With multicultural marketing becoming ever more prevalent, agencies are on the prowl for the best talent around. But agencies are also insistent on a level of authenticity, which can bring up delicate issues.
"In a consumer-focused business like advertising, diversity and demographic expertise matter," said Raquel Sanabia, Multicultural Recruiter at Talent Zoo, an Atlanta-based advertising and marketing recruitment firm.
"Agencies sometimes ask me if a candidate fits the demographic of the client’s target audience when they’re looking to fill a position that involves face-to-face meetings with their clients,” Sanabia said. “Many of these requests are coming from the marketers themselves. They want the people who work on their ad account to be the consumers they’re trying to reach."
According to Marcy Wellings, an Atlanta-based employment attorney, "Legally, an employer or staffing agency is not allowed to inquire into, or base any employment decision, on race or gender. An employer must be very careful in scheduling interviews. If a candidate thinks they were not selected because of race or gender, no matter the reason, that employer can face discrimination charges. In a society that is highly sensitive to discrimination based on race and gender, it is extremely difficult for personnel agencies to tailor searches to the requests of their employer clients."
"Because we can not legally ask questions with regard to ethnicity, age, or gender, we often have to determine a candidate's viability for a specific position by what they offer up on their resume," Sanabia said.
Resumes, however, do not always give an indication of whether a candidate fits the needs of the position. For job seekers who want to emphasize their bilingual skills, their heritage, or unique understanding of an ethnic market, Sanabia said that candidates should “tip their hand” by specifying those qualities in a resume. This could involve listing certain affiliations or previous client experience. Additionally, jobseekers can use words like "urban," which can also suggest experience with younger consumers, another in-demand niche market.
More than ever, marketers are looking for a certain level of genuine credibility. Would a roomful of clients be more attentive to an agency's recommendations if given by someone with a similar background? In today’s fierce business climate, ad agencies and firms like Talent Zoo have to ask themselves those tough questions when recruiting ad talent.
"The clients are expecting the agencies to fully understand the nuances of the marketplace, so in turn agencies ask us to present them with those candidates," Sanabia said. "Agencies are sometimes very specific about what they want. The bottom line is that no matter how good an agency’s research, insight or creative is, perception is everything."
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