Why Your Generalist Recruiter or HR Can't Fill Your AEM Role
Almost 3 years ago, I wrote a post on why your generalist recruiter or HR can’t fill your Adobe Experience Manager role and having 3 more years of experience staffing and recruiting in this space, as well as no owning my own staffing agency. I thought it would be fitting to update that post for 2018. I hope you enjoy it and find the information valuable.
Having worked in the Adobe Experience Manager talent market for the past 6+ years, I have seen every circumstance around hiring you could possibly imagine. I've seen positions filled within 4 hours. I've seen other roles open for over a year with no luck, and I've seen multiple companies become revolving doors for talent by failing to offer compensation commensurate with the skill set of high-value talent. I've also seen companies build and retain efficient, effective, and technically competent teams that consistently push the envelope with what others thought was possible in the digital marketing world.
Throughout this time, one thing has become crystal clear and is still the case, you will NOT find talent in a niche, high demand-low supply markets like Adobe Experience Manager relying on your average IT recruiter or your in-house HR. Sure, they may come through for you on occasion, but that is hardly the norm, and by the time you’ve finished reading this hopefully, you’ll see why.
My journey into the world of recruitment began in the summer of 2010. Back then I worked for Huxley Associates a branch of the FTSE250 listed SThree group recruiting developers for banks. About a year and a half later, I was approached to find an Adobe CQ developer from one of my banking clients. At that point in time, I had never heard of the product but was confident I could find the people. Boy, was I wrong! They were nowhere to be found, and everyone I spoke to that had the skill was already in a job, making good money and not looking to make a move. When I realized these people were in such high demand, I saw an opportunity but realized it would take focus and hard work. So I decided to jump into the market. There was to be no dabbling in other things, I committed 100% of my time, energy, and focus into providing the candidates to clients that no one else could find. This could have been a completely stupid move, but in the end turned out to pay off big time. Through that decision I was able to launch a new brand for SThree in the United States, becoming the top global performer at the company and ultimately go off on my own and start Focus GTS this year. Now I know what you're thinking, great story but what does this have to do with why the average IT staffing firm or HR can't fill my Adobe Experience Manager Role?
It actually has everything to do with it and it comes down to 3 things: specialization, advice, and time.
Your average IT recruiter or HR partner has zero specialization. I know that might be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. This by no means negates their ability to recruit and add value, but the fact is, they recruit for a variety of roles with a variety of skill sets. This may be great in most circumstances because you can work with them on anything. However, AEM is a different beast all together. Most IT products go through a common supply-demand life cycle.
Product Release ----> Demand for the product increases ----> Demand for candidates with product skills increases ----> Supply of talent declines ----> Candidates come in from overseas to try and meet the demand -----> the demand and supply stabilize.
With AEM we’re way past the step where candidates come in from overseas to try to meet demand, (hence why 85% of the AEM candidate population are Visa holders) however, supply and demand aren’t stabilizing by any means. This tells us two things:
- Adobe has created one heck of a product in AEM.
- We’re facing a problem with supply and that’s why there’s a large nationwide initiative by partners to try train up talent.
When a standard IT recruiter or HR partner is given an AEM role this second point/problem requires a focused effort. If you don’t know the market and work in it 100% you’ll never be able to find the candidates required to fill the role. It takes a long time to know and understand a market like this because it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. You can’t spend a couple days or weeks looking for these people and think you know the market. If this is your approach you’ll come to the same conclusion most people do. THERE IS NO ONE. Specialization is key and it is the only way a hiring manager will get his role filled quickly and efficiently with someone that will stick.
Specialization goes hand in hand with consultation and without one the other can’t exist because you can’t advise on something you don’t understand. If you as a hiring manager have unrealistic expectations. How is someone going to advise you of that if they don’t know your expectations are unrealistic? The answer is, they won’t. This is the reason some roles can stay open for half a year or longer and sometimes don’t get filled at all. For example, the underlying skills of the AEM platform are quite standard IT skills when looked at individually, Java, JSP, Sling, OSGI etc. but as soon as you bring them together and add in experience on AEM, we create something much more valuable than the sum of its parts. Over the years, I’ve seen many managers look at the skills needed rather than the total package and come to the conclusion that an AEM Developer is a Java Developer, or a frontend developer, and thus should be paid as one.
The standard recruiter or HR partner (due to their lack of specialization), accepts this and begins their search for an AEM Developer at a rate or salary much lower than what they cost. Not only can they not find the people, but they can’t understand why and the requisition remains unfilled. This delays projects, deadlines, and ultimately revenue for the business. You hire an accountant to do your taxes rather than do our own because they are a specialist and can advise you. You hire a lawyer to deal with any legal queries rather than google it because they are a specialist and can advise you. So why would you put a strategic hiring initiative in the hands of anyone who’s not a specialist? Now that’s a good question!
Like many people, as I advanced in my career I found myself in a management position with a whole new set of responsibilities. One of these of course, is hiring. Now as much as I know we all love growing our teams, the hiring process can be annoying and time-consuming and many times we just can’t wait to get back to our “regular jobs”. Recruiters or your HR team are “supposed” to make this process easier for you. But again, when dealing with something extremely niche and in high demand in which they don’t specialize, they can’t advise you and thus your time wasted not saved.
You’ll see resumes don’t match what you need, you’ll see candidates that won’t take your job and you’ll spend time trying to figure out what’s going wrong. Not only is your time being wasted, but so is the recruiters. They could be spending time filling something else and adding value where they can. Ultimately, time is money and when you’re responsible for the website, or digital marketing of a large organization the last thing you want is to spend all your time trying to find talent and not reap the fruit of your efforts.
I love AEM and owe a large part of my career and personal wealth to the platform, but I’m very honest about the realities of the market. I’ve had partners come to me before and ask me why I always broadcast how hard it is to find people in the AEM world. “It will scare customers away”, they say. But I couldn’t disagree more. It’s been almost 8 years since Adobe bought the product from Day Software and customers are flocking to it, not running away because the talent is hard to find. I’m a realist so I’m going to tell people the realities of what they’re dealing with, and if I didn’t do this I’d be doing a disservice to the entire AEM community. Are AEM candidates hard to find? Yes! Are there 7 jobs for every candidate looking for work? Yes! Is the average candidate on the market for 7 days? Yes! Are you going to waste time and money trying to use your HR or your general recruitment company to fill THIS type of role for you? YES!
You may think I’m biased, telling people to go see an AEM specialist for their recruiting needs because that’s one of the areas that Focus GTS specializes in. Although this is true, I’m not biased because I’m a specialist. I’m biased because this makes sense and I’ve seen too many mistakes over the years to not promote this idea. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner to have your tonsils removed, or have a tooth extracted. That would be ludicrous! You’d go to see a specialist. So don’t make this mistake in your professional life. If you’ve already spent 6 or 7 figures on a license for AEM, get the right people. Maximize the product and show the digital marketing world what you’ve got!