The Ideal Skillset for a New Hire for an Agency

I made a comment earlier to someone that it is really hard to find someone or people that have depth and breadth across the board. In fact this exact discussion took place at Social South late in the Summer by a pretty smart group of folks worth following on Twitter. The group included  Scott Schablow, Tom Martin, Jason FallsDavid Griner, Beth Harte and myself.

The question or challenges continues to present themselves to me and that is, trying to find someone with a blend of skill sets that can take on the challenges that this new marketing and communications world has presented us with.

What types of skills are needed? Here’s a quick list that I threw together, I know I’m missing some obvious ones, if so let me know.

  1. Understand the nuances of customer service and why the customer matters
  2. The ability to understand technology’s big picture as well as the small stuff
  3. PR skills-“the how tos”, “the whys”; and “the what fors”
  4. Soft listening skills
  5. The ability to write a blog post with tags, links and proper attributes
  6. Know how to comment on a blog and why
  7. Know how to post a blog post and where
  8. SEO skills-How to write for SEO
  9. How to write PR releases with SEO in mind
  10. An understanding of social media
  11. A deeper understanding of social media
  12. How to use Twitter and what the purpose of twitter is
  13. How to write an email-I know it sounds simple but…
  14. How to create an email blast and send it properly
  15. How to write a proposal
  16. How to monitor a brand across multiple channels
  17. An understanding of basic HTML. CSS would be nice
  18. The ability to use Photoshop to some degree
  19. The ability to use a MAC or a PC well.
  20. The ability to present in front of a group-speaking skills, remember them?
  21. The ability to create a PowerPoint presentation
  22. An understanding of UI-know what sucks and why
  23. The ability to manage your time effectively
  24. Know how to prioritize
  25. Know what web tools can make your job better and make us better
  26. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion,it matters
  27. The ability to share and be selfless, it’s important
  28. The ability to learn quickly and absorb it
  29. The understanding that everything that you create digitally, now is this close to being consumed publicly.
  30. The ability to change direction on the fly

Though it would be nice to find the person that had half of the skills mentioned above or perhaps knowledge or understanding of 3/4 of them, I know that might be asking too much. If I can get someone who knew a few of them, that’s a start.

Does this seem like I’m asking too much of college graduates? I don’t think so. This is a new world where having expertise or a degree in one discipline just won’t cut it anymore. Our industry requires that you have knowledge in lots of areas. It almost demands it. The good news is that a lot of graduates and individuals are already armed with these skills. The bad news is, it might be changing tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “The Ideal Skillset for a New Hire for an Agency

  1. You’ve listed a compilation of what I learned (and I didn’t finish college) by the time I was done with 2 years of the “School of hard knocks”, working at Web agencies and other small companies after high school. Remember “Internet Time?” Six months of internet time could equal two years of schooling. There’s no substitute for being out in the field and having good mentors under the leadership (or at the top)

    Interpreting the How-Tos, the Whys and the What Fors is what makes up part of the ability to consult. All the things you mentioned are typical consulting activities, or knowledge of technology, or learned behaviors. This is a service organization at heart right? Well if the schools aren’t teaching it (and you can bet even if they did the kid’s forgotten it for lack of use)then it’s up to you.

    There is an alternative to hiring directly out of “good schools” if you find the schools aren’t delivering people who know all the things you’ve mentioned, and that’s in-house training. You could train these folks up to your standard. I know it’s time consuming and there are things that are critical for you to be doing if you’re running your business — but here’s a little story for you that might align you:

    A long time ago I dated the nanny to kids of a millionaire. I had a talk with “Mr. M” once about the company he ran. This guy had an empire of restaurants and more than one food factory — I asked him what the secret of his success was. He said (paraphrasing here) “It is constant training, training, training and yet more training. I have managers that are tasked to train, not to solely manage. If you want the best, don’t expect a school to give it to you. You have to either train these employees yourself or find experts you trust to bring them up to speed, and then you have to find a way to feed the same people more knowledge and skills. The people you train will become your allies in the future because they will remember what you did for them. These people (both training managers and regular employees) will help you build your next business, and the business after that. You’re giving them a start. If you don’t own up to the need for that employee to be valued, then you’re just an absent landlord and good luck to you.”

    I urge you to consider that if you’re still having problems finding the right people, then your hiring managers need to ignore the school they’re from, because it clearly isn’t a valid detail anymore. Have the manager (or yourself if that’s you) go with them to dinner or lunch. Have the candidate order for you. Watch how they behave and handle themselves. If the person can’t manage basic social graces, decency toward the waiter and organize themselves well, think out of the box or creatively, and has nothing but complaints and nothing constructive you don’t need or want them within your organization. Find out how they learn, how they like to be managed. How the want to grow. Stay in touch with that. Have a real talk with them. This even works with current employees. Regardless, get to know them. Otherwise, you’re an absent landlord and you have no idea what you’ve got or if you’ve got the ability to grow.

    Of course another alternative is don’t skimp on your needs by hiring a college graduate. If you need a tiger to handle this, hire a mid-range person or an expert. Paying a little more to get the job done sooner means you can get more new jobs.

  2. Jonathan, thanks. If I received no other comments on this post but yours, it was worth it. Your little “story” nailed it. Though we may not have time to train, we should never stop. Thank you for your thoughtful input on this.

  3. hiring experts is cost effective when you have money to spend on. I am not sure this would apply for a start up. I am in fact lunching a new website and trying to hire a co-manager to help me building the business and my issue here is that I not sure if I can pay him.
    I can always pay him with incentive future stock options or/and a piece of future revenues. I am always confronted with the fact that this person must believe in my project. this is not obvious.
    In fact, every person I should hire, should first, believe in you and in you project before reaching the training of this person, eespecially when it comes to a project like mine which is a social media network, without a business model well defined.


