Recruiting a Head of Digital? Have you considered these six key issues first?

MTA media headhuntersWhile Martin Tripp Associates specialise in filling high-level positions right across the media sector, the vast majority of searches we’ve completed over the last three or four years have had one thing in common: nearly all of them have been about finding executives to assist in a transition from print to digital, or increasingly, from one kind of digital presence to a more advanced one.

In that context, the job title ‘Head of Digital’ can seem anachronistic. After all, if your business is digital-first (as many of our clients now are) then virtually every department – editorial, sales, marketing, product development, the lot – should have digital skills at the core.

However, some clients still have successful print businesses with separate digital teams that need to be managed. In that context, when they’re recruiting a Head of Digital, what they really need a matrix-managing figure to establish digital best-practice across the business.

In the last six months I’ve worked with a consumer magazine publisher who wanted a Head of Digital to head up just online editorial, and a newspaper publisher who wanted a Head of Digital to drive commercial strategy and product development. These are markedly different propositions with similar job titles.

For recruiters and job-seekers alike, the term ‘Head of Digital’ can cover a multitude of sins. And with such a varied lot of digital skills and experiences available, and a slew of different tasks and responsibilities that could be attached to the role, it’s little wonder hiring managers often have trouble knowing the exact territory the job is supposed to cover, and even what they want from a candidate.

Often this confusion leads to muddled job descriptions, goalposts that shift throughout the interview process, and a lot unsuitable candidates. It can waste time and money. And you might not even get the right person at the end.

If you’re looking to hire a Head of Digital it’s essential to work out in advance what you’re really looking for.

Think about the following key issues:

  • Who are they going to be managing?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of that team, and your digital portfolio as it stands?
  • Will their main responsibilities be in editorial, commercial, product development, or a mix of all three?
  • Will they have worked in traditional media or can they have come from a start-up or established digital-only player?

And what about these further points:

  • If you still have a legacy print business – how will that person intersect with it?
  • How will they be expected to relate to your existing editors and sales management?

The words that every recruiter dreads hearing are ‘this person could come from any background, really’. Often they can’t.

It’s a vast market out there. Alongside your traditional rivals, you’re competing for talent with search businesses, social networks, e-commerce providers, pretty much anyone with an established digital presence. The more closely you can define what you’re looking for right at the start, the easier it will be to find your ideal candidate.