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2008 Post: Recruitment Marketing Is The New Black

This post was an original for ERE.NET I wrote way, way back in December 2008. How do you think it holds up?

Way back in the 20th century, I learned an important fact about recruiters. We’re all salespeople. There are good salespeople and bad salespeople, but every recruiter has to be in sales if they are to function. This is not up for discussion. We sometimes dance around the premise, but recruiting is essentially the selling of a company on a candidate and a candidate on a company. Those who choose not to engage in selling can pretend to be noble, but they’re doing a disservice to their clients and employers. It’s engraved on stone tablets for every third-party recruiter who makes it longer than three months, and even the most sales-averse HR generalist has to admit that at one time or another, they’ve tried to talk a manager into meeting with a candidate based on their internal interview. It’s the nature of our business.

Where we sometimes butt heads is in the implementation of a sales mentality versus that of a process-oriented human resources approach. I have good news: The sales mentality is remarkably effective for finding high-quality candidates or hiring large numbers of people quickly.

Unfortunately, no company needs that kind of structure forever, and the friction caused by a sales mentality in hiring can lead to management, administrative, and even legal obstacles. The human resources approach of a kindler, gentler HR works when you don’t have urgency, and when you have an enlightened HR/executive management relationship, but process-oriented hiring turns off the top creatives and results in the hiring of a stable, but less aggressive workforce. That’s no way to run a company in uncertain times.

These are uncertain times, but also exciting ones. Jobseekers, through social media, now have access to information on their would-be employers that is truly revolutionary. In addition to being connected through social networks to hiring managers and other employees, candidates can gather information on individual recruiters, staffing firms, referral programs, and even interview questions. They can do so while they are sitting in an interview room waiting for that manager to arrive. The imbalance of information has been a strength of companies, who can set wages, benefits, and generally control the employment process. Today’s job-seeker has access — and is learning the skill — necessary to balance that information. The result is smarter, better-prepared candidates with wider options as to where they work and what’s acceptable in the employment process (such as whether someone will put up with multiple interviews and long assessments). This trend may not yet have affected your open requirements, but the strategies employed by the very top candidates are spreading to other high-quality candidates.

I know this because I, and others like me are helping train them. Every time I write about a tool on a blog or a social network, candidates have every bit as much incentive to read as do recruiters. And from my website stats, those kinds of readers are growing in droves.

A declining economy, high unemployment, and an increasing need for knowledge workers is running up against demographics, increased specialization, and social media. Recessions are supposed to be times when companies get lean and mean. They cut benefits, reduce or eliminate raises, and often use layoffs to restructure the business. All of that is happening, but the ease of finding candidates hasn’t changed. Companies sometimes get hundreds of resumes per open position, and with the implementation of ATS and database search technology, one would assume that companies could afford to sit idly by and let job-seekers come to them. Companies adopting that attitude are already hurting, and have been for years.

The Answer: Become A Marketer

You don’t have to buy non-prescription lenses and large amounts of hair gel, but will have to adjust to a world where employment branding is not a buzzword, but something that defines what kind of candidates come knocking on your electronic door. Those companies that brag of hundreds, or even thousands of resumes per position aren’t happy with their results.

Candidates looking for work blast off resumes hoping for a lucky hit, which ultimately clogs up the recruiting system, especially when you’re in an industry required to log what you’ve received and why you accepted or rejected the resume. Recruitment marketing used to mean writing job ads and placing them in newspapers. Today, it covers a wide range of disciplines that includes creative, copywriting, SEO, web analytics, pay per click, video, blogging, and social media marketing. The new goal is getting in front of the right people at the right time, and that’s a marketing function. To be successful, it requires that every touchpoint (another marketing term) within your company be aware of how you hire and the best way to apply. Providing accurate information to channel candidates into the correct funnel is the most efficient use of your recruiting time, freeing your employees up to interview and match, rather than sort and sift.

Let’s be honest. Even with massive databases and an influx of resumes, most recruiters still spend over half their time on the job boards searching for new resumes. The reason is simple. Resumes are old the second they hit your database, while resumes posted on job boards (particularly if you search by “last posted”) show an interest in getting hired right now. The advantage of a marketing mentality, especially one of pull-marketing, is a value to all activities taken. Searches for a position today can be magnified by social media to create a long-term search engine value and online profile for your company. Unlike job boards and company websites where information appears and disappears, online marketing creates relationships that continue to bring value after a search is completed. It’s not easy, and much of this work is in its infancy, but companies that embrace online marketing through the prism of social media are finding that recruiting gets easier, and more efficient.

It’s no panacea. Marketing requires a lot of retraining and a sympathetic management who puts a priority on hiring. Marketing requires a commitment to long-term employees and long-term strategies, but the benefits of an enhanced company profile are easy to measure using onboarding surveys. Rather than simply asking where the candidate heard about the position, questions should focus on what worked to influence the candidate during the employment process. Where did they get information? What information was helpful? Who was helpful? Companies who embrace a thorough strategy of recruitment marketing will find it easier and easier to hire the best employees. Those who focus on short-term sales or long-term process-oriented hiring will find it easier to hire those who are left.

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