As part of my guest blogger series, the Burtch Works marketing research team, Karla Ahern and Naomi Keller, will be sharing some of their articles previously published in AMA magazine. In the June 2013 issue Karla and Naomi published the article below about hiring trends they are seeing in the field, as well as career advice for marketing research professionals. They also recently released The Burtch Works Study: Salaries for Marketing Research Professionals, which looks at salary information and how it varies by geography, education, industry, career level and more. Prior to joining Burtch Works, Karla and Naomi worked in client services, account management and business development roles at research firms including GfK, Ipsos and IRI.
Career Advice for Researchers
When we think about the signs of healthy economy activity and recovery from the recession, it’s all too tempting to have tunnel vision in lieu of reports that claim that companies are still cautious on the hiring front. But when you look at businesses’ day-to-day hiring practices, there is no denying that a sense of urgency is returning to the market.
In the past months and years, our team that recruits for professionals in market research witnessed the frustrating trend of human resources and hiring managers failing to move quickly enough. It was not uncommon to interview for months only to wait even longer for a final decision and offer to be made. Companies wanted to make sure that the worker they hired was fully committed for fear that she was only making a move for shortsighted reasons or out of desperation after a layoff. But the tides appear to be turning. Hiring authorities are finally starting to realize that if they sit around waiting for an impossibly perfect candidate, or if they drag their feet during the interview process, candidates have no problem going somewhere else.
A Different Sort of Recovery
Rest assured that economic recovery is happening. It’s not the same kind of bounce-back that we may have seen in past recessions, but we’re witnessing a slow and sure positive change as companies look to increase headcount in market research. Most notably, we have seen increased needs in the pharmaceutical, technology and retail industries, mostly at the middle to senior level. Big-name firms never used to have a problem attracting top-grade talent to join their teams, but times are changing.
The good candidates are out there. If companies are having trouble hiring them, it’s because workers are being courted by multiple companies at once. As soon as a well-qualified candidate begins his job search, multiple employers may be interested. It’s interesting to note that many of these prospects are client-side opportunities as of late, suggesting that this may start to become a trend in job growth in the coming months and years.
Large CPG firms that used to be able to count on their names and reputations now are competing for candidates’ attention, as exceptional workers are weighing multiple offers and can afford to be picky with their choices. For clients, it’s important to know what they’re competing against: aggressive salaries, growing bonus potential, good career trajectory and relocation assistance, for example.
What Makes a Good Candidate
Of course, this is excellent news for market research candidates. We have noticed that those with four to eight years of experience in consumer insights are seeing a lot of activity, especially if they’ve had experience on the client or corporate side. Again, we’ve seen this sector becoming more active lately, so it’s a good indicator of what we can expect in the near future.
Candidates with an advanced degree, either a master’s degree, or an M.B.A., typically attract more attention from employers. Continuing education is always a good investment, but with today’s competitive market, giving yourself another advantage against other workers pays off. We often talk to clients looking to fill more senior positions who only want to consider candidates with the aforementioned degrees and this will only become more of a requirement for senior-level positions in the future.
Flexibility with location also is a desirable trait for candidates today. While major metropolitan areas have always been a hub for market research careers, large corporations have long had opportunities available in less-populated areas in the Midwest and Southern regions of the US. Candidates who are open to relocating are able to explore more options, and more companies are starting to offer competitive relocation assistance packages that we haven’t seen for years.
Flexibility on the title is another, sometimes more challenging, trait to find in candidates. Although workers should consider career growth and management experience in their job searches, it’s important to remember that a title isn’t everything. Your title can vary from company to company, as different employers use various internal classifications. A senior analyst at a small boutique firm means something quite different at a Fortune 500 company. Understand that when switching industries, lateral moves are sometimes necessary to gain experience in the long run.
The coming months should provide more insight into what we’ve already been seeing, namely the growth in shopping insights and client-side options. Market research was named one of the hottest jobs in 2012, and we have no doubt that 2013 and 2014 are sure to follow suit.