Recruiting Stories: What can Recruiters Learn from Marketers?

Anthony Haynes writes: We’re delighted to host FJWilson Talent’s first guest post, a forthright and constructive piece by Erin Osterhaus of Software Advice. Thank you, Erin!

Erin Osterhaus writes: Finding quality candidates for open positions is, in a word, hard. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. In fact, if you think outside of the proverbial box, sourcing quality candidates could actually be more efficient and rewarding than you’d expect. So instead of spending hours upon hours re-wording job descriptions in an effort to make your positions sound more exciting and increase the quantity and quality of applicants, consider this: you might have a marketing problem.

Software Advice provides guidelines for applying four lessons recruiters can learn from marketers in order to help you attract more and better candidates.

Lesson 1: Build Awareness Among Candidates

Companies with very little name recognition are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to recruiting. Just as most consumers would prefer to buy a product from a brand they know, most candidates would prefer to pursue a job with a company they’ve heard of, rather than the one they haven’t. If you’re just posting job vacancies in all the usual places, your company won’t get noticed. Your best bet is to try an unusual tactic.

A great example: the German advertising agency, BBDO. When attempting to recruit talented young copywriters, the company created “The World’s First Napkin Book” — a pamphlet printed on napkins exalting the benefits of writing advertising copy. They stuck the “book” on lunch trays in university cafeterias to build awareness among young literature students.

It worked. BBDO received 15 times more applications the month after the campaign launched than the previous month.

Lesson 2: Instil Preference to Work For You

Marketers will tell you that creating awareness is only part of the challenge. Once candidates know who you are, you then have to instil preference — candidates have to want to work for you.

The military — any military — knows this all too well. In the face of declining recruitment levels, defence agencies around the world have had to get creative to boost levels of patriotism in their countries’ youth.

Many have turned to video games. For instance, GCHQ, a UK government intelligence agency, embedded adverts in Xbox Live games to get the attention of agile-minded 18-34 year olds. If it’s in a video game, it must be fun to work there, right? Even the US Army has long been involved in the production of video games, with the intention of increasing its appeal to young men.

Lesson 3: Stand Out From The Crowd

In marketing, most companies make it a high priority to differentiate themselves from competitors. The same is true when recruiting. If you want to attract employees that stand out, you have to stand out. But as James Clift, CEO of KarmaHire, explains, that’s hard to do: “There’s nine billion dollars spent on recruitment advertising a year, and there’s all these amazing companies out there, and they really just all look the same right now with their job postings”.

Although your company might have a great work culture, so great that employees actually want to go to work in the morning, the job description — and even the job itself — might be similar to jobs offered by your competitors.

One thing that can make you stand out from your peers: culture and values. While Google might have jobs similar to those at other companies, what makes it stand out is its culture.

And since the most direct way to let applicants know your story is usually through your website’s job page, Clift and his team are reinventing the job post. As Clift says, “We let companies create, instead of a job post, a really awesome landing page for their job that showcases their culture, their work environment, and what makes them unique”.

Lesson 4: Make The Process Challenging — And Fun

Good marketers know how to attract target customers with the right messages, delivered in the right way. Recruiters need to do the same. And since CEOs value creativity as “the most important competency for the successful enterprise of the future”, the recruiting and application process needs to mirror the applicants you’re trying to attract.

Creating space for candidates to shine in the application process is key. So instead of locking applicants into the traditional form application, you might consider a new tactic.

A great recent example of an innovative recruiting process is MasterCard’s 2012 campaign to find great interns for its advertising department. The company asked applicants to “creatively” promote the benefits of a cashless society. The result: 350 qualified applicants, compared to its usual yield of 20-30 applications for advertising jobs.

By challenging candidates to create original material — YouTube videos, blogs, Twitter campaigns, etc. — rather than complete a standard form application, not only did MasterCard effectively get the attention of potential candidates, but the application process became part of the interview. Applicants were allowed to showcase their skills and knowledge in the way they best saw fit, and the results were some pretty great interns for the advertising department.

As a well-known HR professional recently said: “The recruiting process is broken”. The typical job board posting just won’t suffice in an age of multiplying online job sites. If you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors to attract top talent, you need to be outstanding.

Erin Osterhaus is the Managing Editor of Software Advice’s HR blog, The New Talent Times. Erin focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management, and leadership techniques.

The image above is published by kind permission from KarmaHire.


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