Category Archives: HR & Personnel

Hawthorne Search Provides Current Hiring Outlook

We have always been big believers of following hiring trends as a really accurate indicator of the economy, and in particular, the tone among small business owners and those that provide advertising services to them.

When we received this recent summary  from Robert Hawthorne, the President and Founder of Hawthorne Search on hiring trends in the local search industry for Q1 2013, we thought it would provide you with some very good insights on what’s happening in the trenches.  Robert and his team of recruiters has been working with a wide range of clients in the local search segment for over a dozen years.  His client base ranges from Yellow Page publishers, to advertising agencies, to pure online players.  Just as the old TV commercial goes — when Robert speaks, we listen.  Here is Robert’s report:


2013 has  seen a noteworthy uptick in hiring activity versus q1 2012.  We certainly are not in what anyone would describe as “boom times” but there is a significant increase in companies hiring versus q4 2012 or q1 2012.

A noteworthy trend is the amount of time that companies take to fill the openings that they do have.  There seems to be a catch 22 in terms of needing to hire, but not wanting to add to the cost structure.  Many companies have adapted the position that they are willing to add cost only if a “purple unicorn” i.e. nearly impossible to find candidate comes along.  What this says to us is that companies have definitive needs, but there is reluctance to hire due to general economic uncertainty.

Less Field Leadership:   Another trend is a consolidation of sales leadership positions in both traditional and digital media.  Gone are the days when companies new to the market are building out large field sales team and the managers to lead them.  Most companies are either selling through channels and trying to piggy back existing sales teams of their partners, or building specialized inside call centers.  There are a few exceptions, like Cardlytics in Atlanta, but overall we are seeing fewer regional sales manager, area sales manager type searches than at any time in the past five years.

More Agency Sales:  Where companies are hiring is in the national/regional market with a focus on individuals who can sell through agencies and also to franchise groups.  If you are a sales person with legitimate agency relationships in New York, San Francisco or Chicago, your phone is no doubt ringing.  We worked with a candidate in NYC who had strong agency ties and he had FIVE offers to sort through.

Mobile has not exploded as one might have expected.  There is still a decent push in mobile, mobile/local, but not at the clip that many had predicted a few years ago.  Where we do see activity is in verticalized companies, i.e. health and wellness, travel, auto, etc.  There seems to be an increasing number of local search companies that continue to try and own a vertical market as opposed to a geography.  For candidates it appears to be better to be a specialist as opposed to being a generalist.

Consolidation in traditional media continues.  With the Supermedia/Dex merger, and the senior management shake up at Hibu, we continue to see a large influx of resumes, but very few job openings to send these talented professionals out on.  Similarly, our newspaper clients continue to shed headcount, and where they do add, it is strictly on the digital/mobile side.

Deal Mania fades:  Just 18 months ago our phones rang off the hook for deals companies looking to add headcount as quickly as possible.  With the implosion at Groupon, and Living Social’s continued inability to become profitable, the flow of jobs has turned into a trickle.  Smaller companies have folded and those that haven’t certainly are not looking to add to headcount.

Loyalty takes the lead:  Loyalty, or what some might call “deals 2.0” has taken the wheel.  Companies like Cardlytics, Catera, Edo and many others are partnering with banks and developing loyalty offering that have shaken up the local space.  These companies are being selective in terms of adding head count, but most are extremely robust about their future and boast major private equity firms backing them up.


All in all we give the local search jobs market a solid “B” in terms of amount of activity, quality of jobs available, etc.

If you are looking to hire, Hawthorne Search has an unsurpassed list of contacts in the industry and a 80% success rate on all search projects we engage upon.  Whether you are looking to hire a sales rep in Chicago, or a VP of Digital Strategy in NYC, we can help.


Robert Hawthorne

President – Hawthorne Search

(910) 777-5383 // C (910) 297-8729

twitter: mediarecruiter

Exploding Common Employee Myths in the Yellow Page Industry

At the recent Local Search Association conference, one of the most informative sessions came from a team of presenters – Robert Hawthorne from Hawthorne Executive Search, and Michael Taylor from BIA/Kelsey.

