Before you post the job: Junior vs. Senior? Strategic vs. Tactical?

Before you post the job: Junior vs. Senior? Strategic vs. Tactical?
Written by: Karl Sakas

Hiring is one of the most important decisions you make as an agency owner. The right hires make your life 10X easier—and the wrong hires make it 10X harder.

You determine much of the outcome long before the first interview—it starts when you define the role. If you don’t define the right role, even the best candidate won’t succeed.

Once you know where the person will focus (i.e., a designer or a salesperson), you need to decide on the level of seniority (junior or senior) and their skill level (strategic or tactical).

It’s not a binary, but it helps to know where your needs fall on each continuum. Let’s take a closer look at how to decide!

Hiring decision: Junior vs. Senior

When deciding between a senior or junior hire, the choice usually comes down to what you can afford, especially for agencies under 50 people.

Agencies tend to see a higher ROI with junior hires, since they do highly billable work and their hourly rates for the client would be higher than what they’re paid by the agency.

Senior hires can have a multiplier effect, wherein they manage multiple subordinates so the agency is able to bill more through junior staff. Even if the senior hire’s time isn’t as billable, they would increase the output of their billable teams. However, this isn’t as useful unless the senior hire has lots of direct reports.

If you are just starting out with a small, lean team, you should probably focus on a highly-billable junior hire. You will still need to do creative direction and quality assurance, but their work means you can reduce (and eventually eliminate) implementation from your workload.

Of course, you can hire someone in the middle—it’s not all or nothing. But it’s worth considering where they fall on the experience continuum.

Hiring decision: Strategic vs. Tactical

If you’re looking for someone to bring in ideas and focus on growth, you may be looking for a strategist or strategy director. This would be someone who brainstorms and tests strategies and ideas, and double checks deliverables before going to the client (quality assurance). This is a highly strategic role, and in smaller agencies it’s normal for the owner to fulfill it.

Sometimes, an agency can hire a senior contractor to develop strategies in areas outside the owner’s strengths, and send those to the junior team members for implementation.

I recommend creating checklists and documentation for quality assurance, and then outsourcing some of that to free up time. Given the right procedures, a virtual assistant or junior hire could check deliverables before they go to clients (at least when it comes to typos and style-guide considerations).

You can ask similar-level team members to check each other’s work, but this takes them away from their own tactical creation work.

Most people will do at least some strategy and at least some tactics, but you’ll want to decide which way this should lean.

What’s your agency’s recruiting strategy?

Do you tend to hire junior or senior people? Do you lean toward strategic or tactical skills?

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