Based in Chicago, Smith Hanley Associates are leaders in the placement of market research and consumer insights professionals. With in-depth knowledge of the market research industry across B2B and B2C and various business verticals, the company serves as a consultant to both candidates and clients. Founded in 1980, the company works with Fortune 500 corporations, management consulting firms, and research companies of all sizes and specialties.We recently sat down with their leadership team to learn more about the company and their perspective on the industry for 2023.
From left to right: Daniel Wilberschied, Executive Recruiter, Market Research & Insights; Nihar Parikh, Executive Recruiter – HEOR & Clinical R&D; Nancy Darian, Executive Recruiter – Marketing Analytics & Data Science; Pierson Wofford, Executive Recruiter – Market Research & Insights; Lindsey Bartlett, Principal – Market Research & Insights
Which skills are most in demand from your clients?
We have a wide variety of clients including client-side corporations, research companies and management consulting firms, so the skills tend to vary depending on the client. Generally speaking, the tangible skills requested are an undergraduate degree in social science, advanced degree preferred (more often than not), a minimum number of years' experience within a particular area (ie. innovation, brand, etc.). If it’s a quantitative role, Excel & SPSS are strong. If it’s a qualitative position, RIVA certification is a highly sought-after requirement. As of late, we have more requests for the intangibles. These would include strategic thinking, humility, and interest in collaboration. There are many intangibles we seek to measure in our interviews.
Are you beginning to see more qualified candidates becoming available for open positions?
Yes. We have a very strong pool of talent currently. This is due to many reasons, including layoffs and culture shifts internally.
Do you see this continuing in 2023 as more layoffs are predicted?
We have seen an uptick in layoffs across technology, health insurance, automotive, and a few other industries. There seems to be a hold on hiring within research companies, but there are an immense amount of client-side opportunities vacant. Now’s the time to make the transition if you’re considering it. If you find yourself actively looking, start to target organizations positively or minimally impacted by the pandemic.
Are you finding graduates fresh out of college to be a good match for entry-level market research jobs?
Typically, yes. If a candidate has a Bachelor’s Degree in a social science, they are most likely trained in SPSS and also have some skills in moderating/in depth interviewing. Within their program, they also develop a case study and present it. Depending on the school, they can even have a concentration in Market Research or Analytics.
Which majors tend to be the best match?
There are several universities that now offer the MMR (Master Market Research) Program. We are starting to see a trend that the MMR should equate to 1-2 years of real life experience, which sets you apart as a candidate. Majors that tend to be the best for undergrad are the Social Sciences, such as Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, etc.
Are you recruiting from / finding candidates in different places during the past couple of years than you did in the past?
Not really, no. We have a strong database that we keep up with and tend to find most of our matches through our network. We try to keep in touch with our candidates as much as possible. I urge active candidates to have intro calls with recruiters so they can be in touch when suitable positions come in. Of course, having a Linkedin profile is pivotal as well. Linkedin has been a great tool for us and our candidates. Also, conference attendance/exhibiting has proven successful. Please do stop and chat if you see us! There are definitely a few new groups that have popped up as a helpful resource for candidates, including the Insight Career Network.
Please tell us how you provide value on both sides of the hiring process.
We specialize in recruiting for the client vs. the candidate, so the majority of our time is focused on finding the “right fit”. We also spend a lot of time talking with candidates (which is the best part). We organically provide a ton of insight on resumes, interviewing tips, offer negotiation, etc. A recruiter that can offer consulting services in this area for candidates is certainly on the horizon! This way, we can still help candidates who don’t match our jobs at the moment but are actively looking for work. If you’re a candidate within the interview process for our client, we will prep for interviews and debrief afterwards. We do the best we can to get active feedback and act as a coach throughout your interview lifecycle.
For our clients, once we get all the paperwork signed, we are heavily embedded. We prefer going on-site to see the space, connecting with multiple members of the team (to get a good view of the culture) and provide weekly updates on those candidates in process and what we are seeing in the marketplace. We are highly consultative recruiters, so we expect a quality partnership in order to be the most successful we can be. With three dedicated recruiters working on the opening, we can guarantee seeing resumes within a week or less.
What is your biggest pain point currently? How are you working to fix it?
One of our few pain points is the ghosting of candidates. It’s something we’ve never experienced until 2022. The culture for candidates interviewing has shifted, and it’s more common for them to treat an interview process as an opportunity for the company to showcase themselves, versus the other way around. We are already seeing a shift back to normalcy here in 2023. Phew!
What are the most common problems that clients bring to your door?
Companies tend to come to us when they aren’t able to find the specific type of talent they are looking for. This is typically because their recruiting team doesn’t understand the nuances of market research or they are reliant on ad response. Sometimes it’s best to use a specialist to get the role filled ASAP. Perhaps your internal recruiting team is spread too thin and needs assistance from a team who understands their needs. The list goes on and on.
What are your immediate (1 year) and long-term (5 years) goals for your company?
In the short term we are determined to become more actively involved in the insights industry on a personal level. Our long-term goals are to expand further into niche areas such as Behavioral Science, User Experience and other tech-oriented research solutions, while maintaining our footprint in market research & consumer insights.
Any advice for HR managers and others tasked with writing job postings?
Include your differentiator! What makes your company better than the rest and why would someone want to move? Some examples could be strong work-life balance, hybrid work environment, upwards trajectory and growth potential, employees bring their dogs to the office, etc. It’s important to lay out the required skill set, but what will set your company apart and attract good talent is helping them realize why they’d want to be there.
What prompted you to join the Insights Association / What have been the most valued benefits of membership for you and your team thus far?
We’ve been members in years past, but it was definitely time to get back with the group. We are already excited to exhibit at the CRC (October 25-27 in Chicago). The conferences and networking events will definitely be the largest benefit.