The Next Frontier in Talent Acquisition Is Marketing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.27.13 AMIn the next two to five years the top employers of choice will be the organizations that consistently communicate an authentic employer brand story and value proposition that wins the attention of highly specialized talent and compels them to follow, engage, and ultimately join (and stay) on their teams.

To tell the right story and deliver on their employer brand promise, chief human resources officers and talent acquisition leaders must evolve their recruitment marketing strategy with a tighter focus on building longer-term relationships with the right candidates. To do this, talent acquisition leaders will need strong marketing competencies within the talent acquisition function, a measurable process, and purpose-built technology. In this piece, I focus on the urgency to strengthen marketing competencies within the talent acquisition function and offer my tips for how to get started.

Analyst Josh Bersin nailed it in his 2014 trends piece: “The war for talent is over. The talent won.”

Not only is that brilliantly succinct, it’s ridiculously accurate. As global economies continue improving, my discussions with talent acquisition leaders increasingly include what I call “the consumerization of the candidate experience.”

Naturally, the increased demand for specific skills gives the most coveted talent exponentially more choices when evaluating potential employers. Add unfettered access to all types of information about employer brands, and we can’t be surprised by the logical result: talent is shopping for their next employer like they shop for consumer goods. Considering that 92 percent of people believe friends and family over marketing hype for consumer brands, it’s wise for talent acquisition leaders to assume the same for marketing the employer brand. Just like consumers trust reviews more than ads, 48 percent of job seekers say reviews posted on Glassdoor in the last six months have the most impact on their perception of the employer brand.

Candidates Are in Control – – but You Already Know This

In light of this reality, the role of the recruiter has evolved dramatically. Acting more like talent advisors, recruiting is less about the one-and-done permanency of the past and more about brokering the right career opportunities at precisely the right moment when qualified candidates are ready for their next move. As recruiters position themselves to successfully sync experience-hungry talent with opportunity, they will need to rely on maintaining longer relationships nurtured over many more touch-points before a candidate is ready to apply.

This is where talent acquisition leaders have an incredible opportunity: to dramatically improve the workforce and overall business performance by proactively attracting and nurturing relationships with qualified talent well before opportunities are available. Ultimately, talent acquisition teams must execute a modern recruitment marketing strategy that embraces the consumerization of the candidate experience and systematically nurtures talent through the marketing funnel starting with word-of-mouth brand awareness and ultimately ending in the consideration to apply.

Without a doubt, the opportunity to proactively meet the talent needs of the business resonates with the leaders I speak with, but there is another constant theme in our conversations — the HUGE skills gap they’re wrestling with. While most organizations have built talent acquisition functions that are efficient at screening and selecting, they remain weak in the type of targeted attraction and long-term relationship nurturing that is paramount to making them competitive from this point forward.

Translation: talent acquisition teams lack marketing chops.

To bridge the internal skills gap, most talent acquisition leaders have relied on outsourcing marketing functions, or relied on other parts of the business to execute the “marketing part” of their recruitment strategies. (Understandable given how fast technology and the talent landscape continue to change.) That said, modern recruiting requires talent acquisition teams to be as data-driven and brand-led as marketing from here on out.

In order to create branded campaigns and effectively nurture longer-term relationships with the right talent, new skills need to enter the recruiting and talent acquisition department. Skills related to branding, messaging, demand generation, content marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing, and social media come to mind. Unfortunately, until talent acquisition leaders build marketing competency and data analysis within their teams, the process (and results) will remain disjointed with little chance to proactively meet the company’s talent needs and push them to the forefront of modern recruitment marketing.

Newsflash: there is no time to wait.

There is an overwhelming sense amongst CHROs and talent acquisition leaders that it’s time to do things differently. It was palpable at last year’s HR Technology Conference — but even beyond that, the financial actions taken by venture capitalists in 2014 validate the urgency. Investors have put in over $400 million to address one of the largest pain points for any company — hiring. Applicant tracking systems are being systematically complemented with CRM systems and recruitment marketing technologies that overcome the transactional nature of the ATS with more engaging platforms that support a modern way to recruit talent.

