In a so-called dying industry, how do you recruit candidates for publishing jobs?

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek that prompted me to investigate said that there are plenty of fresh college grads eager to enter the publishing world.

And there are staffing companies that successfully find people jobs in publishing.

When I spoke to the presidents of two staffing agencies on opposite coasts, I found it came down to two modes of survival in publishing recruitment:

  1. The need for content never diminishes, despite the method of distribution.
  2. It’s all about your niche.

Steve Ganz, owner of Personnel Associates, Inc., on the West Coast, has specialized in recruiting for the educational publishing industry for 30 years.

Those college textbooks you spent thousands of dollars on and never were able to sell back? That’s his niche.

“I don’t deal with what I call the consumer publishing industry,” he told me.

Ganz did work in the ill-fated newspaper industry 15 or so years ago, where millions of dollars have gone into equipment and infrastructure, and are now going to Chapter 11.

Naturally, “it’s the production side of the business" that's been getting its proverbial ass kicked.

But for content, “I don’t feel that need has changed,” he continued, nor will it likely affect his niche.

When you’ve got, for example, clients in the medical world who need constant updates for material and paraphernalia, “how it gets distributed is largely irrelevant,” he said.

Ganz said he’s had quite a few opportunities to branch out, but he prefers to “be focused like a laser beam” on one area of publishing. If he got into consumer-oriented publishing, it would water down his knowledge base.

Clients seeking candidates like acquisition editors or calculus experts to write content “know we know that market inside and out.”

Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment Inc. has been around since 1964, based in New York, and are the leading executive recruiters for the publishing industry (which includes books, magazines, journals and online media).

President Susan Gordon told me that, contrary to what I might have thought, publishing recruiters have turned the technological advances to their advantage.

When the Internet was in its infant stages, Gordon told me, publishers didn’t need to use an agency for entry-level employment (i.e., editorial assistants). They could just recruit on the web.

“There was virtually no need anymore to put Help Wanted ads up,” she told me.

Lynne Palmer focuses on mid-level recruiting (marketing managers, project editors), and their niche comes from within - all their recruiters have insider experience.

“Our recruiters have worked in publishing before,” Gordon said. “They know the clients.”

As for adapting with the technological age, Gordon said it was something the agency had to foresee well in advance. There was always the indication books would go digital, she said, and the trick is to be prepared.

In a way, you’re “helping make history,” she said. “Someone has to be the leader. Educate yourself before it even happens.”

They work with the clients creating job descriptions well before it’s needed, keeping up with trends.

Both Ganz and Gordon agreed that the biggest change in their recruitment efforts wasn't in what they do, but how it's done. This means social networking and actively reaching out to candidates.

In publishing, "you don't put an ad on Indeed and see if anybody shows up," Ganz said. You can't let technology do the job for you, "you have to keep the personal touch."

Tags: Kindle, Recruiting, Industry, Borders bookstore, Business Week article, Dying industry, Educational publishing, Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment Inc., Nook, Personnel Associates Inc., Publishing jobs, Publishing recruitment, Steve Ganz, Susan Gordon