If you’re trying to hire marketing professionals, you no doubt know how challenging it is today to recruit talented prospects. A confluence of factors—the low unemployment rate, the pandemic and changing attitudes about remote work, among others—have made it even more difficult for those in the multifamily space, an industry that traditionally has staffing issues due to a high turnover rate.
“I was hoping the Great Resignation wouldn’t impact us like it has other industries,” said KrisAnn Baker Kizer, vice president of leasing and marketing for Pierce Education Properties, which owns and manages a student housing portfolio. “But it definitely has—there’s been a lot of turnover.”
Kizer is searching for marketing professionals at the site level and has found the experience frustrating. “A lot of people don’t show up for interviews or show up expecting a salary not in line with the position,” she said. “I’ve had people just graduating from high school who are looking for six figures.”
Kizer’s frustration is shared by other industry executives. “There’s a disrespect going on now,” said Tammy Casserly, senior vice president of growth and brand development for Resident360, a multifamily branding and marketing agency. “People disappear in the interviewing process—they ghost us. It’s very unprofessional.”
So, what can you do to beat the competition and hire the best marketing professionals?
Decide which skills are necessary to succeed
Kizer looks for a specific skillset when hiring marketing pros. “I love someone who has event experience because a lot of student housing involves physical outreach—going onto campuses and building relationships,” she said. But she also looks for social media skills, as well as sales and customer service experience. Creativity is an asset as well.
Still, sometimes it’s necessary to respond to changes and tweak job responsibilities or the job entirely.
When Pierce Education took over management of BLVD63, a 1,379-bed student-housing community in San Diego in 2017, the property was struggling. Because it was such a large project, the employee in the leasing and marketing position was stressed. So, Pierce split the position into separate leasing and management roles and brought on a new staff member dedicated solely to marketing the property.
“We found a marketing manager who was highly creative, energetic and highly motivated,” Kizer said. “She spent five days a week trying to build relationships with the university, the community and the residents.” The result: The employee was able to bring the property to 100 percent occupancy for the first time since it had been built.
Consider searching for talent outside the multifamily industry
Julie Contos, director of marketing for Jefferson Apartment Group, said she’s having difficulty filling a corporate marketing coordinator position.
“The last time we hired for this role was three years ago, and I had a stack of resumes,” she said. “Hiring now for the same exact position, there are less applicants.”
So Contos said she’s open to hiring someone from outside the apartment industry. “There are a lot of technical aspects of marketing that are really important skillsets,” she said. “While you can take those skills and transfer them to multifamily, it’s harder to train someone who perhaps has a leasing or property management background on all these technical aspects of marketing.”
Employees recruited from the hospitality industry are often successful in a multifamily marketing role, where they can apply their customer service skills and training. But a barista at Starbucks who has a great personality or a retail employee with a strong work ethic may also have skills that can translate to a successful multifamily marketing role.
Or seek new hires that already have multifamily industry experience
Casserly said she has tried to hire marketing professionals from outside the industry—and they just don’t work out.
“They don’t speak multifamily’s proprietary language,” she said.
Her best new hires are those from within the industry who have been in the shoes of the clients they work with. “They understand the day-to-day life of a marketing manager or a regional marketing manager who has a portfolio of 40 properties,” she said. “So, whether it’s a floorplan, a website or a brand strategy, they know exactly what they’re trying to accomplish.”
There’s also a hybrid approach.
Melissa Brady, vice president of marketing for Fogelman Properties, is actively looking for corporate-level marketers for the multifamily property management and investment firm. She currently has five employees on her marketing team, and she’s recruiting for two to three more positions.
Of the five current members of the team, two have industry experience and three don’t. “We’ve benefited greatly by having a hybrid team because we challenge each other due to our different perspectives and backgrounds,” she said.
Be prepared to move fast
With the unemployment rate just 3.6 percent in June, job-seekers are well aware of the imbalance in the employment market. They may ask for high salaries or want to work from home, impossible for on-site roles. Often, after receiving an officer, their current employer will make a counter-offer or give them a raise to encourage them to stay.
“You go through the interviewing process, we make an offer, and they say no,” said Casserly.
Contos said employers need to be nimble and quick. She recently interviewed a candidate on a Wednesday and reached out two days later to further that person in the recruitment process. They had already accepted another offer. “Savvy companies are snatching up candidates much more quickly,” she said.
Look Both Inside and Out
One of your best sources for new marketing personnel is your own staff. They’re already familiar with your company and your brand.
Anne Baum, director of marketing for Towne Properties, never opened up positions to external candidates when she last hired in 2021. “Look for people internally who have operations or field experience and understand your company,” she said. “If you see someone taking an initiative in their current role who seems to have an interest in marketing, they would be a good fit.”
Contos said she reaches out to her own network via LinkedIn when she needs employees, but the company also uses platforms such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter. LinkedIn is a great way to not only post an open position but to reach out to others who may not currently be looking but might be interested in a new role.
Asking current employees for referrals is also a great way to find talented marketing professionals. And, since there’s a personal connection, those prospects might be less likely to ghost you. As an incentive, some companies offer referral fees to current employees if they recommend someone who is ultimately hired.
Look for skills that will position you for the future
Jamie Gorski, chief experience officer at GID, is in charge of marketing for both Windsor Communities, the company’s property management firm, and for its holding company GID. She said sales, leasing and marketing professionals need to be resourceful, to keep up with new trends like social media and AI.
“One of the most important skills is their willingness to learn and to grow, since they’re coming into an industry that is rapidly changing,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time in our industry.”