  4. It’s one thing to have the skills, as I have many; but it’s something different to be found to use those skills in action, as I’m having difficulty.

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  6. I am not looking to be different from anyone or anything, I had an idea and i realised it – but yah, may be it is too difficult for you.
    In a word, at president of the world, people could participate into building a new constitution. you can create your own profile/Club with good communication tools: Chat, Forum, Events, News, Pics, Videos, Comments.
    Still too difficult? and on the top of it, we will elect the President of The world anytime soon! does it ring any bell? 🙂


  7. Hi Ph, I wanted to take a moment and respond to your concerns. By the way, Marc (since I know you’ll probably read this) you should include a field for TWTR in addition to Website, so if desired, people could follow someone who’s commented here. That would be a nice feature. I’m about to add that to my blog as well. I’m at @jfirestone BTW.


    >hiring experts is cost effective when you have money to spend
    > on. I am not sure this would apply for a start up.

    I agree — I think that depends on the start up and how much money you have, as you’ve said. However, this topic was about building an agency with hires fairly fresh out of school. This presumes Marc & his team are working with one or more interns or graduates from a school, and I would only add this to my previous comment:

    Choose carefully before investing a lot of money and time in several people if one expert or well-rounded medium priced person is available. For the price you’re going to be paying for two or three fresh out of school, you might get an expert or mid-level able to produce the work of three people. OTOH, as I mentioned, if you have time to train it makes a lot of sense to train them all up as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    If you have the project/pipeline bandwidth, consider hiring the expert who is capable of training others. Have them train the three interns/graduates when you have the project/pipeline bandwidth to do so.

    >I am in fact lunching a new website and trying to hire
    > a co-manager to help me building the business and my
    >issue here is that I not sure if I can pay him.
    >I can always pay him with incentive future stock options
    >or/and a piece of future revenues.

    I think this is a distinct possibility in this market. You seem to have a lot of tension over this topic and that’s understandable. Here’s a few options to consider:

    * Remember there are a lot of people looking for work right now.
    * There are also a lot of people who have work currently interested in spreading out their risk by getting into ventures that might be big in a year or two.

    I think those two areas are your sweet spots as far as finding someone interested in helping you, but on one side if you’re looking for business partner, yes — spread out socially, find someone who shares your love of social, grass-roots politics and join forces to produce your site. Be prepared to negotiate to give up half of your business (or 49%, etc.) to that partner in exchange for their investment or time.

    > I am always confronted with the fact that this person
    > must believe in my project. this is not obvious.

    It is if it’s someone who’s going to be a partner and you know you need one. Partnerships with one marginally interested/invested partner isn’t going to fly. They have to be involved and make an investment of some kind. Unless they’re being given something else to help out, like say 5%-10% of the revenue for a task, like making sales, sales engineering/analysis/requirements, etc. Just don’t expect the world out of them for effort — because without good leads coming down the pipeline you’ve got no sales, and on down the line… etc. etc.

    >In fact, every person I should hire, should first, believe
    > in you and in you project before reaching the training
    >of this person, eespecially when it comes to a project
    > like mine which is a social media network, without a
    > business model well defined.

    Well, if I were you, considering this project is in it’s infancy and the only one working on it right now is likely to be you, yes — you probably need a partner — it’s rare that a business starts out on the basis of only one person. I recall reading that the highest percentage of small businesses that work out are firms which have a partnership, not a sole proprietorship or a large committee at the helm. And I’m inclined to be believe that assessment.

    Good luck, I hope this works out for you and these suggestions help. Sorry for running off-topic here Marc.


  8. Thank you Jonathan for the time you had sent on my case – i very much apreciate.
    if you have felt any tension from what I wrote, that was not my intention. I just wanted to tell things as they are and what I am going through in regards to my personnal experience in this project.

    let keep in touch please


  9. About Twitter:

    I really feel that twitter is a kind of Ebay for the E-Services. everyone has something to sell and does not pay attention to what is said.

    As I try to disseminate information on the benefit of my website, others are replying to me by selling something without any feed back at all about what I had said.

    Is this a world of deaf-mute, back on themselves?


  10. Where can I learn more about writing a proposal? Working for a start-up we kind of forgo the professional proposals but I would like to learn.

  11. Craig, if you’d like me to look over a proposal you’ve written I’d be happy to sign an NDA, and look it over for you, offering what tips I can.

    I agree with Marc, there are a lot of templates out there. I’ve had some success with my proposals in part because I had help getting started, I’m happy to pass on what I can.

  12. @Jonathan I haven’t written any proposals yet, more looking for templates like you mention for different types of proposals to base off of for my own work. Never done it before since things are not traditional in that sense with where I work, but trying to learn and gain the experience of writing them. Any site recommendations for templates?

  13. Nope. My first proposals were based on proposals from the company I worked for at the time. They had their own format, and it was based in terms of a proposal for computer sales and computer repair. Since that time I’ve done more than a few interactive proposals.

    What type of work is it for?

    I’ll see if I can dig up something and strip it down for you.

  14. More just strictly for practice because I don’t need them now, but I’m sure will need to know for the future at some point. More social media proposals for strategy, goals, tools, timelines, and the works. Honestly I’m brand new with learning these so not exactly 100% sure what type of content goes into it, which is why I’m looking around.

  15. Thanks a lot. Trying to learn new skills to help me out for the future and I know this is a big one if I want to work in an agency at some point.

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