How is the Digital Skills Gap Affecting Recruitment?

How is the Digital Skills Gap Affecting Recruitment? - Part II

Emma Hartdigital, News, Technology

We were delighted to be approached by Interactive Scotland to provide our opinions on how the Digital Shortage is impacting recruitment within Scotland. Part I of this insight into how the digital skills gap is affecting recruitment discussed the situation from a client’s perspective. In part II, Ainsley Millar talks us through how this has been affecting candidates in the industry.


Clients are in dire need of digital candidates, however one of the biggest challenges we are currently facing is a desire for specialist candidates with technical abilities, which is currently met with a marketplace flooded with generalist candidates, (mainly graduates with placement experience or a year or two worth of experience behind them.)  This is certainly impacted by many young people selecting general marketing degrees at university and then graduating without the hands on experience from a specialist internship or placement and consequently struggling to find paid work.


When recruiting, our clients fall into two categories, digital agencies or businesses looking to build/grow an in-house marketing function. More and more clients are looking for a candidate to bring their digital marketing in-house rather than using an external agency. The prospects of in-house roles can appear sweeter with higher salaries for candidates as the demand increases, however often these clients are looking for one candidate who can manage multiple roles; PPC, SEO, tech and content. The chances of finding a candidate who can tick all these boxes are slim and in reality, a marketing agency would segregate those some responsibilities into three separate roles.


It is up to us to manage our client’s expectations of what level of experience they can expect within their budget, as well as ensuring candidates know what is expected of them when they apply for an in house position. Generally speaking, a small in-house marketing team will not have the resources to continually train and develop staff and so employees aren’t actively seeking out external training. This can be detrimental to reducing the skills gap.


On the flip side, most agency clients are able to provide the training for the candidates to gain the specific skills needed as well as the creative environment where ideas can grow. The challenge for agencies is definitely retaining staff- the appeal of an in-house role with a higher salary can be seen as a ‘grass is most definitely greener’ scenario. What we are finding with the vast majority of experienced agency candidates is that when they are looking to make a career move, an in-house role is the priority and they are generally not receptive to moving to an agency competitor.”


Now that we’ve heard from both perspectives, what do the Nine Twenty team think the future holds?


  • Adapting education - Universities will likely continue to adapt and respond to industry demands where possible, working in conjunction with government schemes and Technology businesses to provide up to date and relevant additional course options for school leavers
  • Upskilling across the board - Both new graduates and experienced candidates have a responsibility to train themselves and seek out opportunities for development if they want to succeed- those with core skills now have an incredible opportunity to catapult themselves into further success. For those in work at the moment, on-the-job training should be considered to be a real benefit.
  • Clients should be realistic - Clients have a responsibility to be realistic about what the need vs what they want from their digital staff and understand that the ‘perfect’ candidate might not currently tick all the boxes and additional support might be required.
  • Agency focus on retention - It is likely that agencies will need to review salaries and other benefits in order to retain their staff.
  • Support from recruiters - For recruitment agencies like us, it is most definitely our responsibility to help support and educate both our candidates and clients to ensure that expectations are met and skills gaps are avoided wherever possible through ongoing training, development and support. In addition, we are accountable to be honest with candidates and clients about what is likely to be an even more competitive marketplace in the future.


Ainsley has several years’ recruitment experience, specialising in Digital Marketing recruitment, working with various Digital agencies across the central belt. 


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