Marketing 101 for Recruiters

I recall sitting in class as a young, aspiring business student trying to figure out what I wanted to do.  Over time, I started to gravitate to the Human Resources and the Marketing aspects of the curriculum, which in retrospect made perfect sense for a career in talent acquisition.  As we all know, the Recruiting function typically falls within the HR segment of the business, but more and more, people who are competing for great talent are acting more like sales and marketing professionals rather than traditional HR professionals.  The competition for talent is as fierce as ever and as a result the ability to attract and retain your fair share of the “talent” is critical to your organization’s success.  Just like a company trying to capture increased market share, we in talent acquisition are trying to attract a greater share of the best talent the market has to offer.  While we all agree fundamentally with the importance of marketing and selling in recruitment, still for too many companies, hiring managers, HR professionals and recruiters it is more lip-service than anything else.  For this discussion, let’s consider some simple ways to apply marketing principals to recruitment.

The focus of this article is not to discuss the dynamics of today’s recruitment and employment landscape, but it is important to level-set a bit because it does highlight the importance of the marketing and sales aspect of recruitment.  I think we will all agree that in today’s work world, we are being asked to do more with less.  This often results in the same duties and responsibilities being shared by fewer individuals.  For many, this has also meant that job descriptions have grown.  In addition, with smaller budgets and less staff, companies often have less time to devote to training and orienting new employees.  As a result, the standard of evaluating whether or not a candidate is a fit with our role is greater.  These trends have certainly impacted us as a recruiters, and I think in general we get it.  Our goals are not solely filling jobs, but helping our client’s address today and tomorrow’s real business challenges via people.  So for a person to really be considered a viable candidate they often need to pass an evaluation gauntlet that often includes questions like:

  • Do they have the required job skills?
  • Do they possess our core attributes and values?
  • Did they pass our pre-employment testing or assessments?
  • What is their work history?
  • Do they have the capacity to grow and develop beyond this role?
  • Are they local/will they relocate?

When going through this type of discussion, the picture of those old Venn Diagrams from marketing class always pop into my head.  Remember those?  Overlapping circles where our target market was the intersection of them all.   The reality is a growing list of organizational wants and needs for a prospective hire, end up further shrinking the size of our targeted candidate population.

So once we have really identified our targeted candidate population our ability to sell and engage them to even talk with us, let alone accept the job is paramount.  To this end, a marketing and sales mind-set is critical.  While there are a lot of things a company can do from a Macro/organizational level, what are some things you can do quickly to make a difference.  Here are three quick, inexpensive things you can do to make a difference in transforming your process to be more marketing/sales focused:

1.        Emphasize the importance from the beginning of the recruitment process- One of the first things I learned as a new recruiter was the importance of conducting a proper intake meeting.  This is the initial meeting where we sit down with the hiring manager and learn all we need to know about their position - All the skills and attributes they were looking for, the compensation range, the specifics about the interview process, and the selling points.  We targeted three things about the company and/or job that a potential candidate might find attractive about our position.  If we had them, off we went.   The employment branding or marketing piece of the intake always was and quite frankly still is near the end of the intake meeting and perhaps that is part of the reason it is all too often glossed over.  At our company, we have taken steps to insure it receives the required attention.  It is simply that important.  After all, in recruiting we not only need to get the hiring manager to say “Yes”, but the candidate as well.  Product differentiation is a marketing term I recall.  It pertains to how a company provides unique value and benefits for its customers.  It is essential that we are able to differentiate, define and articulate our employment brand to the candidate population.  So from a recruiting standpoint the big question we need to continually be asking is:  Why does somebody want this job?  What recruiter hasn’t walked out of an intake meeting with a hiring manager with the following marching orders:  Find me a candidate out of a like organization, in a similar role, with a great work history, for slightly more money?  We then ask the hiring manager for information on “why would someone be interested in leaving that similar role to take ours” and hear things like:

  • We are a great place to work
  • We have a good team
  • And competitive benefits

Hardly enough information to sufficiently engage our passive, targeted audience.  Those are typically the jobs we struggle to fill the most. 

It is incumbent upon us as recruiters to hold hiring managers accountable to not only define the job requirements and our targeted candidate population, but also develop a compelling employee value proposition for the roles on which we are recruiting.  If the value proposition is not sufficient to attract our target population, then we should consider broadening or targeting a new candidate population to include those who will be.   Market segmentation is the term that comes to mind here.  The process of defining and subdividing a large market into clearly identifiable segments having similar wants and needs.  Wants and needs which are aligned with our value proposition.   When sourcing passive candidates in particular, it is critical to define the types of industries, companies and job titles the targeted population are currently in prior to starting our recruitment efforts.  It is equally important for us to “connect the dots” and be able to articulate why a person who is currently working in one of those roles for one of those companies in one of those industries who is reasonably content would consider leaving a good situation and consider ours.  In recruiting both sides of the transaction can say NO, so we have to create a Win-Win scenario for both parties.  And DON”T let hiring managers off the hook.  Hold them accountable to be part of developing the messaging and get their buy-in.

2.       Develop some ways of getting your own Market Research – one of the values a marketing department provides is market intelligence.  Why guess at what our customers are thinking, let’s try and actually know what they are thinking.  Whether we are using sophisticated data analysis, competitor benchmarking, surveys, etc., taking the guess work out of marketing is important.  Unfortunately in recruiting, too often we are not even asking our existing and targeted future customers what their wants and needs are.  Are we asking our employees why they came to work here, why they stay, what might make them leave, etc.?  Are you a part of any groups or associations that can give insight into what is going on in your marketplace?  Do you monitor social media in order to understand what people are saying about your company and its brand in the marketplace?  Do you use survey information from new hire and exiting employees to provide you some further insight into what is going on with your company?  It is much easier to influence others and make better decisions with good data.

3.       Create a customer centric interview process – what impression are we providing candidates during their interaction with us throughout our interview and selection process?  It is possible to assess someone for general fit with an organization while also “selling them” on the organization and position.  Still too many hiring managers are solely focused on addressing their unique set of needs during their discussions with candidates and focus very little on the needs of the candidate.  If we tell candidates that we value our employees, yet during their interview show-up late, take phone calls during the meeting, clearly haven’t prepared, and make them feel as though they are being interrogated during their interview, we are sending a very different message than ‘people are important’.  Make sure managers are properly trained on how to not only interview, but incorporate selling into the interview process and reinforce your BRAND.  Consider adding someone to the interview team whose primary focus is not interviewing or assessing at all, but making the candidate feel special and selling them on the organization.  These employer brand ambassadors can conduct the tours, take them to lunch, have a cup of coffee with them, etc.   

If you can get better at selling during the interview process you will positively impact quality of applicant, time to fill, interview to hire ratios, etc.  Three reasons sell themselves!

Chadd Dehn

Chadd Dehn, the EVP at DreamJobs has worked in the human resources field with a focus on talent acquisition since 1996. During this time, he has consulted with clients from a wide spectrum of industries including healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, banking and retail. Chadd has consistently helped clients improve their hiring systems as demonstrated by positively impacting cost per hire, time to fill, turnover, candidate quality and both candidate and hiring manager satisfaction.