The 4 Ps of Recruiting

From the time I had my entree to recruiting many moons ago, I’ve been convinced recruiting shares many of the same attributes of the sales and supply-chain functions, with a little process-excellence and creativity on the part of recruiters and hiring managers thrown in to keep things interesting.

You’ve read many articles on ERE about how recruitment encompasses elements of both sales and supply chains, so no need to re-hash them here.

While I still draw parallels between recruiting and these functions, I’ve recently changed my tune a bit, inspired by a conversation with the president of one of our medical-device companies. He was sharing his excitement about how one of the company’s newest products was poised for aggressive growth, and proceeded to highlight some of the elements of the marketing plan that he believed would propel the product to capture the lion’s share of its target market.

As I listened, I was taken back in time and realized he was sharing a real-life version of the “4 Ps of Marketing” I learned about in graduate school (but never personally used). These are Product, Promotion, Price, and Place.

Essentially, the 4 Ps of marketing represent another repertoire of tactics, tips, and tricks to use in recruiting. Here are some ideas on how to directly apply these concepts to recruiting:

  • Product. In the world of marketing, a product is what a company sells to make a profit. In the world of recruiting, the product arguably is the opportunity you are selling to your target audience, or candidates. Landing the right candidates will hopefully translate to profits for your organization. Think about the product as not only the job to be filled, but as a “career bundle” entailing the organization and all the reasons why someone should want to work for it; the actual job opening; the career progression the job can lead to; and the engaging experience being part of the organization can provide. As you think about your product, consider that marketing often bases its decisions on product development and features/benefits to highlight on the findings of market research. This can be easily adapted to recruiting. Consider conducting research on what features and benefits you should highlight in marketing your product. A great place to start might be with your own employees; it could be as simple as asking them why they came to your organization and why they stay.
  • Price. Marketing people spend a lot of time and effort on pricing products right. So should you. How you “price” your opportunities (i.e., a compensation package) could determine which of your target-market segments you will most likely attract. Many candidate surveys claim that compensation is not the primary driver of a candidate considering an opportunity. That may be so, but I can tell you from nearly every candidate I speak with and what my recruiters share with me, it’s high on the list and should not be ignored. Make sure your compensation packages are competitive and creative. Communicate the total value of what you’re offering, including base salary, bonus, perks, and benefits. It’s no different than marketing, as consumers consider the value of what they are getting for the price. Your candidates are doing the exact same thing as they consider your opportunities and offers.
  • Place. How a product or service will be made available for purchase by the customer is the focus of this P. For recruiting, place represents where you will make your product (opportunity) available in the talent market. Will it be nationally, regionally, or locally? General populations or targeted niches? Another dimension of place is where your product is made available, such as company career websites, job boards, print advertisements, associations, and networks. Think about your channels carefully and be selective, since the “kitchen sink” approach is usually not economically feasible, cost effective, or targeted enough for a good portion of opportunities.
  • Promotion. This refers to the techniques for communicating information about products to consumers, and includes advertising, selling, sales, and special promotions, and public relations. How will you promote your opportunities and organization? Do you currently have an employment brand? Is it aggressively promoted? If you answered yes to these questions, assess the effectiveness of the efforts by determining how you are viewed in the talent marketplace. How do your own employees see the organization? What do candidates tell you? You need to ask these questions to determine whether the messages you’re conveying through your promotion are the messages that are actually getting through and yielding the desired response (i.e., candidates are interested in and applying for your opportunities).

In addition to these four Ps, one other to consider is position, which focuses on how one differentiates itself from the competition. As outlined in the classic business text Competitive Strategy, Michael Porter describes three potential generic strategies: cost leadership (leading on the basis of cost, such as a Wal-Mart), differentiation (based on unique features and benefits, like a Wegmans), and focus (targeted to a certain group, such as Lexus targeting the luxury car buyer).

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Translate these strategies to your product. Cost leadership can be translated to an organization’s position in terms of total value of the opportunities (i.e., be a market leader, lagger, or just keep pace when it comes to salary and benefits packages).

Differentiation focuses on communicating an organization’s features and benefits (such as how Southwest Airlines focuses on being a “fun” place to work). Focus targets specific types of candidates, similar to how commercial airlines recruit pilots from the military.

Consider putting some, or all, of these marketing approaches to work for your organization to stay fresh in your approaches to talent acquisition. These classic approaches applied in new and creative ways can help keep you ahead of your competitors and, of course, make the all-important sale. In our world of recruiting, this means closing the deal by landing the best candidates.

Finally, I have not yet figured out how I can adapt some of the basic approaches in research and development (i.e., the Scientific Method) to recruiting, so if anyone has any ideas, please share with the rest of us. We’ll then have a complete parallel between the recruiting and the major line functions of the business world.

Lisa Calicchio, SPHR, is Director of Recruiting -- Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, the internal talent acquisition organization of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. In this role, Lisa manages the development and delivery of talent acquisition strategies and execution for Johnson & Johnson?s U.S. pharmaceuticals and biotechnology operating companies. In addition to managing this segment of the business and a significant client base, Lisa focuses on enhancing JJR's consulting capabilities through specialty teams for business analytics, training, and recruitment marketing. Her background includes extensive experience as an HR generalist and recruiting, though she started her professional career "on the line" and held several line positions across key functional areas before moving from sales and marketing into HR.


7 Comments on “The 4 Ps of Recruiting

  1. I enjoyed the article a great deal. But I think there is another ‘P’

    Persistance–If we don’t have that, then we have no clients. Our candidates (our Product) either we don’t contact, or they get stall because the client takes forever to decide to interview.

    With out the fifth P the others don’t mean much.


