In Digital we are nail-bitingly aware of an increasing labour-hire shortage in Australia. Yet, at a time when university graduates are fiercely competing to secure their first jobs, a wide discrepancy exists between the digital expertise needed by companies and the digital talent available.

In a survey of nearly 750 Fortune 500 ad agency execs conducted by The Online Marketing Institute, The State of Digital Marketing Talent, the results are revealing. There appears to be a wide gap between the digital marketing expertise required by organisations and the talent actually available to them, at every level. When quizzed about their digital marketing teams, company execs say only 8% are strong across all digital areas. That might seem a great opportunity for recent university graduates looking for work. But buyer beware: 70% of respondents say young hires expect to be promoted or elevated to higher-level positions before proving themselves.

The need for digital talent is widespread. Companies have trouble finding talent because of subjectivity in hiring and the lingering effects of the GFC. More than one-third of all respondents haven’t hired in the past year because they can’t work out who to go to for talent. Almost a quarter of the respondents haven’t hired in the past year due to a lack of funds. 54% of marketing and agency respondents have trouble distinguishing between candidates with the right skills and those without.

Companies across the board are unhappy with their own level of training and assessment. Across brands and agencies alike, there’s insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills with 75% relying on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. There are talent gaps in all areas, with the biggest gap in analytics. Just 10% of respondents use some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge.

As a digital recruitment specialist, I assess candidate expertise through analysis of competency-based skills prior to presenting any shortlist. My clients receive detailed reports on candidate capabilities, highlighting their development areas upfront prior to hiring. Practical work sample assessments give candidates an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition, as well as some insight as to what may be involved in the job itself, allowing them to make a more informed decision about the role.

History of placements proves this is a critical step in the recruitment process to ensure a higher ‘stick rate’. Let’s also not overlook the importance of cultural fit: a qualified candidate may or may not succeed – it really depends on both parties. We will never obtain, nor should we look to acquire, a glove fit: 100% role fit leaves no room to grow, to be challenged or motivated.

Bridging the digital talent gap is simple: spend the time to create bespoke digital assessments that involve practical examples during the recruitment process, but don’t stop there. Continue to invest in your digital team through appropriate training and coaching, plan for career progression and be flexible about sourcing talented people from outside traditional channels.