Building Marketing Competency in Talent Acquisition

Talent acquisition leaders should be thinking about what can be done at the business level to bring marketing competency and data analysis into the talent acquisition function. Here’s my advice on where to start:

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Embrace the consumerization of the candidate experience. Define a modern recruitment marketing strategy that honors how candidates search, find, and engage with the employment brand. As a consumer, think about what drives your own engagement with a brand. I’m betting it includes valuable content, delivered whenever, wherever you want it. Mobile isn’t a channel, it’s a lifestyle. Think about your strategy with a “mobile first” mentality, one that embraces how we consume content and do research in today’s information age. (Altimeter just published some fascinating insights on this here.) As consumers, we search, find, and engage with brands via multiple screens. It’s no different with candidates.

Lay a foundation for execution. To execute on your defined strategy you’ll need to commit to strengthening six core competencies within your talent acquisition team:

  • Brand Building — Communicating your employer brand and value proposition
  • Content Strategy — Creating and curating compelling content and messaging (job descriptions, landing pages, videos, blogs, career sites, etc.)
  • Digital Marketing — Using the full scope of channel mix (job boards, SEM, banner ads, pay per click, etc.)
  • Demand Generation and Nurturing — Segmenting candidate audiences, nurturing campaigns, lead scoring, and ultimately converting at each point throughout the candidate experience journey
  • Social Media  Sharing of content, engaging with candidates, transparency
  • Data Analysis — Capturing trustworthy data, producing the right reports and analytics, and identifying key trends to improve overall results and plan for the future

Take inventory. Maintain talent acquisition domain expertise in terms of evaluation, assessment, and selection — but those strengths are table stakes at this point. To strengthen the competencies listed above, you’ll need to take a realistic assessment of your team’s skills, and identify the skills you’ll need to further develop. While there are subtle differences between traditional marketing and recruitment marketing, the overall process is analogous. So as you advance your strategy, shift your focus on finding talent with creative and analytical marketing expertise like an employer brand manager, a content strategist, or a social media manager. (Side note: before you roll your eyes and tell me you don’t have budget, consider that embracing recruitment marketing as a discipline that complements traditional recruiting will bring greater overall efficiency and effectiveness to the talent acquisition function without needing to add more headcount.)

Gain control of the technology from end to end. I’m a big fan of life-hacking — I love efficiency –but talent acquisition teams shouldn’t waste time hacking marketing automation and CRM tools like Marketo and Salesforce. I’ve witnessed organizations struggling along this route; it slows them down, adds unnecessary complexity, and never improves results. Bottom line: talent acquisition teams need technology built for talent acquisition that supports all recruitment marketing channels, integrates with existing systems such as the ATS, and delivers data-driven insight into the full talent acquisition strategy.

Position yourself as a proactive resource. Add predictability to the talent supply/demand chain. More than any other leadership role, talent acquisition leaders are in a position to improve the quality of the workforce and overall performance of the business. The only competitive differentiator most organizations have is talent (not only the talent they hire, but the talent they keep).

As the business strategy changes, so does the required talent. As talent acquisition leaders and CHROs, you work with the business units to understand the talent they have and the talent needed to meet their goals. If you are proactively nurturing candidate relationships and empowering recruiters to tap into a receptive bench of good cultural fits, you’re in tight control of the supply as the talent demands change. CEOs across the board are focused on top talent. The voice of talent acquisition has the potential to evolve from reactive and tactical, to proactive and strategic.

Get to know your chief marketing officer. They feel your pain. Get really good at sharing. Content will remain critical in your efforts to create awareness and preference for your employer brand. Just like consumers, candidates take unique journeys toward the employer brand. Along the way, they look for relevant, consumable content that provides value. Take a cue from the CMO and storyboard the unique journeys candidates take as they gravitate towards your brand. As part of that process, map relevant content to their journey — and this is key — find a way to share and repurpose content with marketing.

To help bridge talent acquisition and marketing, talent acquisition teams should look to recruitment marketing technology to make the process of sharing content between the groups seamless, approval-driven and automated. Though you won’t find 100 percent of the content that marketing creates relevant to the candidate experience, a lot of it can be edited to support your needs (enter your content strategist). For example, case studies or brand mission videos make great sense. On top of customer-generated content, you’ll also see employee-generated content heating up in 2015 and much of that fits naturally into the story you’re trying to tell.

