Bernhart Associates Executive Search's Jerry Bernhart on the Possibility of DM Unemployment Bottoming Out
Boldt: How does this current recession rate with previous ones?
Bernhart: I've witnessed several downturns during the 20 years of my recruiting firm, but this is by far the worst. The impact on direct marketing is unprecedented. We're going to find out real soon with these third-quarter results, as the second quarter really hadn't bottomed out yet. We could end up bumping along the bottom for a long time. Layoffs are still occurring on a fairly regular basis, and there's been many highly publicized bankruptcies.
The survey does tend to track changes with the GDP very closely, actually, and unemployment figures lag behind that. So the rest of this year will be very difficult, just as in other industries.
Boldt: From your day-to-day experience as a recruiter for this industry, what do you see that may be positive for the creative pool, particularly those working in direct mail?
Bernhart: From where I sit, the calls for résumés continue to come in. There is no letup in the calls and résumés coming in. Many are still unemployed and are not happy. That being said, I don't know too many unemployed copywriters or designers. I actually have placed several copywriters since this thing tanked. I'm getting lots of résumés from marketers, sales guys, operations people, customer service folks, but not from copywriters.
Direct mail is about the list, the creative and the offer. Many of these copywriters were already self-employed, and there perhaps is enough demand for project-based work. Copywriting seems less impacted than marketing and operations, but not necessarily analytics and sales. The good ones are always hard to locate. The demand may be down, but the talent can offset that.
Boldt: Are there any opportunities out there right now?
Bernhart: For both copywriters and designers, it appears that incorporating digital and Web skills also makes sense. Overall, for companies that are hiring, this is a rare window of opportunity to pick up top performers who may not be available when the economy gets back into growth mode.
The employment picture is actually brightest on the agency side. My latest survey results show that 30 percent of participating agencies planned new hires that quarter. Not only are agencies planning to do more hiring than their marketing and supplier counterparts, they're also expecting fewer layoffs.
Boldt: How are these new hires occurring?
Bernhart: When the survey asked how they're finding new employees, 28 percent said that employee/vendor referrals was the largest source of candidates, followed by direct hires at 12 percent and Internet job boards at 14 percent. Less than 3 percent said they are sourcing hires through job postings on company Web sites.
This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Inside Direct Mail, a sister publication to Target Marketing. To learn more about Inside Direct Mail, visit www.insidedirectmail.com.