Marketing salaries are rising. Here’s what employers need to know

In major cities across the U.S., salaries for marketing and creative jobs are rising dramatically. It’s happening across agencies and companies, at every experience level, and in multiple marketing disciplines. Demand is rising, but the supply of marketing candidates has not kept pace.

What’s causing this unusually tight market? Several factors have led us here, but we can point to COVID-19 as the cause of them all.

A post-pandemic hiring spree is creating opportunities for marketers.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 led to stalled growth and layoffs for many businesses. And as more companies bounce back from reduced headcount, they need staff ready and trained now.

To some extent, we’re now seeing a year’s worth of company growth, life changes, and career opportunities accelerate as lockdowns ease and confidence in the market rebounds.

That means marketing budgets are being spent again, and marketing teams are hiring once more. Not only that, but more marketing roles are now classified as “essential” — particularly digital, data analytics, eCommerce, UX/UI, content, PR, and media roles.

As more companies rush to grow their teams, many are also looking for marketing “unicorns,” or multi-talented professionals who can fill hybrid roles. Candidates with strengths in multiple specialties can command higher salaries, which won’t always align with the salary caps many hiring managers must work with.

Remote work gives top candidates even more options.

The pandemic forced many companies to embrace remote work, and we believe this trend will stick around. Now that they’ve experienced it, more companies are comfortable with having their employees work outside of the office, and more workers are asking that their pandemic-induced remote work arrangements become permanent.

The proliferation of remote work has given candidates more options for competing offers, as they’re no longer limited to opportunities in their own geographic area. 

It’s also given companies who are open to remote workers a much larger talent pool to choose from, but only if they’re willing to offer a salary that aligns with the candidate’s market, not their own.

Though candidate relocation has slowed, corporate relocations have not, and this is also impacting jobs markets more regionally. In our headquarters of Dallas-Fort Worth, the influx of corporations to the area has dramatically increased salaries and dropped  unemployment from 7.1% in December 2020 to under 7% in April 2021.

Candidates are being more careful about who they choose to work for.

Candidates, especially those in their 20s and 30s, have become more selective about the companies they work for and the types of roles they’ll take. They don’t want to join a company to do what they consider traditional or uninspiring work.

The pandemic also reduced their faith in a traditional career path. They are now handpicking opportunities or even walking away from what once would have been considered a great job.

With the economic uncertainty still fresh, “passive” candidates have become more difficult to attract, especially if they are with stable companies and industries. This likely will change as the impact of COVID-19 lessens.

It’s also more important than ever to candidates that the company they work for have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In general, after a year of layoffs, social tensions, and efforts to automate certain roles, employees want to know they’ll be supported.

Hiring? It’s time to reset your salary expectations.

All of these factors have combined to create quite the candidate’s market.

Salaries have skyrocketed and will continue to rise. It is estimated that we’ll continue to see a spike in candidates negotiating unprecedented salaries through at least the fall of 2022.

We’re strongly advising our clients to reset their expectations internally about salaries, and be prepared to pay more for less experience. 

It’s now common to pay the same salary to a junior candidate that, last year, you might have expected to pay to someone more experienced. We’re even seeing candidates with as little as two years of experience get $20,000 to $30,000 more than they would have before this unique jobs market — some salaries even nearing six figures.

And if you’re looking to fill a hybrid role, with two specialties in a single employee, be prepared to pay even more in salary as that employee brings more to the table.

These are not anecdotal anomalies — this is now the norm. It’s a tough pill to swallow, particularly after a financially challenging year for many industries, but it’s the market reality. Even before this unusual market, more than half of the professionals we place expect a higher salary in order to change jobs. In 2021, this is just what it takes to entice candidates to make a move.

If you can’t compete on salary, reduce the job requirements or find other ways to be creative with compensation.

Don’t go it alone. Lean on the experts.

Talk with recruiting partners to understand the market. Because many companies are counter-offering with extreme salary increases to keep quality employees, your offer must be strong to stand a chance. Your recruiting partners can help you know the going rates, and craft a compelling job description and offer.

In addition to outsourcing the time-intensive work of finding and thoroughly vetting candidates, partnering with Freeman+Leonard in your recruitment process means you also get a strategic, hands-on advisor with highly niched expertise.

In these unusual market conditions, many employers can’t afford to go it alone.

Ready to find your next star marketing hire? Use the contact form below to reach out and start a conversation. It costs nothing to explore your options.

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