The differences between creative staffing and experiential staffing

from the desk of smartdept. inc. Creative Consultant: Jaime Sklar

Having come from recruiting for an experiential marketing agency and then switching to recruiting for a creative staffing agency, I had no clue that there would be so many differences—or so many similarities! But there definitely are.

At the experiential agency, I was mainly staffing brand ambassadors, or “field/temp” staff, who worked with our brand-specific touring teams at nationwide events. All roles were remote, and typically I was staffing for anywhere from one to three markets across the country during a single weekend.

At the smartdept., we staff within the Chicagoland area. Our clients reach out with open positions so we can assist them in finding a match for their needs—someone who can complete their team, enhance their vision, or even build their brand/company.

So, is all staffing the same? Is staffing just “staffing”? That’s an interesting question, given the number of factors and players at work. And if it’s not, what are the differences?

Location

It seems pretty obvious that location would affect sourcing and staffing, but this is definitely one of the biggest and most surprising similarities I’ve found between creative and experiential recruiting.

  • For the experiential agency, location was huge. I typically worked in several markets at the same time, but often in obscure locations and literally across the country from one another other. Staffing locations that are far from a major city was definitely a huge challenge.
  • For the smartdept., location has also proved to be a challenge. It’s often hard to find suburban candidates who are able to travel to the city, and vice versa. It’s especially challenging for recruiters sourcing in cities that rely so heavily on public transportation. Many candidates don’t own a car and therefore can’t make it to certain client locations.

Client vs. Account Team

One difference I’ve found is who your contact is and getting information from them regarding the roles or staff needed.

  • At the experiential agency, you’re most often in contact with the account team, who relays what staff the program needs for certain events. Although you don’t interact with the client directly, you learn which types of staff work well with the touring field/staff, what the program or brand needs, etc.
  • At a creative staffing agency, you have direct access to and conversations with your client. You can get to know them personally—what types of personalities might fit their company, the typical types of backgrounds they look for, and what types of needs they most often have.

Turnaround and Scheduling

In terms of differences and similarities, this is a biggie. Both styles of staffing require you to be on your feet at all times, constantly sourcing for viable candidates, and filling roles as needed.

  • At the experiential agency, we typically had schedules for event dates up to a month in advance, so we were able to source and staff events ahead of time. In retrospect, we often dealt with event cancellations, location changes, rescheduling events to different weekends, or even events that were booked the night before they started—meaning we were forced to find staff on the fly.
  • At the smartdept., we usually don’t know in advance what requests are going to come and when the staff will be needed. Of course, we can anticipate that certain clients will have needs at specific times of the year, but there’s no guarantee. This is why proactive sourcing is huge for a staffing agency—you must always have a solid pool of candidates who are capable of meeting your clients’ needs.

Remote vs. Local

This is another significant difference I’ve found between the two.

  • A phone call is always different from meeting in person. Experiential hiring for temp staff or event staff doesn’t allow you to interact with your candidates directly; you’re usually doing interviews on the phone or communicating via email.
  • Recruiting for local candidates means you can meet your candidates in person, read their mannerisms and body language, and even look at their work with them. I think this is especially important for the “creative” roles that the smartdept. recruits for—watching someone explain their work allows you to see how passionate they are about it.

Don’t get me wrong—staffing remotely is great—but there’s something really awesome about being able to meet your candidates in person, getting to know them firsthand, and continuing to work with them for several years to come.

So, the answer to the question, “Is all staffing just ‘staffing’?” is … yes and no. They each have their place in our business, and they each have their own challenges and rewards. There’s something for everyone in this fast-paced, fascinating industry!