The two covered results of a recent survey of media sales reps and shared their observations from the field.  Hawthorne’s presentation was particular insightful because he covered six common employment myths in the marketplace.

Robert Hawthorne is an excellent speaker for this topic.  In 2011, Hawthorne Search’s team of 6 full time sales recruiters placed over 150 local market sales reps.  In 2012 YTD, the company has placed over 50 sales reps in 22 cities.  Their client list spans local search, technology, media companies focused on SMB’s.

Here are the marketplace myth’s he covered

Myth #1: overall unemployment rate parallel with local market sales reps

  • Reality: Even in the depths of recession, sales reps were still in demand

Myth #2: Reps are happy since my turnover is down

  • Reality: Strong pent up demand as many reps chose to “ride out recession” and are now active interviewing

Myth #3: Base salaries haven’t increased due to economic conditions

  • Reality: In Tier 1 markets, $60-65k base salaries common, Tier 2 $50k minimum, small markets $40-45k average

Myth #4: Local search companies need only worry about other Yellow Page industry companies poaching

  • Reality: Yellow Pages/Local Search companies have been known for great training, coaching, sales development, many other factors which make your people VERY attractive to other industries.

Myth #5: If I lose sales staff, it will be easy to find a replacement

  • Reality: In many markets, even large base salaries no guarantee of robust candidate supply.  Simply put, there are only so many “top performers” available in any given market

Myth #6: Job ads on the boards will get me a replacement

  • Reality: strong decrease in our posting results across all active job boards in past 2 years

In talking about the sales survey conducted, Hawthorne also covered “What Your Sales People Want”:

  • Stability.  Many reps will eschew the start up in social media if they think their company is stable
  • Resume Builder.  Does your company allow your rep to keep their resume “hot”  Selling new technology a way to keep reps from leaving
  • Flexibility. Work from home, flex hours, flex vacation, etc. particularly with young set very important
  • What They Want to Earn — $80k minimum by year 2 with no less than 50% of that in base salary

On finding sales talent, Hawthorne had a couple of simple, basic fundamental suggestions:

  • Jobs that don’t have minimum $40k base virtually impossible to recruit for
  • Cell phone, laptop, paid expenses, etc. all very important to today’s rep.  Sell the package, not just the base salary.
  • Benefits important, be specific


To find out more about Hawthorne Executive Search, go to their website at, or contact Robert directly at, 910-798-1800.


Say Hello to JobJolt

Over the course of the past decade Robert Hawthorne, the President of  Hawthorne Executive Search, estimates he has been asked several hundred times for help by people who wanted career coaching, a resume written, or recommendations of additional websites with valuable career information.  As a search professional hired by companies who need his help to  attract difference
makers to their teams, he did his best to help job seekers, but knew that a real
void still existed.

During his typical day at Hawthorne Executive Search where he would reach
out to 100’s of potential candidates, he has helped many people in their career
search.  Sensing a hole in the market place, he knew that he could help many more with a dedicated resource for employment-based information.  As a result, Robert has just launched, an employment portal offering videos, podcasts, interviews and original articles designed to provide job seekers and career minded individuals a competitive advantage in this tough, tight job market.  Those who visit the website will find content updated daily with a fresh, edgy perspective.

We recently sat down with Robert and asked him about Jobjolt, the overall employment market, and the state of recruiting in the local search space.

YP TALK:  Why Jobjolt?

Hawthorne:  I have enjoyed recruiting for the better part of the past fifteen years, but my real passion is helping people.  After searching the wb, I realized that while Career Builder, Monster, etc. provided a value ervice for a candidate to be seen, there really didn’t seem to be a website for andidates to turn to for an “insiders” perspective on job search and career trategy.

YP TALK:  What services are offered on Jobjolt?

Hawthorne:  We offer esume writing, we have an entire series of resume templates and critiqued esumes, and I along with my partners offer career coaching and lead evelopment.  If you are considering a ob move, you need an edge in this tight job market.  You need to understand how the recruiting
world works. provides that edge.

