

And starting with these common recruitment challenges to identify any areas of weakness in your hiring efforts is a great place to start.

About the Author

Joseph Taylor

Content Marketing Consultant

Joseph is a Content Marketing Consultant for Herd Digital, with a passion for writing about all things Digital Marketing Recruitment. When not writing articles that some have described as “pretty good”, Joseph can often be found hiking outdoors or in the gym, pretending like he knows what he is doing.

  • 🔍 Making bad hires: Improve your interview process by mapping out the required skills, experience, attitudes, and values for each position. Rank them and design interview questions to assess candidates accordingly.
  • 🎯 Finding candidates that are the right fit for your business: Clearly define negotiable and non-negotiable criteria for the role. Be flexible where possible but prioritize what is essential for your business.
  • 🔍 Reaching quality candidates who aren’t actively looking for a new job: Use social media to showcase your company culture and make your business an attractive place to work. Implement a competitive employee referral scheme to leverage your current team.
  • 🏆 Competing for the best digital marketing candidates: Highlight your agency’s success stories and career progression opportunities. Emphasize flexibility in working arrangements and be available for interviews at convenient times for candidates.
  • 💔 Losing candidates to counter offers: Build a positive relationship with candidates through open conversations and genuine interest. Discuss potential counter offers and make your best offer upfront to establish trust.
  • 📣 Your job advert isn’t bringing in enough applicants: Consider listing the salary if it aligns with your business strategy. Analyze what attracts candidates beyond salary, such as training programs or remote working options, and emphasize those benefits.