Job Search Tips

Expert Interview: How to Search for Jobs in Digital Marketing

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Written by Jessie Liu

Jerry Bernhart, Digital and Multichannel Marketing Recruiter of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is also the author of Careers in eCommerce and Digital Marketing. He is one of the industry's leaders and has an acute understanding of the field, which adds to his expertise. Jerry talked with us about hiring trends, digital marketing and the changing market, along with some tips for the job seeker. He shares valuable advice to anyone looking into the digital marketing field.

Are there any important factors/trends in hiring that job candidates should know but often overlook?

Many digital marketing candidates who are just getting into the field want to be all things to all people. You can't know it all, and most of the search assignments I receive from employers who are looking for more junior-level talent have a specific need or a specific business problem to solve. They should try to specialize in one thing, get really good at it and then start thinking about adding to their knowledge base.

How did you get into this niche of recruiting?

I started out as a recruiter in direct marketing some 25 years ago. Moving into digital marketing and eCommerce was a natural transition for me because it's all about marketing direct to the consumer.

What are employers really looking for?

Companies have never faced so much uncertainty and risk. In the space of only a few months, they can slip from market leader to follower. The ability to deal with major changes in the workplace, complete projects with very little direction, endure stress, handle multiple priorities - these are among the competencies that employers look for in all professionals, regardless of the industry they're in. But this applies especially to digital marketing. What might have been considered a crazy idea one day might be the next day's most anticipated experiment. Companies can test new ideas and try out new features on websites and get almost instantaneous results. All businesses want their marketers to be adaptable, but in digital marketing that's especially important because the only thing that doesn't change is...well, change. Expect change to be the norm. Learn to adapt and you will stay a step ahead.

What advice do you have for the frustrated job seeker?

Network, network, network! One of the beauties of digital technology is that candidates these days have many more avenues for networking than their predecessors did just five years ago. Also, be open when it comes to location. There are plenty of excellent opportunities in places outside of the major metro areas. If you limit your search to a specific geographic area, expect fewer opportunities.

How has the job market changed over the past 10 years or so, and where do you see it going in the next few years?

The hiring process has been stretched out a lot. Ten years ago, my average search, from the initial call from the employer to the candidate's first day on the job, usually didn't last more than two months. Now, three months is the norm. Part of that is because employers have become much more selective. Many are looking for that "purple squirrel," and some would just as soon let a position remain empty if they can't find it.

What does a digital marketing job candidate need to stand out?

Attitude is number one. Employers want to hire a candidate who is going to be self-motivated. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you don't show passion or enthusiasm, you won't get very far!

How should a candidate handle multiple job offers?

It's difficult to give a blanket response to that. Depends on the offers, depends on the timing, depends on a lot of things. Everyone's situation is different. But multiple offers are a good thing because it gives you a choice. You need to have good negotiation skills to navigate through them. I take a very dim view towards accepting counter-offers.

How have you seen the role of women in this industry change?

It's changed a great deal. In digital marketing in general, I work with as many women now as I do with men, although men still dominate the more senior-level eCommerce roles. I'm placing more women into technical positions than I ever have before, and they're also representing an increasing percentage of the candidates I place in the corner office, like VPs and CMOs. In fact, I've placed TWO women into CMO roles just this year, more than during any year in the past!

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