The Talent Acquisition Opportunity 

I’m optimistic for talent acquisition leaders and your opportunity to LEAD. The business world is hyper-aware of the importance of a talented, engaged workforce. Simultaneously, leaders are viscerally in touch with how fluid the workforce actually is. By strengthening the marketing competency of the talent acquisition function and embracing the consumerization of the candidate experience — viewing it as opportunity instead of vulnerability — you truly have the power to have an unparalleled impact on the business.

Michael Hennessy is the founder and CEO of SmashFly Technologies, a leading recruitment marketing platform, and has been an industry innovator in the HR recruiting space for the past 15 years, previously working as chief architect for BrassRing. As an expert in recruitment marketing, he helps hundreds of companies leverage marketing best practices and technology to build out data-driven recruiting processes and strategies that consistently meet talent demands.


35 Comments on “The Next Frontier in Talent Acquisition Is Marketing

  1. This article is spot on. Recruiters and companies just don’t realize that they need to market in order to attract the best candidates. We help companies to create more compelling recruitment content:, so we’re big proponents of what you’re speaking on. In fact, this article just prompted me to contact Smashfly to discuss synergies where we may be able to help each other. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment Ken, we’re obviously big believers in how content in recruitment can influence and improve performance of recruiting strategies.

  2. Well stated, Michael – a lot of great insights in here! Fundamentally, brand is relational, which means the conversion process will, of necessity, have a longer tail, but my guess is that retention rates will improve exponentially when organizations lay the proper groundwork up front. It’s deferring immediate “wins” in the short-term to create irresistible influence in the long-term.

    This may require a deeper, more holistic consideration of the recruiting function — (e.g., incentives for performance) — which will be a more difficult sell. It would seem a meaningful shift would be toward retention and productivity….

    1. Thanks Tony! Totally agree here. A successful recruiting strategy needs to be focused on the current demands for talent (today’s open jobs) and the anticipated demands for talent (key skills that each business unit will need.) And this type of strategy requires more than just advertising but nurturing and engagement elements as well.

  3. Ultimately, this discussion should come full circle to “Product” in terms of the Marketing paradigm. The employer can brand/market the organization extensively and with short-term gains but if there is a disconnect between brand and reality the candidate consumers will eventually see through the veil. The real discussion begins with who and what the organization really is and how it goes about doing what it does and treating the people who do it.

    1. Adam, thanks for your comment. You are correct, deciding to have a comprehensive recruitment marketing strategy doesn’t mean you’ll do it well! 🙂 . Companies need to think through what makes them unique (both the good and not so good), what’s compelling about them and then convert this into a compelling, honest and authenticate message.

      If your message is totally disingenuous you are going to just make things worse…because ultimately candidates will discover this.

      1. Exactly, Michael… And we both know that the organizational “bones” we’re talking about are the product of beliefs and actions at the very top as they flow down and manifest themselves throughout. Often, we simply have to do the best we can within that framework while offering suggestions from below as we do so.

        1. Agreed. If you have a flawed management team, your job just got a lot harder. This is where having a great strategy and having a laser focus on the right message is even more important. Having a strategy which highlights the positive, while not dismissing the challenges is a tight rope to walk…but can be done.

          1. I think the terminology ‘challenge’ is part of the problem. At my last job the ‘challenge’ was the owner was a nut job who often refused to pay salaries even approaching 25th percentile for the area, and who got his rocks off screaming at people and demeaning them in public. I’m aware of another company here in NY, the ‘challenge’ there is the owner is a legendary drunk who comes in on his benders and verbally and sometimes even physically tries to rip people apart in a drunken fog. I have a friend who worked for a short while for another company where the ‘challenge’ was you ‘needed a thick skin,’ because while the owner was rather mellow, all his managers were screaming lunatics.

            It’s important that recruiters stop using weasel words like ‘challenge’ when the issue is really incompetence and maliciousness. It’s also important to address actual challenges without euphemisms or BS. So, as examples, when the challenges are massively low salaries, or perhaps antiquated systems, one has to realistically address why those challenges exist, and what their very existence says about the priorities of the company in question, and also how likely those challenges are to be met.

  4. “In the next two to five years the top employers of choice will be the organizations that consistently communicate an authentic employer brand story and value proposition that wins the attention of highly specialized talent and compels them to follow, engage, and ultimately join (and stay) on their teams.”

