Web Marketers Look to Recruit Students

New York’s 212 online advertising club held a job fair for graduating college students last week. Organizers reported strong turnout from recruiters and job seekers alike. Representatives of at least 15 companies mingled with over 600 attendees, mostly college students. They discussed digital marketing and in some cases, scheduled interviews.

The event’s success highlights an emerging trend in agency and publisher staffing, namely many companies, frustrated with a lack of experienced candidates, have begun to hire and train sharp college grads directly off the campus.

“Agencies are going to top colleges, and making their best effort to groom these people into being mid-level talent,” said Nick Pahade, managing director of Beyond Interactive, which had a presence at the show.

Recruiters included reps from The Wall Street Journal Online, MSN Search, MSNBC.com, Avenue A/Razorfish and icrossing, among others. Recruiters from several firms said they were very pleased with the outcome.

MSNBC.com collected 130 resumes and has scheduled 12 interviews, according to Moritz Loew, Eastern region sales manager for the site. “We’ve come to the point where we have to recruit and train,” Loew said after the fair had wound down.

Other companies are more discriminating. SEM firm icrossing collected 50 resumes, of which it considers about four to be viable candidates. Spokesperson David Berkowitz said in the short term, the search agency doesn’t have a great need for fresh-faced grads. But that could change.

“We’re not looking to hire too many at the junior level,” he said. “Even if we don’t have a lot today for someone recently out of college, we never know when a given client might want to rapidly expand their account, and we’ll need more manpower to get some of the grunt work done.”

Amy Auerbach is 212 treasurer and an account director at Media Contacts, the interactive network under Havas’ MPG media division. She also teaches “Internet Marketing and Global Business” at Baruch College. Four of her students were at the fair. Auerbach sees strong benefits in hiring students.

“People who got burned in the dot-com bust have gone on to other things,” she said. “Now that the industry is rubber-banding back, there aren’t enough people. It’s a certain skill set a lot of other industries don’t have, and you have a learning curve no matter who you hire. It’s almost better to get people who are going to be in it for the long haul, and enchant them while they’re young.”

Graduating students, appear enthusiastic about their prospects. One of Auerbach’s students at the fair, Cavel Khan, graduates with a marketing degree this Summer. He said MSN Search, Avenue A/Razorfish and Beyond Interactive all expressed interest in meeting him, and he’s scheduled two interviews.

“It was probably one of the best job fairs I’ve been to,” said Kahn. “It’s one of the few industries right now that is really looking for people and hiring.”

Another student drove all night from Virginia after taking an exam the evening before, said MSNBC’s Loew. Overall, recruiters were impressed and surprised at the level of interest students expressed in online marketing. Perhaps they shouldn’t be, given the buzz around digital marketing.

“I’m very interested in the field,” said Khan. “Online advertising and interactive marketing are the biggest [growth] area right now. Traditional media are plateauing. I could see myself in this industry.”

Khan said an intense staffing shortage evident at agencies and publishers further strengthens interactive media’s appeal. “I don’t need to have five years of experience coming to this industry. That’s one of the things that draws me to it.”

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