Why are digital roles so hard to fill?

We caught up with Zumar Dean, director at Just Digital, a London-based digital, ecommerce and marketing technology recruitment firm. Zumar has eight years' experience recruiting specifically in digital and has developed strong relationships with global corporations as well as innovative startups.

Zumar, what trends are you noticing in digital, ecommerce and marketing tech recruitment at the moment?

The biggest trend is probably the amount of vacancies in the market. Big brands and startups alike are actively looking for digital specialists, so there's certainly no shortage of opportunities. From a specialism perspective, we're seeing lots in paid media, B2B marketing and UX/product.

Which roles are hardest to fill?

All of them! Digital is one of the fastest growing industries and there are lots of great roles out there, but the number of suitable candidates available is low in comparison.

It's also fair to say that there are a number of companies that set their expectations far too high when it comes to recruiting and expect candidates to have more experience than is realistic. 

As digital becomes standard and assumed, do you see digital roles simply being absorbed into marketing and other business areas, or do you see it as a distinct function?

Digital is Marketing. But it's not the only channel in the mix and the companies that are doing well seem to be the ones who are concentrating on "multichannel" experiences.

Do you think companies and organisations are clear on the roles they need? Is there confusion about how to optimally structure digital, marketing, ecommerce and IT?

There are a lot of briefs we work on where the requirements change during the process - whether it's meeting a specific candidate, or through our advice.

There is still a degree of confusion about structuring departments, but that's because there isn't a "one size fits all" arrangement.

Are digital professionals having to become more specialised in their skill sets or is it more valuable to be an all-rounder?

It's largely dependant on industry. For example, we're seeing very few all-rounder roles in B2C ecommerce, but in B2B marketing tech, the majority of marketing roles require someone with a broad understanding across all channels, both digital and traditional.

For the most part, I would say roles are becoming more specialised and that's because digital teams are growing, so there is going to be less of a need for someone who can do everything.

Are formal qualifications important, or is it all about hands-on experience?

I find that this depends on who you ask. Personally, I look at the experience over qualifications, but we do still get hiring managers expecting to see certain qualifications on CVs.

Do you notice differences in the way larger and smaller businesses recruit digital roles? Is there anything they could learn from each other?

The biggest difference is pace. Bigger businesses naturally come with more process and therefore there tend to be more delays. Given how competitive the market is, this is where the smaller businesses are benefiting. The best candidates are ending up with multiple offers, so sometimes it really can come down to how quickly a company can move to make them an offer.

What do you look for when recruiting digital leadership roles?

Typically, we look for a combination of things, including tangible achievements, previous team mentorship, breadth of experience and stability.