Laurie Kahn has been helping media companies hire full-time employees since she founded Media Staffing Network in 1993. Given her broad and lengthy experience, I wanted to talk to her about the state of TV recruitment, how it has changed over the years and what advice she could offer to those TV companies that need staff and those candidates who are looking for opportunities.
Laurie Kahn has been helping media companies hire full-time employees since she founded Media Staffing Network in 1993. Her company specializes in full-time placement of media sales and management jobs in radio, TV, magazine, cable, online, digital, mobile and various new media sales jobs on a nationwide basis.
Given her broad and lengthy experience, I wanted to talk to her about the state of TV recruitment, how it has changed over the years and what advice she could offer to TV companies that need staff and to those candidates who are looking for opportunities.
Kahn is currently involved with various industry associations and participates at career fairs and colleges to educate individuals about media career opportunities. She also conducts seminars targeting recruiting and hiring. In addition, she has authored articles appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Sales and Marketing Magazine, Radio Ink, Continental Airlines Magazine and Inside the Minds “Staffing Leadership Strategies” to name a few. Laurie has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Crains/Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Selling Power, Radio INK, Inside Radio and Media Post.
She also regularly presents workplace topics to associations nationwide, including Broadcast Education Association, Chicago Advertising Federation, National Association of Broadcasters, Broadcast & Financial Managers Association and the Radio Advertising Bureau in addition to various private organizations.
Laurie has received a 2008 Top 50 Most Influential Women in Radio, 1997 Recognition Award from the Center for Urban Business, Outstanding Salesperson of the Year Award from Torbet Radio, Outstanding Radio Salesperson from American Women in Radio & TV and First Place Marketing Company from the National Association of Staffing Services.
Kahn said that her company, Media Staffing Network, encourages their clients to do their own job postings and do their due diligence. But when that hasn’t gotten them the right person, that’s when they usually come to Media Staffing.
Here is an edited transcript of my interview with her.
Greeley: I have written about recruitment, some things that I think the stations should be doing, that could help them fill those positions within the market where they are. Is that helpful?
Absolutely, because people are not relocating now. We probably get 50 resumes applying to our database each week and I eyeball them as they are coming through and one of the qualifiers is, will they relocate, and I see no almost 95% of the time.
Are your clients mostly in television?
No. We work with all media, radio, TV, cable, digital. So we have a really good handle on what each industry is doing. It used to be, when I started the business almost 27 years ago, people would only hire from their own. Now we are seeing more what I call cross-pollination and they all have a little bit different skills. We deal with all market sizes, all mediums.
How much of your business is television?
Probably a third. The fact is there are roughly 2,500 TV stations and 13,000 radio stations.
And of those TV folks, is it mostly in the sales arena or does it matter?
The position doesn’t matter. The only positions we don’t fill are experienced on-air and production people. So in TV, we are doing a lot of directors of digital, some engineers, sales managers, a lot of sales managers primarily. We are actually getting searches for sellers at local stations now which we did not in the past.
So a broadcast company might approach you and say we need a local sales manager in one of our markets, that kind of thing?
Yes, and trust me, we have done all the market sizes.
From what I am hearing, there are three areas that are difficult for the local TV broadcasters to fill — account execs, news producers and creative services writer/producers.
Right, the other category that is tough is engineering.
What kind of obstacles do broadcasters’ face when recruiting?
It is time-consuming. It is very competitive and it is very difficult to get people to relocate. A lot of the TV stations say, we have never used an outside recruiter, we could never do that. They don’t have a budget. They don’t want to pay to have the service. So we took our whole process as a successful recruiter and we put it into a training program that is online. So it doesn’t matter what market you are in, we have every single thing you need to do your own recruitment and we call it the On-Line Sales Recruitment Center.
And that is on your website?
Yes. It is a wonderful program to go through and I mean it tells them how to pick up the phone and approach a passive candidate, how to build a pipeline, how to understand what compensation needs to be, and what your LinkedIn profile should look like to attract people.
So it has got sample ads, everything in it. So that is one product we have done to try and help some of the smaller companies that don’t have the big corporations behind them. Another thing we have started this year, we have built a relationship with about 250 schools that have communications departments and we have set up a talent bank called The Zero to Three Talent Bank, and it is for those kids that are getting out of school that have less than three years’ experience.
We have a live person that screens all the resumes and accepts who we look at on-air, sales, production, engineering and social media digital. So we have a database of young people chomping at the bit to get into media and all a broadcaster has to do is reach out and say, send me people that are in this area, they can go through, they can look at them, if they hire one, there is a minimal service fee to cover our costs, but that is another tool to help some of these small markets get some of these young people into them.
Ultimately, that is what we have to do.
Of course. I do a lot of speaking at national conferences and state broadcast conventions. One of the things I will do is go through a whole process with the students because 95% of them want to be on-air. We let them know if you want to be on-air, then you want to also learn about different departments. You may want to do some selling. You may want to do some marketing. You may want to do things in your career that provides better growth potential for yourself.
How are you paid? How does your service work as far as if somebody is reading this and they go well this sounds like something I need, do you have different structures, is that all spelled out?
We have totally different structures. Our searches are usually based on a percentage. We do have some flat fees. It depends on the market. We have special tools we subscribe to as a recruiter to get people’s phone numbers and email addresses and background and so we can build a pipeline for a company. They can do all their own cold calling or they can have us do the pipeline and just do the initial cold calls and give them the warm leads. So we are really trying to give the people, the companies, really a variety of services that are affordable.
That is a great idea. I see so many more things that the stations could be doing to make their jobs more attractive.
You are absolutely right. Why are we not using audio and video testimonials, clips from parties, clips from events, success stories, to sell people?
What obstacles must employers overcome these days to fill some of these jobs?
The first one is having good websites, strong social media presence, welcoming strong LinkedIn profiles, positive reviews, I mean that is No. 1. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but having a culture where people feel like their employers have their back, where they have growth potential, where they can fit in and be part of a family. Those are things that are really important and until they start putting some of those in place, they are going to struggle because it is not all just about money.
You have been in the business for 27 years, how has the business changed?
The one thing, when I think 26 years ago, we didn’t have as many different media as we do now. So it is a lot more competitive. So one of my biggest challenges is really educating the owners and operators that business has to be done differently today. It is very difficult to hire and retain people.
Who are the easiest people to place?
That is a funny question because I have been asked over the years, is it better to have all the clients in the world or all the candidates in the world? So the easiest person for us is the one that is open to creativity and flexibility. I would say 90% to 95% of the jobs we fill are passive candidates. People that have not necessarily come to us, but we have reached out and talked to about the opportunity.
Who are your clients?
They range from international media companies to local mom and pop businesses. We are a woman-owned business, and that is important to some companies, not others. But the fact that we really listen, we take the time, we don’t stop until a job is filled. We partner with our clients to put their best interests and needs up first.