When you talk to agencies these days, it seems like finding great digital talent is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail. But does it really have to be that way? Shaz Sedighzadeh, owner of digital resource representation company The Supply, shares his unique approach to digital matchmaking: mixing his passion for finding the source of great digital work, and his belief that the more you know about the inner machinations of the world you serve, the better.
When it comes to the unique assets that help innovative creative businesses thrive, there’s arguably nothing more important than the right human capital. Yet for so many companies, finding the right talent – specifically digital talent – is a perpetual challenge. With a talent pool that often flies under the radar, the task of finding the strongest people can be a bit boggling.
Shaz Sedighzadeh, owner of the relatively new resource representation company The Supply, has dialed in his skills on mining the digital field for exceptional, and often hidden creatives, designers, programmers, and producers. Shaz operates as a stealthy and proactive sourcer and talent rep by successfully presenting great digital talent to likeminded companies, and vice versa.
The Supply was born of Shaz’s early experiences with digital recruiting, and later his work as a digital producer at Tool of North America and then Crispin Porter + Bogusky. “As a recruiter, I was focused on producers, developers and designers in the interactive space,” says Shaz. “Because of this, when I started producing, I always took it upon myself to seek out and manage freelancers, keeping lists of who’s available, reorganizing the vendor databases, and doing detailed research work on each vendor. I loved knowing what strong vendors and freelancers were out there. I was never in a formal recruiting role in my producer days, but I was often the go-to for finding talent.”
Shaz says he was often encouraged by friends and colleagues to start repping, but the idea of committing to a small number of companies seemed limiting. “I’m passionate about so many teams and individuals, that I couldn’t just rep a few” he says. That’s when the idea to start a niche-focused recruiting firm struck. “Being able to represent individual talent seems less restricting.” Foregoing a chance to work at one of his favorite NYC digital shops, Shaz started The Supply in Sept 2011, and has since worked on parlaying his finely tuned collection of bookmarks, lists, connections and experience into creative solutions for larger digital agencies, as well as a handful of smaller digital production shops.
The strategy he’s employed is somewhat unique compared to traditional recruiting models of simply matching keywords on a resume. First and foremost, Shaz believes that having someone who understands the work involved in the position being filled, is key to making the best match on both sides. “You need someone who’s up on all the emerging technology, familiar with the digital production process, understands personality fit, and has strong awareness of who’s doing the best work out in the field. The people that are hiring the talent should be very close to the field they are sourcing for. At the end of the day, hiring is a hugely important role; it’s what makes up the agency as a whole, as well as the work coming out of it.” he says.
Also, when placing talent within companies Shaz says he often prefers to deal directly with the department leader (for example, the director of production, design director, head of UX or tech lead) looking to fill the actual position. The reason, he says, is that it helps him find the right people faster having all the tiny details up front. “Often the head of a department will show me the actual budget, creative brief, or technology preference, and it is invaluable to the search. Being a little closer to the producing side of things, knowing how the process works and understanding why a certain type of talent would work better is very helpful,” he says.
As a service provider, The Supply shares many traits with the resourceful and hybrid-thinking talent it finds for clients. Aside from filling specific placement requests and connecting talent to agencies, Shaz is also able to implement other value-added services for clients such as constructing custom teams, recommending vendors if an individual placement doesn't meet a client's needs, or creative research for possible projects.
The Supply’s model of talent recruitment is a response to the changing needs of agency clients and diverse, evolving capabilities of today’s digital talent. As the type of work the advertising industry produces continues to veer toward the digital and experiential realm, the notion of a known talent pool becomes increasingly cloudy. Much of the talent Shaz finds are what’s known as passive talent – off-the-grid developers, creatives and artists who are discerning in the work they choose, and who are often found by chance on a random blog, or in the credits of some weird personal project/experiment they put out.
When he does find talent that excites, Shaz’s philosophy is to match-make whether he’s asked to or not. Why let the lack of a specific job opening get in the way of a perfect pairing? “I’m not just a reactive recruiter,” he says. “I reach out to agencies when I randomly find amazing talent, and they often interview them right away. I aim to be more proactive. I’m meeting numerous strong talent daily, and I know these agencies will trust who I send them when I do find a good fit.”
About the Author:
Rae Ann Fera is a contributor for Fast Company’s Co.Create. She is also
curator of Packaged Goods, a regular screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox
featuring excellence in ads, videos, and shorts, is a contributing
editor to Brief magazine, and was formerly the editor of Boards magazine. She is currently producing BDW’s Making Post Digital Work conference, coming this fall in Boulder, CO.