Recruiting for success

A recent recruitment drive at Mash Media, CN’s parent company, produced some very interesting findings from the media world. There simply aren’t enough jobs to supply the huge demand. Within 10 minutes of posting an editorial vacancy CN was inundated with applicants wanting to break into the sector and by day three of the advert being posted CN had received 250 CVs. After sifting through the applicants at least 70 per cent met the base requirements on paper.

Is the events world seeing similar findings? Are there enough jobs to cater to the demand? We asked around.

“The event job market is fiercely competitive, and with the number of universities providing event management courses, the talent pool far outweighs the jobs that are available,” Lisa Owen, Vice President of Communications for Meeting Professionals International (MPI) UK and Ireland Chapter and Conference Sales Manager at Visit Manchester told CN.

The Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) recently carried out a poll of its members which found that there is more hiring than firing at present in the events industry. Special talent, however, is hard to come by.

“The freelance pool seems to be growing, but there is a great deal of variation in quality, even if qualifications look good on paper, which is why personal recommendation is still invaluable,”
said ABPCO’s Chairman, Michael Foreman. “On the whole, now is not considered a good time to move jobs in the events sector due to too much uncertainty.

“In terms of talent, there are many graduates and young professionals in the industry, but the general feeling is that it is difficult to identify special ‘talent’ that makes individuals stand out from the crowd. Comments from members indicate that there is a lack of experienced, senior professionals, which causes challenges  for PCOs and event organisers.

In difficult times, seasoned professionals who can multi-task and manage multiple events are invaluable,” added Foreman.

Visit Manchester says it too is receiving more requests from students looking to carry out voluntary roles in the organisation, as it gives them a step up the career ladder and experience. Being able to demonstrate specific skills should be a priority for an employee.

“Voluntary work in the industry is a sign to a potential employer that the candidate is dedicated, committed and determined to enter the industry. Being able to gain voluntary roles in an organisation is not easy, though, as demand far outstrips supply,” said Owen.

Witness the Olympic Games where 240,000 volunteers applied for 20,000 posts as ‘Games makers’.

“Event jobs are extremely competitive and you have to be eagle eyed to find positions when they’re advertised and understand where to look. When you find a role that interests you speed is everything and some have a particularly tight turnaround owing to urgency of filling the position,” she added.

Charlotte Baxter, Account Director at event management agency MCI UK and VP for events for MPI’s UK and Ireland Chapter, said people looking for jobs in the industry needed to be versatile with broad skill sets. “Although event companies are consolidating and there are enough jobs, there is a requirement for people who are able to be flexible within their roles, who aren’t afraid to support another department when business is quiet,” she said.

“Quite often there is a reluctance from individuals to muck in on a cross department basis,” she added.

The Director of event management agency Grass Roots, Warren Hillier, said companies that are winning new business and are looking to grow were hiring. The Grass Roots team in Marlow has recently taken on a number of new people in key roles and Hillier said: “getting the right mix of permanent employees supplemented by freelance resource is fundamental to success”.

“There are talented people on the market and they naturally gravitate towards the best businesses, those with the best reputation as good employers will always have people knocking on the door. We are seeing an increasing trend in using social media and personal networks of contacts to seek out good candidates. The majority of our hiring has been on this basis reducing the need to incur costly recruitment fees,” he said.

So is now a good time to move jobs in the events market?

Hillier said shifts in the events market over recent times have provided new opportunities for those looking to spread their wings. “But this is only if it is a move in the right direction,” he said. “There are jobs for talented people and we are optimistic for the future. Some things don’t change, such as the ability to understand and interpret a brief, to build rapport and to manage projects, but new technologies are emerging all the time and those that are keeping pace will have the edge in the future,” he added.

So, if business is going well, companies in the events industry are hiring it seems. Owen said: “People need to be realistic about what salaries are reasonable in the market place, specifically about what companies are able to pay. Often people ‘expect’ a certain salary but actually more consideration needs to be given to the opportunity available and the experience on offer.  The higher, inflated salaries are harder to achieve now that companies are being squeezed by the consumer.

“Those entering the job market have to look at ways to differentiate themselves from the pack,” Owen added.  
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Recruiter’s view

Recruitment company, Eligo’s Sales Director, Guy Wilkinson:  
 
“Since the start of the year there has been a steady rise in the number of jobs coming onto the market. Job-wise the market is very active at present. All sectors are recruiting, marketing, sales, operations and production. The junior and middle markets are buoyant at the moment, whereas the senior end of the market is slightly slower. The biggest problem in the market at present, is finding quality applicants to fill these jobs. There seems to be gaps in the market, so for instance finding a quality sales person or marketing person, can sometimes be easier said than done.

 There are lots of companies out there launching new products, launching new divisions. The conference market is fast paced and some B2B sectors are stronger than others so, for example, Public Sector and Property/Construction are weaker than say Energy and Finance. They are also firing as sometimes either the company or the recruiter gets it wrong when placing the applicant with them. Also, if applicants inflate their skill set when going into a new company, over time this can be another reason why companies let people go.

If we look back pre ‘08 and look back to ‘04 to ‘06 then there are probably 40 per cent fewer jobs. This is due to lots of different reasons, but the over-riding factor has been the global market and
the recession caused off the back of this.  

Now is a good time to move jobs in the event sector as long as you do your research when going into these companies.”

This was first published in the September edition of Conference News. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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