Dan Lee Breaks Down the Local PR Job Market

This PR Talk episode features Dan Lee, managing director at PR Talent — a staffing firm focusing solely on filling PR and communications roles — with recruiters on the ground in key markets nationwide, including L.A., San Francisco, New York, the Pacific Northwest, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Before starting PR Talent’s northwest operation, Dan spent 16 years in Weber Shandwick’s Seattle office.

Dan came to Portland for a PRSA Oregon panel on “What Recruiters Want.” Which, of course, I recorded for a future episode as we’re doing a deep dive on communications jobs.

As you might imagine, Dan knows a thing or two about PR and the local hiring scene. So if you’re looking to make a career move or you’re with a company searching for skilled employees listen up, because Dan can help.

The Market is Great for Candidates, But Challenging for Employers

Communications jobs are notoriously hard to fill, and during our conversation, Dan took some time to explain why. To start with, technology and resume screeners have taken the human element out a process that requires a lot of human judgement. “For us as recruiters at PR Talent, one of our hallmarks really is trying to humanize this process as best as possible between the candidate and the client,” Dan said.

To make matters worse, many traditional recruiters don’t understand the skills candidates must possess to be successful in our industry. “Our career is very challenging,” Dan said. “It’s a foreign language, really, to most recruiters that haven’t done the work before.”

Add to that a very tight job market here in the Pacific Northwest, and that leaves many agencies in desperate need of good employees. Dan hears the same question again and again from his new clients: can you help us cut to the chase and bring some strong candidates to the forefront? “That’s where we jump in and end up partnering with the hiring manager and usually the internal recruiting team to make that happen,” Dan said.

While it’s a challenging time for hirers, candidates are enjoying a very exciting market for Northwest PR jobs. “Candidates are really driving the market,” Dan said. Salaries are increasing and Dan has about 10 mid to senior-level positions open, and a couple open junior roles as well.

unicorns-PR Talent

Are PR professionals unicorns? Do you have to have “it” to succeed?

Dan’s Tips for a Career Switch

So what should job seekers do to maximize their chances of getting an offer? While your cover letter and resume will always be important, candidates looking for a change in their PR job or to switch careers into the industry need to be intentional if they want to truly find success.

Dan said the first step is to recognize that the process is going to take time. So, it’s best to be proactive and do all the little things to prepare for your next change now, rather than waiting until you’re forced to look for a new job.

He said to start by asking yourself some questions:

  • Where have I been and where am I going?
  • What do I want to do and what is it going to take to do that?

As the saying goes, begin with the end in mind and work backward. So spend an hour or two per week updating your resume, cover letters and LinkedIn profile.

“You don’t want to be in a desperate situation looking for a job,” Dan said. “Because what will happen most of the time, is you’ll take the first thing that comes your way and then you’re going to be back out there looking again probably within the next six to eight months. So, try to be proactive, be intentional. Take the time and you can do it in steps. It doesn’t have to be done on a Sunday night.”


Employers Should be Intentional Too

In this market, employers can’t sit back and passively wait for applications to come in. So what steps should they take to find their next super-star employee? Besides giving Dan a call, employers should make sure they have their hiring process mapped out before posting a position on LinkedIn or another job board.

Hirers should ask themselves questions like:

  • Who is going to filter through all the resumes?
  • Who is making the first call?
  • Who will be on the hiring committee?
  • What do we want to know so we can compare apples to apples?

Employers that don’t take these extra steps end up looking unorganized and incompetent in front of candidates. And in a tight job market like ours, that can mean the better candidates choose to go to another company, simply because too many days went by between phone calls with your company.

“That is a big, big problem,” Dan said. “You have to be set up for success, and you want to make sure the candidate experience is positive all the way through, not only for who you eventually hire, but for all those that have interacted with your brand and organization, because it is a reflection and people talk. If they’ve had a bad experience, that word travels and if the role stays out there a long time, it’s going to be really hard to fill.”


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About the guest: Dan Lee

Dan Lee is a Managing Director at PR Talent and leads the firm’s recruiting efforts in the Northwest region. His career experience includes sports broadcasting, sports marketing, and 16 years with Weber Shandwick, where he was a vice president.

Connect and follow Dan on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

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Amy Rosenberg
Founder and President at Veracity
Writer. Podcaster. Press Friend. Hand Holder.