Can anyone explain to me why the recruitment market for entry- and early-mid-level journalists, and public relations people is still so insanely inefficient?
I used to think it was just me who had to dig for days to turn up a single good candidate. Maybe, I just didn’t know where to look. Maybe, as editor of Ad Age, or editor-in-chief of Breaking Media, I just wasn’t offering sexy enough jobs, after all the jobs I was looking to fill definitely required some business reporting skills. But over the last couple of years I’ve had the discussion with countless editors and publishers. In just the last month I’ve spoken to the editor of a section of a major national newspaper, the editor of a pretty-damn sexy magazine/web brand and a couple of editors of online properties, all of whom have been struggling to find the right candidate.
You might think that this makes sense. Maybe students have been forced into a sad-but-probably-practical conservatism by the pay-for-play education in this country, and are simply deciding not to rack up monstrous debts in an effort to join a poor-paying profession in which the largest employers have been cutting their staffs every year for a decade. But that’s not it. In fact, even in the mainstream-media maelstrom of 2009, the J-schools continued to report increased applications and graduate numbers have tended to tick up in recent years too.
So there are still eager wannabe-journalists out there. And while many J-schools still don’t seem to have fully evolved their offerings for the digital age, I refuse to believe that some of these young folk aren’t smart enough to adapt to many of the exciting roles being created by the evolution of the media industry, or, indeed, to provide some cheaper labor for the mainstream players who are looking for greater cost efficiencies.
What’s more when you do that digging that I was talking about, mainly spending hours on Google looking for people reporting the kind of stuff you want them to report, you almost always uncover the gems. Maybe they’re writing their own blog, tweeting some great stuff, or reporting (unpaid or barely paid) for HuffPo.
It’s just that there’s no single hub effectively bringing together employers in the media space with the right potential employees in the media space.
That might sound like I’m snubbing Mediabistro, but I’m not. I have nothing but respect for Laurel Touby’s entrepreneurship in building that brand, and certainly it’s the closest thing we have to what I’m talking about. But even the folks at Mediabistro know (and privately admit) that jobs posted to that site often result in an e-mail flood of unqualified candidates whose pitches very rarely seem to have been tailored for the employee – in fact, in launching their new service ‘Scoop Jobs’ for would-be employees they touch on exactly this problem.
The market inefficiency appears to be at least as severe in PR. As the former editor of PRWeek, I frequently talk to agency CEOs who find re-stocking their ranks, and, in particular, hiring for account manager/director level people, to be an arduous if not impossible task. Every week I get at least one call/email/FB-message from someone looking for a good PR person, and, incredibly, they’ve sometimes already spoken to one of the candidates I suggest, which can make it feel like the pool of good junior PR people is about eight-deep.
The technology is there for someone to create the definitive and immaculately-searchable database of journalists and would-be journalists (or PR people, or business-side media execs).
It must be beautifully-simple to use, comprehensive, preferably include candidates in jobs as well as candidates actively seeking work. It also needs to get to the nitty-gritty of the candidates’ experience quickly (more quickly than the average resume), and allow the employer access to the most-recent work from that person, as well as a reliable means of contacting them.
Could Mediabistro improve on what it has now? What about Gorkana? LinkedIn? As-yet-unnamed entrepreneur? Surely there’s some big bucks to be made by someone.