Target, Focus, Bull’s-Eye!

Finding a focus is the mantra for corporations. Most organizations expend time and energy to identify and focus on a core product or service and not dilute their efforts with other activities. Marketers narrow their messages to a specific audience and promote products via media aimed at that audience. One of the inherent benefits of the Internet is that it can deliver a message cheaply to as few as just one person. We live in an age of personalized messaging and customized products.

We in the recruiting profession need to do the same. Unfortunately, the recruiting strategies I see are typically broad and try to encompass all positions and openings the organization has. The result of this broad recruiting practice is that no one at all is targeted. Messages are generic. Advertisements attract anyone and everyone. And, the result is that we are swamped with countless unqualified applicants, hundreds of useless resumes, and many unhappy candidates.

A well-designed recruiting process will start with a clear understanding of corporate strategy and be aligned with it. For example, if your corporate strategy is to build a software product, then the focus has to be on programmers or whatever group of people will develop that product. If you look at sports teams, you will see a carefully aligned recruiting strategy. When a sports manager speaks of talent, he is not talking about every player. He is talking specifically about those individuals on the team who make the points, block the other team, or whom the fans and players identify as essential for success. Even though they may be hiring trainers, medical staff, administrators, and so forth, all recruiting messaging and communications are directly aimed at the specific players who contribute to the team’s immediate success.

Many recruiting managers feel that creating a focused message equals a lack of fairness or even shows favoritism. While it may feel unfair to rank open positions as more or less valuable, this is the reality of the market. Some jobs pay more and some contribute more, and there ought to be a relationship between the two. Usually there is, but salary alone is not the best guide. I suggest that you rigorously examine every position in your company and determine which the key ones are and which are not so important. The evaluation criteria should be how much the position contributes to the product or service, how much to the profitability of the firm, and how much it has a direct connection to customers. People with little or no direct contribution are, by definition, placed in a lower level than those that do.

Here are the four steps to follow to align your recruiting with your corporate direction and needs:

Know Who You Need To Target

An obvious but not easy first step is to make absolutely sure that you know what the corporate direction is and which people in your firm contribute the most to its success. Spend time with the line managers, hiring managers, and executive staff, and define the one or two professions that are vital. Perhaps you will come up with a list of several positions, but there will probably be commonalities that you can identify and use in your sourcing and messaging. If there are distinct differences, you will need a sourcing and marketing strategy for each that is unique. What is most critical, though, is to be certain of who you need to go after and then identify the messages that will appeal to them.

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Figure Out Your Message

Ask what motivates this group of people. What makes them do the work they do, and what are they seeking in an opportunity? You may have to identify and interview the people in these roles who already work for your organization to figure this out. And, it may take several experiments to find messages that really do attract the right people. What I can assure you is that once you have done this, you will find that you are attracting more people of a higher quality than you were before.

Develop a Targeted Strategy to Source and Attract Them

Find out where the kinds of people you are looking for work or play, and then go after them.

  • Send targeted emails to your core potential candidates, providing them with reasons to think about working for your firm. Answer the question, “Why should I bother to look at your website or call you? What is in it for me?”
  • Create a social network or a LinkedIn group that is aimed directly at the people you are looking for.
  • Rewrite your career website and aim its message to the most important group of candidates. I think that the most successful career sites are those designed for college graduates. They tend to be focused and to list benefits for those graduates. The imaging and language have a tone and style that appeal to graduates. But, when I see career sites for experienced hires, everything becomes muddled. I keep asking, “Who was this written for? Who are they really trying to hire?”
  • Make phone calls to identified potential candidates, but have a scripted message containing the benefits of your organization and reasons to work there that are going to resonate well.
  • Go where they are. If these types of people are interested in sports, sponsor sports events. If they attend professional conferences, go to those conferences and pick up business cards and, later on, email them with targeted, promotional material.

Targeted marketing is common in every area of a corporation except recruiting. The lessons learned from your own corporate sales and marketing department can be applied to your recruiting efforts. And, it is a good idea to talk to them and even get them involved in redoing your careers site, interview guides, telephone scripts, and any other material you use for convincing candidates to come work with you.

Targeted strategies executed with focus will give you the candidates who are easy to place and who hit the bull’s-eye for your organization.

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 ERE.net, 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 kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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2 Comments on “Target, Focus, Bull’s-Eye!

  1. Kevin, I see you were motivated by my response in regards to targeted marketing and value proposition mgmt the other day (in response to John Sullivan’s article).

    You’re on the right track, but I’d recommend spending more time on your principle, ‘Know Who You Need To Target’.

    Your article speaks to the ‘How’, but not the ‘Who’ – in my eyes, this represents the true conduit to becoming a strategic partner.

  2. Kevin,

    Your article is right on target, but you MUST be joking when you say corporate marketing does that. I beg to differ – I actually think the recruiting area is light years ahead of the sales/marketing function in promoting research, targeting, and messaging and the proper use of value proposition.

    Lets broaden your statement to say a well defined and integrated sales/marketing process will achieve those results as well.

    Josh is right about the ‘Who’ – understanding who your target is and applying the right research can then drive the messaging and targeting approach. The research piece is something that Shally and Maureen advocate on a daily basis – more than just a list of names or profile, consider background and understanding of the candidate.

    If sales/marketing understood the value of dedicated ‘research’, linked processes, and targeting the way it is discussed in recruiting – I think things would be run much better. Please give some major credit to your own industry!

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