Agencies are still hiring—here’s what they’re looking for in 2023

The creative and technical skills that could give candidates a leg up.
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Francis Scialabba

4 min read

While discussions around the labor market may seem all doom and gloom given recent layoffs, experts said it’s more of a mixed bag, and those looking to hire or be hired shouldn’t fret just yet.

“You read in the media and sort of expect that hiring is ground to a complete halt—our data is showing that that is not the case,” Carin Van Vuuren, CMO at recruiting software provider Greenhouse, told us.

According to Van Vuuren, while the companies it works with had slowed hiring globally by 30%–40% in November compared to March, Greenhouse data indicates that there isn’t a shortage of emerging opportunities in marketing based on the number of offers being rejected. In fact, in October of last year, employment at US ad agencies hit an all-time high, according to Ad Age.

For those searching for their next role, we spoke with agencies about what they’re looking for as they think through their 2023 hiring strategies.

Seeing the bigger picture

Maggie Malek, CEO of advertising agency MMI, told us that the agency is looking for people who can provide clients not just with creative help but also business consulting.

“Every time we’ve kind of gone into these [economic] dips, what brands are really looking for is integrated strategy,” she said, adding that “they don’t want just a TikTok idea or a Super Bowl idea. They’re really looking for agencies to be their partners in helping drive business results when sales [are] down.”

Monica Chun, president of brand advisory and chief client officer at holding company Acceleration Community of Companies (ACC), which owns agencies like MKG and Pixly, told us that “one of the most valuable skills and types of people we’re looking for is someone who can creatively and effectively storytell in a 15-second video or a simple visual.” Beyond that, she said, ACC is also looking for “cultural specialists” who understand what consumers are interested in today.

Tech, please?

In terms of hard skills, execs at agencies like MMI, ACC, and Team One said they are currently looking for potential employees in data analytics. Julie Michaels, CEO at Team One, told us analysts are “hard to find because everybody wants more analysts.”

Agencies also seem eager to hire workers with experience in emerging technologies like TikTok, Web3, and the metaverse.

  • According to Chun, people who can offer insight on “any type of emerging markets [or] new social media” like TikTok “are going to be important” to have on board.
  • Jennifer DaSilva, president of creative agency Berlin Cameron, told us she’s looking to build up its team of Web3 experts, which, along with its partners at Insomnia, currently stands at around 20, and is working with clients like L’Oréal and Under Armour on Web3 projects.
  • Leeann Leahy, CEO of ad agency Via, also said it’s “always looking for more creative technologists who are going to expand our understanding of what’s possible with Web3.” She also said Via’s head of innovation and technology has been “all over” trying to source candidates that may have been impacted by tech layoffs.
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Free, freelancin’

In light of recent layoffs, Brian Dolan, CEO and founder of media staffing platform WorkReduce, estimated that the company’s weekly applications from those seeking short-term positions are two to three times higher than September.

Van Vuuren said she’s also noticed companies becoming “much more comfortable bringing freelance talent on” to supplement existing talent bases. Adam Warburton, WorkReduce’s VP of talent and people operations, told us that mid-level analytics positions are “really quite popular now” among agencies in the short-term market.

Uno reverse

But it’s not just agencies that have criteria to consider. According to Van Vuuren, job candidates in the current environment are still being discerning with accepting job offers. After compensation, Van Vuuren said she believes that lack of flexibility in remote work is the second most important factor that job seekers are considering.

She added that prospective employees are looking at culture and how companies treat their employees, whether it’s DE&I, allyship, or how a company has handled layoffs.

“Employers are on the back foot,” she said. “Because talent is so tight, this labor market is not likely to change in a long time.”

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Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.