  2. Lisa,

    Many points are accurate, BUT a few things that need to be added. In the marketing world, a world from which I have years of experience, the 4 ‘P”s are being questioned and are considered outdated to a certain degree. What ‘marketing’ is really is candidate attraction – which channels you use to source, the compensation, the job description (how it is presented), the ‘differentiating’ factors all create ‘stickiness’ and a pull of a certain type of candidate. In B-to-B marketing we term it the advertising, branding, telemarketing which is an umbrella for awareness and identification of ‘immediate buy’ lead generation.

    What I advocate and others are moving toward is a research-based method. In the recruiting world Shally Steckerl’s model for sourcing, candidate development, and recruiting is more and more being accepted in traditional B-to-B marketing where more targeted ‘sourcing’ of opportunities is uncovered. That model (versus the 4 P’s) is proving to be more effective at finding higher profit opportunities, better fit jobs between the company and the client. Hence, in recruiting – Shally’s model is similiar and I am sure has similiar ‘best fit’ results.

    From what I understand, many staffing agencies – at least, do use the traditional concepts of marketing very well. Some even have ‘sales support functions’ where people work with recruiters to enhance their productivity. A job fair is a tradeshow, job advertising is advertising, calling prospective candidates – telemarketing – how they do it, where they do it, the job description – yes, that is close to the 4 P’s.

    Having run Marketing/Biz Dev functions, Market Research, and being responsible for marketing/biz dev for recruiting support firms – I see NO difference between recruiting and marketing/biz dev as a function. Marketing/Biz dev is strategic fit between companies (in B-to-B), where recruiting is strategic fit between people and companies – both contribute to the growth and success of a firm in my opinion.

    Side comment: My colleague and I were just discussing the job search theory of business development, we were relating the function of ‘opportunity identification to close’ as a function analagous to that of a job search. That is another topic all together.

    My two cents.

  3. Lisa:

    I almost jumped from my chair. Hallelujah!! Thank you for connecting the dots between HR and Marketing.

    Having several decades of experience in the Marketing trenches, I definitely see many similarities between marketing and HR. When I talk to HR Directors about how they can improve their communications or use tools to help them predict employee success, they tend to get a glazed look in their eyes.

    Regardless of the terms used to describe the marketing process? all of the techniques (the operative word is ALL) apply to the process of attracting, hiring and retaining good employees. It is no different than the process of attracting, servicing/selling and retaining good customers. In fact, as I think of it, if some companies treated their customers as they do their employees, they?d be belly-up.

    Your suggestions concerning packaging, pricing, positioning and differentiation, are great and I would expand these marketing approaches beyond the limited scope of recruiting and ?landing the best candidates?. A strong marketing head-set can serve when companies consider how to select, promote, retain and develop good personnel. There are many parallels to add to your list and here are a few more.

    The Scientific Method
    Your reference to ?the Scientific Method? was unclear to me, but if you?re asking where research comes into play, testing and scientific tools should come into play throughout the process just as it does in successful marketing. It certainly has a role in the screening and assessment tools that are available. These tools utilize sophisticated analyses such as factoring and regression techniques to identify the behaviors and talents that are critical to success for a particular job. These are the same tools used to identify product features, pricing levels, etc. in the marketing world.

    Knowing one?s audience
    Understanding the intricacies and mind-sets of one?s audience is critical to reaching them. This is definitely true for marketing in researching (the Science) audiences for new product development, image, branding, awareness, wants and needs. It should be true for HR and Management as well. Companies should want to know which represents not only the ?top? personnel? to hire, but they should also want to know which of their current staff have the potential to be top performers.

    Developing Relationships
    The buzz these days in Marketing is about developing relationships with customers. How about management developing two-way dialogues with their employees? Customers often have perceptions of a company or a product that are not based on fact. Often the work of marketers is to identify those gaps and create communications that attempts to fill-in the perceptual gaps. The same happens in the workplace between management and employees. Research audits can identify departments, functions were workers and/or management is out of sync with the rest of the organization as a very similar tool identifies when customers perceptions of a company are not in sync with a particular company or product.

    The net result should be something more than a once a year performance review and monthly newsletters. The benefits of real, on-going dialogue can produce some wonderful results and help to strengthen the ties between management and employees? just as it does between manufacturer and customer.

    Make it easy for them to make the purchase decision.
    A company may have designed and created a great product, but without the right systems to not only deliver but to also service and support that product, customers will not respond. The same is true of employees. You may have a ?great career bundle? to entice them to sign on the bottom line, but without good management, support systems to achieve success, career development system, etc., employees will become disenchanted and will leave – costing the company even more money in turnover and replacement.

    Effective Communications
    Boy, is this an area for major improvement! Communications should be enticing, loaded with impact, stimulate interest and stir action on the part of the readers. Typically, Help Wanted ads fall a rung behind the Obituaries in stimulating interest. If HR wants to attract qualified candidates, try upgrading the quality of the communications.

    Again, Lisa, thank you for making the connection and seeing the great possibilities when these two disciplines are working hand-in-hand.

    Sheila Hibbard

  4. Lisa, nice job of giving us some of the verbiage to talk with our business partners in a language they will understand. Some of the comments say there is a better way or a more up-to-date way to say this but I think that you have Packaged this Precisely! Ron Katz

  5. Hi Lisa,

    It is indeed a very thoughtful and thought provoking article.I was searching something on branding our organsiation In India as we are new and came across your article .Thanks for helping me understand the similarity between Marketing and Recrutiment .The 4 P’s are helping me ocnnect dots ….The article has given me lot of questions to ask my employees and to position ourselves .Lisa do let me know incase you have written more articles .I am sure it would add to my knowledge.


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