How digital marketers became a scarce commodity (and how to handle this)

Isabel Van Ruyskensvelde in

The inflow of digital marketers has been a sore spot for many years. Why?


- The quest for medior digital profiles easily takes up to a year

- Responses to job openings are often more limited than expected

- The job-hopping trend persists


So, HR departments and companies are growing desperate.


I’m Isabel from T-Shaped Academy and I've been in digital marketing for many years now and have been both on the recruitment and the candidate side. I’m very happy to share my vision of these challenges, as well as the solutions for them. Because that’s the good news, there are solutions.

How digital marketers became a scarce commodity (and how to handle this)

Challenge 1: Everyone wants an experienced profile

When it comes to the desired level of experience, vacancies often show a preference; 2 years at best, up to 5 years in the average vacancy. And that makes sense because the need for digital marketers has boomed in the last 5 years.


Where does this insistence on experienced profiles come from? Today's job market is flooded by dozens of newly graduated marketers. But their education lacks practical knowledge, excluding them from the average vacancy's requirements.


We see that universities and colleges have invested a lot in offering a practical skill set. But, it’s almost impossible to stay up to date with all trends in the rapidly evolving digital marketing world. Real experience building happens away from the classroom. That's one of the major challenges academic environments are facing right now.


The result? Young graduates are left high and dry while companies continue their search for that perfect medior profile.


Solution: Find an employee that fits your team and company


Don’t focus on the experience. Whether you’re looking for a digital marketer, webmaster, or project manager. Match your motivated junior employee with a buddy to teach them the ropes. Find suitable training or allow this person to learn about the company and the skills step by step.

Focus on soft skills, character, and ambition. Invest in an individual that fits your company in the long run.

Don’t waste a year looking for that medior marketer. Instead, create the perfect medior yourselves!

Isabel Van Ruyskensvelde T-shaped Academy

Challenge 2: The competition is fierce

Headhunters contact the average marketer with over 3 years of experience weekly.

As a company, it’s a challenge to keep your team intact. When someone leaves, you enthusiastically start looking for the perfect replacement. Only to find out that there’s an extreme scarcity when it comes to experienced marketers.


So… I guess we need to hire a headhunter? And that’s how we come full circle. It’s impossible to end all turnover, but there are ways to minimize it!


Solution: Invest in people


It’s as simple as that. Make sure that when a headhunter calls your employee, they won't stand a chance from the get-go. How? By keeping the many benefits and the great way they feel at your company top of mind. Resulting in a 'no thanks!' for the headhunter.

How do you achieve this? Be present, involved, and accessible. Be genuinely interested and applaud for a job well done. Invest in training, team dinners, (digital) coffee chats, or happy hours and nurture the team spirit. There are no one-size fits, so listen to your people and invest in what they need.


Not to state the obvious here, but don’t forget salary. The truth of the matter is that those headhunters are often waving about a nice salary package.


Unfortunately, giving people a raise often doesn’t go without a hitch. In far too many companies it’s mostly the people who aren’t afraid to ask for a raise that receive one. Yet, it’s one of the most effective ways to show people your appreciation. Acknowledge a job well done and match it with an appropriate salary.


Yet another hiring fee will be a lot more painful than a raise for someone who deserves it.

Isabel Van Ruyskensvelde, T-shaped Academy

Challenge 3: We all want the unicorn

Not just 5 years of experience is preferred, but also:

  • GTM expertise
  • Google Ads
  • SEO
  • Marketing Automation
  • a little bit of CMS skills
  • fluent proficiency in Dutch, French, and English, that's all!

Most companies are a little unrealistic in the requirements for a digital marketing profile. When I read the average vacancy I can maybe name 1 or 2 people that would fit all the listed requirements.


I’ve been in digital marketing for almost 15 years now. To the surprise of HR or marketing managers, people are not applying for their job openings. Well… Would you apply for a job when you don’t have half of the skills they’re asking for?


Solution: Start stripping


Take a long, hard look at the job opening, call in an expert (preferably someone in the future team of the applicant), and start scratching.

Only keep the indispensable soft and hard skills. Try to find another way to reach the other necessary knowledge and skills:

  • How can you help the team members support new people to share their knowledge and coach them?
  • What can they learn through external training?
  • Maybe your vacancy is a 2-person job and you can split the requirements?

Another way to avoid long lists of requirements is by using a ‘must have’ and a ‘nice to have' listed in the vacancy. Oh, and please don’t exclude motivated marketers because they don't speak 3 languages.


Spoiler alert: when you strip a job description, the soft skills are usually on top of the list. It’s a lot easier to teach someone hard skills than soft skills. That’s why I advocate for hiring based on company fits and motivation rather than hard skills.


And now?


Take a long, hard look at your current recruitment process. Start writing your job descriptions from scratch and only keep what’s necessary. Give juniors a chance and invest in your team.


Obvious much? My point exactly.

About the author

Isabel is coach at our T-Shaped Factory program.

Read more articles by Isabel.