Marketing 101 for Recruiters

This is an article about how to find more top candidates. It might not seem like it until the end, though. To start, conduct a Google search using these terms: Internet marketing (basics OR 101) class You’ll find the this link in the top five listings: Online Class – Internet Marketing 101 – eLearning Certification. You might want to click on the link to see the whole course agenda. Just reading the agenda will make you a better recruiter. Here’s the agenda topic that stood out for me:

Secrets of Winning Traffic through Search Engines ó Top Search Engines; How They Work; Page Rankings Explained; Keywords; AdWords; Optimization; Submitting your site; Pay-Per-Clicks; Link Popularity; and more.

There’s a lesson here that you can learn and apply without ever having to take the course: people look for stuff like online courses on the Internet using keywords ó they even look for jobs! It seems so obvious now, but few recruiters take full advantage of this common technique. A company called Universal Class knows that people are looking for marketing classes online, and made sure that a class taught by Phil Autelitano, Jr. was available every day for them to take. More important, it showed up in the top five listings on Google. Now consider this: How many candidates looking for your jobs can find them in the top five listings? Are you aware that your candidates might use Google to look for your jobs? Or, they might be reading,,, or a host of other sites unrelated to job hunting, and decide to click on the “Find Jobs” link, which is now more and more predominantly displayed on these major non-job board sites? And these are not active candidates! That’s right. The people who use these non-job board sites that are linked to job boards to find jobs are not active candidates; they’re semi-active candidates. A few years ago I wrote an article called The Sourcing Sweet Spot. It described the demographics and the motivating reasons why top-performing people look for jobs. Here’s the quick take: Semi-active candidates are those currently employed people who want another job, but don’t have too much time to look. This group is filled with people who tend to look for jobs every now and then in the hope that something better will come along. These people are currently employed, but feel unappreciated, overworked, or underpaid. They actively search for something different whenever job demands become overwhelming or whenever they get somewhat frustrated. For a few hours, they then become active candidates, but using a different approach than the active candidates. There are many great people in this group, but as a rule they won’t spend too much time applying for a job unless it’s immediately obvious that the new job opportunity is significantly better than the one they now have. This group is huge! It probably represents 30% to 40% of the labor pool, although at any one time only a small percent may be looking. This is the sourcing “sweet spot.” If you design your sourcing processes correctly, this is where you can find the best candidates at the lowest cost in the shortest period of time. The key to finding more semi-active candidates is a basic understanding of marketing. Semi-active candidates are people on the margin. They don’t always look, but they do look now and then. Sourcing programs need to be designed to meet the needs of these casual lookers. It’s important to cater to this group, since on a percentage basis strong performers are over-represented. Everyone gets frustrated on the job now and then, even recruiters. And a good portion of these people will look for new jobs if it’s easy enough to do. So make it easy for them. Here are six things you can do now to find more top people by making some simple changes to your web-based sourcing programs. As you read these marketing ideas, benchmark your own company’s current sourcing processes against them, rating yours on a 1-5 scale. (A 3-5 means you’re good at it and doing it to some degree with some consistently, and a 1-2 means you’re not doing it, or not doing it too regularly.) If you don’t score at least a 15, you’re letting good people get away without a fight.

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  1. Reverse engineer your search process. Determine what keywords top people (ask them!) use to find your jobs. With these words in hand, go to all of the major boards and search for jobs using them. Which jobs and companies show up? If yours don’t, read the ads that do and figure out what they’ve done differently. Then do what they do until your jobs come up. Then go to all of the sites the best people might use every day and see if they have any direct links to job boards. Then put your ads on these job boards.
  2. Make the job titles compelling. Most job titles are boring. When I put the keywords “Flash developer” into one job search engine at a major news site, mostly uninspiring jobs showed up. Then I came to this group of five jobs. Which ad would you most likely read if you were a Flash developer?
    • HTML/DHTM/XML/Flash Interface Developer
    • A Mac-Daddy eMarketing Guru!
    • Web Developer
    • Flash Programmer
    • Senior Flash Develop. Actionscript.

    Rank yourself high if your ads are in the “Mac-Daddy” groove, and low if they’re more traditional.

  3. Use compelling copy. Describe opportunities, don’t list requirements. Once people click on your ad to read the job description, make sure they read it. Most ad copy is boring. The ads are written to exclude unqualified people, not attract the best semi-active candidates, who only spend 10 to 15 seconds reading the first few sentences of your ad to determine if they’ll apply. Here’s the copy for the “Mac-Daddy” ad above. It has staying power. Do your ads?

    Are you an Internet marketing hotshot? Have you bridged the gap between web developer techie and ad agency whiz kid? Do you enjoy the challenge of designing an Internet-based marketing program, creating the technical structure and graphics, and developing the content as well? Then bring your “bad self” to the party and let’s get started!”

  4. Make it easy to apply. Don’t put people through hoops to apply. Change your definition of an applicant if you have to. Allow candidates to upload their resumes directly into a self-generating application form. This is called resume parsing. (Check out,, and if you don’t already have this capability. Most candidate tracking systems use one of these or something similar.) How long does it take for your candidates to apply for your jobs? If it takes more than five to ten minutes, you’re losing good people unnecessarily. Give yourself a 4 or 5 if you’re within this standard and a 1 or 2 if you make people take too many tests and pass too many unnecessary obstacles just to get into the game.
  5. Call the best people the next day. Make sure your resume search engine in your tracking system can separate the good resumes from the bad. If the best people are not accurately put at the top of the list, you either don’t know how to use your search engine properly or it’s not a good enough search engine. Regardless, you need to call these people the next day. These people are only on the market for a very short time. For one reason, they’re very good, and someone else will find them more quickly then you. For another, they’re semi-active and only look when job circumstances are a little rough. So they often take themselves out of the market as quickly as they got into it. You need good technology and good recruiters to handle the speed issue.
  6. Use metrics to track opt-in/opt-out ratios. Marketing is all about testing and tracking. Running ads on the Internet is inexpensive. So try out lots of these ideas and see which works best. You’ll need to track page views, click rates, and opt-in/opt-out rates to see what works and where you’re losing candidates. Your Internet marketing department can help you here. I’ve used a product called Webtrends with great results. Here’s what the company has to say to about this important topic: “Complete web analytics isn’t about more reports. It’s about increasing conversion rates, optimizing marketing campaigns and improving web site ROI.” Your company uses something similar to track web page results. The recruiting department should too. Rank yourself a 4 or 5 if you’ve got web-based marketing analytics down pat, a 2 or 3 if you’re looking at these numbers sometimes, and a 0 or 1 if you haven’t taken this important step yet.

Everyone complains that they’re not seeing enough top candidates. To start solving the problem, consider the problem first from a purely marketing perspective ó “How can we drive more top talent traffic to our job ads?” Don’t worry about legal or compliance issues or even bad taste. Be creative. Consider everything. The six topics above are a good place to start, but don’t end there. Map every step of your hiring process and see where the marketing begins to fall apart. Consider hiring managers, receptionists, scheduling interviews, and anything that might be a detriment to top people finding your open jobs, getting into the system, and getting hired. Then prioritize these things with the big stuff on the top of the list. Now start implementing these changes and fight the corporate police and legal battles to make it happen. Take a marketing 101 course if you need to. Do whatever it takes to bring in more top talent. Just don’t make any more excuses.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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