Becoming a Recruitment Marketer

In many companies, the unfortunate reality is that recruiters are seen as paper pushers. And in every industry ó be it healthcare, finance, technology, or retail ó recruiters have all asked the same question: “How do we elevate the status of the recruiting team in our organization?” If your goals and outcomes all revolve around saving costs, you may inadvertently be devaluing the role that recruiting is allowed to play in the organization. Thinking like a “recruitment marketer” can help change this. How Do You Measure Success? When your yearly review or management presentation comes around, how do you quantify the results your recruiting team has achieved? Do you: a. Show all of the cost savings you have realized in terms of your overall budget? or b. Demonstrate measurable improvements in candidate quality, time to fill, retention, cost per hire, and hiring manager and candidate satisfaction? Do you: a. Showcase bringing the resume processing function in-house as a major strategic initiative? or b. Discuss the innovative ways you targeted your recruiting efforts to focus on reaching highly qualified passive job seekers, while streamlining the recruiting process? Do you: a. Tell everyone how happy your team is with your new applicant tracking system? or b. Demonstrate the actual return on investment from your purchase, why it was a smarter choice than the other vendors who vied for your business, and how it is giving your company a strategic advantage over the competition? Do you: a. Bring in your pretty new advertising campaign? or b. Discuss the ways that your employer brand is being built internally and externally in support of your company’s overall business objectives? The examples above are all representative of real companies. More importantly, they demonstrate the disparity among those that think in administrative terms ó such as cost reductions, paper processing, and advertising campaigns ó and those that think in more strategic terms, such as establishing competitive advantages, achieving measurable results, defining employer brands, and raising the level of organizational talent in support of a company’s overall business goals. Why does marketing get a big cushy seat at the decision table, a better parking spot, and the keys to the executive washroom? Because they can easily quantify their effect on the company’s business results. But there’s no reason recruiting shouldn’t get the same perks by using some of the same techniques. Here are a few steps to lead you in the right direction. Gathering Actionable Business Data Actionable business data can be defined as information (such as primary or secondary research, or reports on the successes of your past recruiting efforts) that gives a logical argument for making business decisions. This can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Know thyself: What are your organization’s business goals, and how would the recruiting efforts best support them? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your “employment product?” What is changeable, and what is not? What has your cost per hire and time to fill been over the last three years? What are the trends? How satisfied are your hiring managers with the recruiting team and why? What are you not providing that you could be?
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  3. Know your audience: What is the selling proposition you need to attract the caliber of candidates you need to attract to best support your organization’s goals?
  4. Know your competition: What is your competition for top talent up to in their recruiting efforts? What are they doing that you are not? What are you doing that they are not? Where are the competitive advantages and disadvantages?

Developing a Strategic Plan for Achieving Your Goals Marketing departments have their media plans laid out for the year before the year even begins. The basic principles of media buying are that media will be less expensive per unit if you can buy it upfront and in greater quantities. Recruitment marketing will always be a more reactionary discipline than product marketing. Yet I still maintain that recruiting is really a marketing and sales discipline, with the main difference being that you are marketing and selling an employment experience vs. a product. More robust talent pipelines and cost efficiencies can be gained through upfront planning and skills-based marketing (see my last article on the subject). Whereas the decline of the dotcoms of the world has shown that driving all customers to the web is not usually a good idea in product marketing, it is a tactic that works in recruitment marketing. It is much less expensive to effectively brand yourself on your website than it is in media, where you typically are limited in and often charged for how much you say. Your website should therefore be your best sales tool, while your recruiters should be your best salespeople. Measuring Your Results ó Religiously W. Edwards Deming, the renowned manufacturing and quality expert of TQM (Total Quality Management) fame, said, “If you can’t measure it, it’s probably not worth doing.” The downfall of many recruiting efforts is a lack of measurable results. This starts in the planning stage when you answer the important question, “How will I measure and judge the success of my efforts?” Boast! If no one pays attention to what the recruiting team is doing until something goes horribly wrong, your team will continue to be seen as an administrative function. Once you start achieving measurable results that support the company’s big picture goals, brag about them ó because no one else will. A company we work with in Southern California had us produce an inexpensive flash presentation that showcased all of the HR team’s major accomplishments over the last year. If they hadn’t done this, who knows if anyone would have noticed all the great things they had done to improve the level of talent they are recruiting, increase the ROI on their advertising efforts, and make the recruiting process more efficient for hiring managers and candidates. Recruiting will probably never be a profit center. But thinking only in terms of cost savings can cost you credibility, a great deal of your budget, and a seat at the management table in the long run. Thinking like a recruitment marketer ó by improving, measuring and reporting on your team’s organizational impact and ROI to top management ó will help you elevate the status of the recruiting team beyond being seen as simply paper-pushers.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.

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