It All Looks the Same to Me: Why a Clear Marketing Message is Vital to Recruiting Success

Let me tell you a story. I spent the holiday weekend with a couple of good family friends. They have a daughter who has just graduated from college with a psychology/English degree. The daughter asked me to help her in her job search. As we spent hours surfing from job board to company and from placement office to company, it became very clear to me why she hadn’t found anything that excited her. Almost no company had a clear message about who they are, what they do or why they are different. Oh, we found all sorts of boilerplate. We found jargon about what the company does and trite job descriptions that left this young woman icy cold. Her comments to me were always, “What does this company really do?” or “What makes this company special?” or “Why do people want to work there?” Those are great questions. And questions no website I saw answered very well. She finally applied to a couple of companies that she had already known about through connections and friends. And watching her frustrations in applying for these positions was also an interesting market research experiment. It seems to me that anyone one of you could spare an hour or two and sit down with a potential candidate or new college graduate and watch them go through your website. You’d learn?oh, boy would you learn?although I’m not sure you would want all the feedback you are likely to get. So let’s make a couple of assumptions. First of all, I think it is safe to say that people are attracted to organizations that have something special about them. We all like to imagine the excitement and potential wealth we could amass if we worked for Cisco or the friendly and rich personal environment of Hewlett-Packard. These companies have created clear images, based we hope on reality. Other large companies are much less identified to people. This young woman, who is very interested in biotechnology and plans on doing graduate work in that area, was typical. She had heard of Bayer aspirin but really knew nothing else about this huge German pharmaceutical company. She was aware that Genetech was a biotechnology firm, but knew little more. Even so, she decided to visit both of their websites. What did she find? The Bayer site is typical. It describes the history, structure and technology in the usual corporate-speak. It uses pastel colors that speak of calm and that are absolutely not exciting. Its goal is to “tap the intelligence and motivation of our employees.” I’m not real sure what that means, but it sounds sort of sneaky. I don’t really want to be “tapped.” It actually sounds overwhelming. This young lady was quite apprehensive about its size and it “coolness.” Genentech’s website was much better. It actually evokes a warm and happy feeling, portraying on the opening page a young girl pulling her sister in a red wagon. This makes a statement about the company that is positive and real. The caption reads, “it’s patients like Shannon Collis who remain the true measure of our success. . .” On the careers page we find out it is one of the 100 Best Companies in America to work for, and we feel that is an encouraging and open environment. There are intern and co-op programs, college hire programs, and lots of other interesting things that draw one in. This young friend had her resume into them in a jiff. Image matters. That’s my whole message. If you don’t leave candidates with positive and exciting thoughts about your company, whether they come to your website or see you at an interview or making a speech, they will not be likely to apply for a job. Images are created by marketing efforts, and recruiters have to make marketing the company, the job and even the hiring manager a major part of their changing responsibilities. Here are a few ideas on how to begin crafting a recruiting image. Step One First of all, know what your organization is all about. If you don’t know, ask. Put together a group of seasoned and novice employees and get their thoughts on what make the company special to them. Ask the seasoned employees why they have stayed. Bring those unspoken principles that guide the daily activities of the firm into the forefront and decide how to portray them. Step Two Develop a marketing strategy. This should include a series of activities, events, publications, and statements over a period of time that begin to define and articulate the special nature of your organization. It has to answer several questions: why are we in business? What do we give our customers? What do employees like about this company and why do they come to work everyday? If you can get honest answers to these, you will have the content and foundation for the actual media pieces. Be sure that this strategy includes the use of multimedia?the newspapers, the magazine, the web, the billboard, and even the radio and television. Step Three Communicate this image to employees as well as to candidates. Nothing speaks louder to a candidate than to find an employee who is clueless about the marketing messages being sent. The marketing messages have to be more than hype and wishful thinking. If they are not well grounded in the reality of the company, they will fail to impress. Honest messages that are reflected in the employees will make a huge impression and create almost instant candidate rapport and a feeling of inclusion. Conclusion This young woman, like thousands of other potential employees, learned mostly about the companies she applied to from the web and from her friends. These are where most images are made today. How is your website? What do the employees and their friends say about your company? When you answer these, you will know what to do. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


1 Comment on “It All Looks the Same to Me: Why a Clear Marketing Message is Vital to Recruiting Success

  1. Kevin?s article showed excellent examples of ?how to? and ?how not to? to use your website. As an organisation we focus on providing effective AND innovative solutions to Organisations to assist their recruitment process online. Kevin noted one of the predominant problems that we find many organisations look to overcome and that is one of ?tone of voice? of their site and its subsequent ability to make or break the opinion of the potential candidate.

    In a recent study in the UK it was found that in the future more than 40% of job seekers would use an employers website as their first port of call. Getting the potential candidate to your site is half the battle won, however keeping them interested, maintaining brand values and building a relationship is an essential part of sourcing the right candidates.

    I recently joined Barkers as Online Marketing Executive with a brief to deliver and build upon the strategies our teams put together. The biggest issue that I have looked to overcome with my role is the fact that although HR managers appreciate the understanding that they need to attract candidates and even build relationships, they have no real understanding of how effective an Online Marketing plan can be when used within their recruiting process.

    As a simple rule of thumb all recruitment sites should look to achieve to following goals with their message.

    – Increase visibility of the organisation on the web
    – Raise awareness of organisation
    – Drive targeted traffic to the site
    – Reinforce perception
    – Affirm affinity for brand and organisation (especially important within the graduate market
    – Keep users on the site for longer (or, implementing an element of stickiness)
    – Convert browsers to applicants, and finally
    – Increase number of quality candidates

    Marketing online can achieve these goals through any number of innovative methods and the steps outlined by Kevin are an excellent foundation to a true set of common-sense strategies that will assist in building a successful campaign. However the best advice I would give to any HR person would be to follow these steps, get a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve and then ask an expert!

    Once again I want to thank Kevin for raising this issue as one that is so critical but so often can be overlooked

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