The talent wars have entered a new phase. Now it’s more about guerilla warfare and skirmishes, not big battles.
With this concept in mind, I was lured to a workshop a few weeks ago to hear about some of the latest creative sourcing ideas going on throughout our industry. Some of them were Web 2.0 based, others technology-oriented, a few based on contests, and others just targeted and compelling advertising. Regardless of the approach, all had one theme in common:
You can’t use Wal-Mart advertising to attract a Tiffany’s customer.
Bottom line, sourcing is comparable to consumer marketing: It must be designed to meet the needs of your target audience. Engineers won’t respond to the same approach as entry-level call center representatives, and mid-level accounting managers aren’t going to go the same website as retired people looking for part-time sales jobs. Targeting the right audience with the right message is critical to maximizing your sourcing efforts.
For me, the other big takeaway from the workshop was that companies are getting much more aggressive with respect to their sourcing techniques. Benchmarking other recruiting departments’ best sourcing processes is no longer the strategy. Instead, more and more companies are benchmarking best consumer marketing practices.
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As part of this, going on the offensive and pushing advertising to your target prospect will be the difference-makers for those who want to be the winners in the next phase of the war for talent. So, to get in the new “sourcing-is-consumer-marketing” game, consider implementing the following ideas right away. Then, figure out ways to make them better.
Implemented properly, they will work and they will allow you to increase your share of the top talent market in 2008 and beyond:
- Harrah’s MBA Poker Contest. Susan Hailey, the vice president of talent at Harrah’s, described a poker championship sponsored by Harrah’s for MBAs only. The only admission fee is the MBA student’s resume. Of course, the event was advertised at all of the major B-schools (participants must pay their own expenses, but they get a block rate room). Although the poker championship was initially designed to target Harrah’s internal MBA recruitment goals, I just received an email from Susan stating that they’re opening up their next event at Caesar’s Palace (January 2008) to other companies. (Email me for more details.) Their tagline: “Imagine spending a weekend with 1,300 MBAs from the top schools in the country.”
- Dennis Smith’s Wireless Blog. Google “wireless jobs” right now and see who’s on the top of the organic listings. It’s wirelessjobs.com, which is none other than Dennis Smith’s blog. Dennis, who is T-Mobile’s senior manager of recruiting, started the blog three years ago and spends about 30 minutes a day keeping it current. The real key is that people looking for jobs in wireless, whether they’re installers, engineers, or executives, will find Dennis first. This is a great way to build a proprietary database of resumes of top people. And, don’t forget each person in the database knows six to 10 other great people. Dennis’s blog is a great example of how to build a just-in-time pipeline of hot talent.
- L-3’s Creative Niche Advertising. Amber O’Brien is a staffing specialist for L-3 Communications Group in Sonoma, California. It’s pretty tough to get aerospace engineers and support personnel to relocate to wine country unless you use some creative sourcing techniques. Amber has taken outrageous and niche advertising to another extreme. One ad, posted on an optics engineering job site, had the title “O.G.S.K.S., aka Optic Geeks Seeking Kindred Spirits,” which resulted in five qualified candidates in a few hours. The rest of the ad was more compelling than the title, which is what really captured the attention of what Amber aptly calls “cryptonomicon characters.” Another one of her ads had the unusual title “Wine Country and Aerospace, together at last.” She posted this ad with compelling and unusual copy (e.g., “…loves finding new and creative ways to solve quixotic quandaries”) on a site designed for government contractors. Amber said she was “deluged” with responses. The key: compelling advertising on niche sites.
- Sodexho’s Virtual Job Fair. Anthony Scarpino, senior director of talent acquisition for Sodexho, and Amy Brooks, led the company’s first virtual job fair using Second Life. (Here’s an article with some of their caveats and specific advice.) Anthony and Amy both contend that putting a virtual career is not easy and the results aren’t instantaneous. Regardless, it’s worthwhile investigating this new Web 2.0 technology, particularly for targeting entry-level candidates.
- Jobs2Web’s Career Site Cloning. Doug Berg is a genius when it comes to making technology work better in the recruiting space. If you don’t know Doug, he’s the founder of HotGigs and Jobs2Web. I’m continually amazed at how Jobs2Web can free up a company’s website so it can be found. The Jobs2Web system clones every job, gives it a logical title, adds a bunch of keywords and meta tags, and then reverse engineers them so that people googling for jobs can easily find them. For results, consider that Merck’s Jobs2Web system is rapidly becoming its lowest cost and primary means to find top talent online.
- 3M’s Sponsoring Industry-Focused College Fraternity. John Lanning, 3M’s manager of sales recruiting, described the impact of the company’s long-term sponsorship of Pi Sigma Epsilon’s annual Pro-Am Sell-A-Thon. For background, here’s the purpose of the Sell-A-Thon directly from their website: To provide PSE collegiate members with the opportunity to experience the salesperson’s role in a simulated business-to-business sales environment, with coaching from a sales professional. Of course, 3M has first access to the best college grads who win the contest, and most of the salespeople John hires make their quota way ahead of schedule. In addition to sponsoring similar contests, you might want to search within your resume databases for “PSE members” as well as for “Sell-A-Thon,” “winner,” and “runner-up.”
Again, the key to success here is coupling the latest technology with consumer-branded marketing ideas. One thing is readily apparent when you attempt to do this: you can’t copy someone else’s marketing approaches and creative ideas and expect them to work just as well. So, being the early-bird and putting your own spin on everything is important.
Despite this caveat, trying a similar idea in a different market is a good way to start. To try out the consumer marketing idea, just write a compelling ad on a niche site and compare the results to a traditional, boring ad on the same site. You’ll probably get three to five times the response in both quality and quantity. This will be enough evidence to convince the naysayers. But don’t wait. Everyone will be doing this kind of crazy stuff in the next 12 months.