YP TALK: Has the way people search for a job really changed that much?

Hawthorne:  Obviously the days when you would grab the Sunday newspaper to look through the ‘help wanted” ads have been replaced with online job listings and resume submissions.  I’ve noticed that with this tough economy, there are many people who haven’t need to look for a job in 5 or even 10 years and are now out searching.  Many don’t even have a resume together.   It is a very different market from the last time they were searching for a job. is
intended to be a resource to help level the playing field, even if you are not
a job-hunting expert.

YP TALK: What do you see in terms of the job market moving forward?

Hawthorne:  It is a tale of two economies.  If you are a specialist, in new media, or online information, or a specialized software, life is good.  Jobs are available and companies are scrambling to find you and will woo you to join their team.  In the broader economy, however, companies are trying to avoid adding to headcount, and unfortunately, I don’t see it changing any time soon.  For the jobs that are available, you’ll probably be competing against multiple candidates.  In that situation, you need to be fully prepared to stand out from amongst the crowd.

YP TALK:  What about the local search space?

Hawthorne:  Overall, things are pretty strong compared to other industures.  We work with companies in local search, and mobile local as well as publishers and agencies.   On the “new media” side, there is a good amount of hiring, especially with anything tied into daily deal.   Almost everyone seems to be launching a daily deal offering, so we see lots of requests for sales, marketing, and executive talent.

YP TALK:   What are some of the most common mistakes
you see on resumes?

Hawthorne:  You would be surprised, but we see grammar errors all the time as well as spelling mistakes.  This is an instant game ender for many companies.  In addition, we see people who don’t really explain why they are special or a standout.  If you are a sales person, your resume had better have numbers on it.  If you are an IT person, you should have all of your programs and languages.  Many times people don’t effectively “sell” themselves.

YP TALK:  What is the best way for a company to attract
top talent?

Hawthorne:  A dedicated recruiting firm is going to get the best results, the quickest results.  If you have the time and resources, you can try to mine LinkedIn where you can reach out to countless people at your competitors for almost the same cost as any job opening.  If you don’t have the staff to do that, find a recruiter who knows your market.  Your time is worth money.  An unfilled
position is usually an even big loss in profits forgone.  Sure, you can just post jobs on a job board like Monster or CareerBuilder, or heaven forbid Craigslist, may yield some resumes, but not the A level, “impact players” for your team.

Hawthorne Search Adds Merchant Service Effort

For the past year Hawthorne Executive Search (HES) has been working with Century Payments, the excusive credit processing/merchant services provider in the United States for Royal Bank of Scotland to help them grow and develop their sales teams.  Century Payments has been backed by leading venture capital group Austin Ventures, and offers its customers credit card processing, gift cards, loyalty marketing programs and electronic check verification.  Initially HES has been working with Century to help them build a nationwide sales organization that will service the local SMB marketplace.

Now in the latest twist, Hawthorne Executive Search has just announced it will build and manage its own team of sales professionals as a “sub-ISO” to Century.  This new effort will allow then to sell the same services directly to the SME marketplace, and for the Yellow Page industry, to be able to work directly with publishers and local search providers that use these core  services in their business to receive payments and deposits.

We asked Robert Hawthorne, the President of HES to provide additional insight into this new effort.


YPT:  What caused you to expand your offerings beyond just recruiting?

Hawthorne:  It was really more of a natural extension of what we have been doing for our clients that it might appear.

For years we have worked with clients to help them find the best sales and marketing professionals for their team.  This new effort allows us to offer our clients an additional level of services directly, one that should help them obtain some of the lowest rates in the industry on credit card processing.  In this tough economy, why wouldn’t any company want to save some money.

Just as our publisher clients are moving to be true multi-media consultants, we are evolving our efforts to be a full service business consultant to our clients, offering a wider range of services such as credit processing, in addition to our core consulting and recruiting efforts.  We have already been working with several CMRs as consultants, helping them sell or buy other accounts.

