Predictions for the Future of Digital Talent Acquisition: Content (Part 1 of 3)

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 5.10.16 AMThere’s a Zen saying that you can never step into the same river twice. The same is true for technology. It changes every day, not just by adding new channels and platforms, but by suggesting new strategies, new tactics, new messaging, new touch points, and entirely new ways of thinking about our own jobs. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow as you are stepping into an entirely new river.

This is as true for talent acquisition professionals as it is anyone. All of your prospects and targets have become tech savvy in their pursuit of better positions, while you are just trying to keep your head above water.

As they say, you want to skate to where the puck will be. So the better you understand how technology is changing, the better you can plan for the future. Over the next three articles, I’ll be presenting predictions on what is changing and what you should be doing about it. Today, I focus on the power of content.

Content online has been growing exponentially since its inception, but I’ve seen an explosion in the last two years. This trend is expected to continue as the amount of content will double in the next two years. As brands realize that every company is now a media company and start to build content shops in house, talent acquisition has been furiously following suit, building content around the company and various jobs. But creating content is not the same as executing a content strategy. Here are trends I think will be shaping everyone’s strategy very soon.

People want content that has value specifically to them. This may or may not be the same as content that has value to the company or the HR director. For proof, take a look at your metrics: are people reading and acting on the content you produce? Or are they gravitating to content that helps them solve a problem?

At the same time, audiences will demand and expect content on their terms. This means that they won’t want to have to read your content on your website. They might want to read it in Paper (from Facebook), in Flipboard, on their phone, on their tablet, etc. Making your content as flexible as possible will not only enable people to read or watch it, but allow them to read and watch it in the manner and on the device they choose.

People are still less concerned with the attractiveness of the content as they are with its utility. We saw this a decade ago when Google and Amazon were considered two of the most trafficked and most used websites, despite having some of the least attractive designs. People care far less for your brand design standards than if the content is useful to them. Help your prospects with content that serves them and they will listen. Build content that helps them learn something, be it about you, the job, or even themselves, and they will become a fan.

Most of the content being created recently is “fast content.” Fast is a reference to the speed of its use, not in the speed of its creation. It’s like fast food. This is data surrounding the job, like location information, job descriptions, an illustrated hiring process, quick videos about what it’s like to work there, etc.

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But I suspect that the well is being quickly tapped dry of fast content. What’s left, and the way forward-thinking companies will be differentiating themselves, is via “slow content.” Slow content — long-form videos, longer technical articles, podcasts, digital magazines, thought-leadership white-papers and the like — will start to form the tent poles around which fast content and social media promotion will be best used. Slow content gives you, your content team, and your marketing team the best opportunity to really illustrate your employer value proposition in a way that encourages trust, confidence and enthusiasm. Rather than tell a prospect you are focused on innovation, a long video showing interviews with staff members about current projects goes much further in sparking a relationship. Remember, it must clearly serve and help the user, not just you.

All of this content is worthless if it isn’t distributed well or if you have recruiters who don’t know how (or when) to use it. A candidate at the beginning of the process, someone on the fence about even applying, will need one kind of content pushed to them as opposed to the candidate in negotiation of a final offer. Recruiters are your lieutenants, making dozens of spot decisions in service of your objectives. They need to know how to use the weapons you’re providing them. That includes content.

Brand investment in content will continue to grow. Talent-focused content budgets may start to be influenced or even fully absorbed into the marketing department. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Marketing teams have experience generating content that aligns and supports a brand position (though, some do it better than others). If nothing else, having the marketing team involved may give talent acquisition access to more content budget and resources than they might have had before.

But with more content coming from more places across more platforms, the value of the employer value proposition will increase dramatically. If everyone’s telling stories, how long before they all sound the same, like yet another crime show on CBS (“This one’s a police procedural about court stenographers who use logic and the law to right wrongs”)? You need to know and reflect your company’s unique employer value proposition in order to build content that resonates with your prospects.

In the next two parts, I’ll look at how talent acquisition will expect to use social media and mobile technology to drive engagement and applications.


2 Comments on “Predictions for the Future of Digital Talent Acquisition: Content (Part 1 of 3)

  1. James, thank you for a very good article. I’ve been really interested in the topic of content creation in talent acquisition for several years now.

    One thing I’ve found is that it is very important when starting a content campaign that is supposed to attract candidates with specialized skills to decide early on if this goal would be best served by focusing on new content creation or if content curation and targeted presentation is actually a better approach. This is especially true if you are focusing on what you refer to as “slow content” – that is, more detailed information that provides real value and stimulates interest in the organization associated with that content.

    Most companies, particularly in technology and engineering, are constantly creating content that can be mined, aggregated, curated, and presented across different platforms to engage and generate interest. This content might include presentations, peer reviewed papers, research summaries, abstracts, articles, etc. When put together in a compelling fashion, this information can really make a powerful impact. More importantly, it can make a powerful impact with precision by generating interest amongst the professionals with the exact specialized skills being sought.

    As an example, I was on a project with a large aerospace engineering company that had recently won a lot of work related to automatic target recognition and machine learning. As a result, they needed to quickly and significantly ramp up their bench strength in these areas. Employees of this company over the years had published and presented a huge amount of relevant material and we pulled it all together. An interesting aside is the fact that the company itself really had no convenient mechanism to amalgamate all this work but, because everything we were interested in was part of the public sphere, we were able to use online tools (scientific search engines, etc.) to get what we wanted. We then broke this information down according to the core area of interest (anomaly detection, clustering, etc.) and put together a plan to use it across different platforms (online forums, groups, etc.) as well as providing our curated “most relevant” content to specific individuals whom we were targeting. Another less involved example would be a website I helped put together that highlighted the important recent contributions a company had made in the area of global positioning systems. The site had links to articles, abstracts, and even some video of conference presentations. All we really did was build a nice user interface and get the info together and the site provided an easy point of reference for potential candidates and positioned (pun intended) the company as a thought leader in this area.

    The advantages of curating and representing existing content (as opposed to building a campaign from scratch) include much lower costs and the ability to provide highly targeted very useful content. My talent acquisition background is mainly in technology and engineering but I would imagine that a similar approach could yield good results in other areas as well.

    Doug Friedman

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