‘The Tsunami of Hiring is Upon Us’: Hiring Practices in Today’s Event Environment

Key Takeaways:

  • The demand for event industry freelancers is returning to pre-pandemic levels, as companies try to build variable workforces to fit their needs.
  • Companies are being methodical about how they rebuild their teams post-pandemic. They are using this industry reset to rethink how they do business, which includes hiring practices.
  • While a remote work environment presents new challenges, it also allows employers to expand their candidate recruitment beyond a particular location, which in turn allows them to build more diverse and inclusive teams.
  • Candidates looking for work should explain how their skills translate to the specific position and company. They should also be aware that potential employers may view their Linkedin profiles and social media accounts such as Instagram before interviewing them.
  • The experts all agreed that candidates should not list vaccination status on their resume.

At the onset of the pandemic, as in-person events shut down, many professionals and industry leaders were forced to downsize their teams through layoffs, furloughs, and restructuring. The World Travel & Tourism Council reported that the pandemic resulted in the loss of nearly 62 million jobs worldwide within the events and meetings industry.

Now, as in-person events come back online and RFPs roll in, for-hire postings—whether digital or in real life—have truly become the sign of the times. Industry executives and managers are in need of staff more than ever, with some struggling to find employees, while others need to reacclimate former team members into new workflows. “The tsunami of hiring is upon us, even in these uncertain times,” said David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Global Events, adding that his company has hired 315 people since January.

According to Peckinpaugh and the other industry veterans who participated in the recent webinar, “A Candid Discussion on Employment: We Can Work it Out—Together,” their current staffing strategies include seeking out new skills and specialities, rehiring former employees, and onboarding new hires and freelancers—all while being more methodical about how they rebuild their teams.

Peckinpaugh cautioned, though, against over-hiring, especially in light of a potential slowdown in events due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, and said to instead manage the size of your workforce based on the volume of projects on deck. He also emphasized the importance of talking with clients and setting realistic expectations as the industry is influx.

Because of the current economic uncertainty, employers are looking to mitigate risk, and one way to do that is to “only bring on what you need when you need it,” said Todd Taranto, president of Cadre, an online job marketplace for event freelancers. Which is part of the reason why, he added, freelance job listings on the site are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels this month—more companies are seeking temporary short-term help to fill the gap as opposed to on-boarding full-time staff employees.

As for candidates who are looking for work, Taranto said that they should be willing to be flexible in order to meet the needs of a potential employer and market any new skills such as digital event planning, as well as explain to a hiring manager how they can be an asset to the company. Both Taranto and Deborah Hinson, founder of The Hinson Group, also stressed the importance of writing a targeted cover letter that’s applicable to the position and company in order to stand out from the pile of resumes.

Hinson, who works with restaurant industry clients, said that the pandemic has actually had a positive impact on the employment practices of companies in the restaurant and hospitality fields, including offering better compensation and work/life balance. “No one is going back to business as usual,” she said. Instead, these establishments are restructuring their sales teams and working on improving quality-of-life issues in order to attract employees.

Over the last year, companies across the board have also been focused on implementing and enhancing their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. And while some event companies such as Maritz already had DE&I policies in place, Peckinpaugh explained, a decentralized workforce has helped them recruit a more diverse pool of candidates because they are no longer restricted to a particular location, which allows them to broaden their search.

Tina Madden, co-C.E.O. of Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, added that promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace requires a two-fold strategy: intentional hiring practices and an emphatic culture, where employees feel safe and accepted.

Listen to the entire conversation here. For more event industry job opportunities, see the Event Leadership Institute’s Event and Meetings Job Board.