YPT:  What does this mean for the Yellow Pages community?

Hawthorne:  Three things.

1)    We can save every company in this industry money on their current credit card processing rates. Even if they don’t switch to RBS, we can show them things they can do that will reduce their monthly processing costs.

2)    If a publisher doesn’t want to market these services directly to their client base themselves, we are willing to pay up to a $250.00 bonus to both publishers and reps just for referring us to a client that we are able to close.  For just an introduction, we are willing to pay a bonus on any deal we close.

3)    For reps who are looking for a different career path, we are hiring in all markets.

YPT:  But doesn’t this effort conflict with the recruiting services you currently offer your publisher clients?

Hawthorne:  No at all.  Publishers have several options.  We will be reaching out to each publisher to see if they are interested in marketing these services directly to SME’s using their existing sales team.  These SME businesses are already paying tremendous fees to payment processing companies, and Century offers typically a 10-20% reduction in those fees, as well as a more personalized customer service experience than the larger banks provide, along with a unique suite of features includes gift cards, loyalty marketing and anything the local merchant needs financially at point of sale.

In exchange for a 60 second “oh by the way” type introduction at the end of the sales call, the merchant would be given a unique call in number to reach a Hawthorne sales associate.  We would follow up with that business to close them.  Century has historically maintained a 65% plus conversion rate on all warm leads of this type.  If a rep hasn’t been able to make any progress with a non-advertiser on any of the services they are offering, by offering lower costs credit processing services to the SME, at least they have a chance to start a relationship which could prosper from there.

A second part of that dialog with publishers but equally important, is specific to their own corporate processing.  They too could realize the same cost reduction for their credit process services as well.   We have one good sized CMR that is looking at a cost savings of nearly $100,000 a year in their processing costs by changing.

YPT:  Is Hawthorne Search still recruiting directory professionals then?

Hawthorne: Absolutely!  These are separately staffed efforts.  Ken Clark continues to work with publishers recruiting reps and managers in markets across the country, and was just on a panel regarding the changes we see in rep recruiting at this weeks ADP conference.  Having working in the industry for 20+ years before moving into recruiting, Ken can be a real resource for clients no matter whether its recruiting for them, working with them on compensation studies, helping them with better interviewing techniques, and other consultative type reviews.

Jenny Ciappa continues to be very active in the National Channel in both recruiting and in working with those CMRs looking to sell or acquire other agencies.  When you have someone with Jenny’s background and knowledge of the National channel, she is able to quickly identify candidates that will work for each clients unique culture, or even just provide some coaching on how to improve their operations.

Each of us have worked with various industry suppliers on everything from sales talent to CFO’s over the last year.   Again, out teams actual working knowledge of the industry is a huge advantage for our clients.  They don’t have to explain their business to us – we already get it.

While there is no doubt that this has been an economically challenging year for everyone, we are noticing a definite uptick in hiring activities.  We’ve also been asked to review staff and compensation levels for clients that just want another set of eyes looking at their business.

YPT:  What are the similarities in the reps you are managing and the directory reps you recruit?

Hawthorne:  First let me be very clear that we do NOT proactively recruit people out of existing clients.  We never have and never will.

But if someone is already looking to make a move and has posted on a public job board, or has sent us a resume in confidence, then clearly it’s just a matter of time before they will be making a move anyway.

For those people we are adding to our merchant services team, we look for many of the same things our publisher clients look for:

1) smart people – people who can think on their feet, assess the situation and bring solutions that will help a SMB

2) hard workers – there are no layups in the merchant services business

3) people who are money motivated

4) people with high ethical standards.

If you can get those 4 criteria, you will likely hit a home run in sales in this industry.

About Hawthorne Executive Search

Hawthorne Executive Search, is a full service executive search and consultancy with a focus on the advertising, publishing and media industries. With decades of experience, Hawthorne Executive Search is an executive search and management firm that has assisted companies of all sizes in the recruitment and selection of top talent across North America and beyond. Every assignment managed by our firm includes the involvement of an experienced principal to help our clients build high performance management teams.