    And the majority of companies will still be pitching a ‘brand’ that is far removed from the reality of what they offer, dealing with higher turnover and all the associated costs, and still dead sure that they and their management aren’t the problem, but that if they could just hire ‘the right people’ all of a sudden things would change for them.

    The idea of ‘longer-term relationships with the right candidates’ comes up repeatedly in these pages, but no one ever addresses of how you align the necessary time and resource base needed to do that with every other department locked in perpetual a perpetual cycle of wanting their positions filled three months ago, but never having told anyone until just now. Longer term strategies in recruiting and HR require loner term oriented management in the entire company, or they don’t work.

    If talent won the war, one might want to explain why salaries are still stagnant, and why concurrent with the drop in U3 and U6 longer term measures of unemployment stayed steady, meaning more people moved into the long term discouraged category. Global economies are not improving, unemployment is worse than advertised, shanty cities are still popping up and expanding in the US and elsewhere, durable goods orders have been on the down slope for a while, and all indicators are another bubble is ready to pop, likely to be lead by China imploding, seeing as how they’ve pegged the skyscraper index and are building entire cities were literally no one lives. If one or more central banks pumps trillions upon trillions of dollars into the system you’d be daft to not expect a ‘stimulus’ and a boost in the stock market and nominal corporate profits, but the underlying problems of capital misalignment have not been solved, and have likely worsened over the ‘recovery’ as people and companies have not had to economize as much as they otherwise would have.

    I could go on, but the real newsflash is that marketing requires a product worth buying in order to be effective, and most companies don’t have all that much to sell to people, nor in all honesty do they feel they have to due to the fact that there are more people who want jobs than there are jobs. If product marketing is the analogy, and this becomes a real strategy, then companies also have to face the reality that there are relatively few top tier brands in any area, and the rest of them more or less compete in the commodity space. That means they compete on price, which analogously is the one area most companies don’t want to compete – wages – and the one area recruiting ‘thought leaders’ have been telling them for decades that they don’t have to compete, because people really want ‘engagement’ or ‘job satisfaction,’ really anything but money.

    In corporate branding the problem is still the gap between reality and what they’re selling.

    1. Medieval, thanks for the comments. You are 100% correct…all companies are not created equal. A good recruitment marketing strategy is not going to change companies with incompetent management, lack of vision, a poor culture, etc. If the company isn’t making smart business decisions to improve their culture, product or position, then they’ll get the type of talent they deserve.

      There are, however, many well run companies with good management that are looking to hire the best qualified candidates. It’s no secret, great candidates go to great companies..These candidates are in high demand and extremely valuable. There is, in fact, a “war” for them going on between many competing companies.These companies need to be thinking strategically about how they find them, engage with them and ultimately convert them to hires over the long haul. This is where a comprehensive recruitment marketing strategy can be invaluable.

      1. I agree in general with your points here, but it begs the question: How many companies are in that top tier, and what good are top tier practices to companies not in the top tier? Give me the same facilities, equipment, coaches, and training as Lebron James, I’m still going to suck at Basketball. Marketing might work for the top 1-5% of employers, what about the remaining 95%? How is Joe’s Paper Plate Manufacturing Plant in NoName Arkansas, who still has screaming managers and 60 hour work weeks and no benefits, and sees no problem with any of that, supposed to employ these techniques? Because the sad truth is, they will. As far as Joe is concerned, he’s the bee’s knees, and working for him is a privilege.

        If employers were rated my guess is they’d fall along a normal distribution, with some stellar, some horrific, and most in the middle somewhere. Now shift that standard bell curve to the left a good bit due to the fact that, in the US at least, there’s a near permanent labor surplus which means the incentives to treat candidates and employees better just really isn’t there. That’s the reality, and yet Joe will read your article, assume he is a top tier employer, and start ‘branding’ his company as such. This will be exposed as BS in time, but not before it poisons the well of all attempts at branding, because most employers are closer to Joe than the top tier.

        What’s missing from this article, and from the recruiting and HR profession in general? Standards. What makes a top tier employer? What salaries should you pay, benefits should you offer like sick, personal, and vacation time, before you’re considered even average, much less top tier? I think, if there were to be an objective assessment done of those issues based on evidence and what it takes to get maximum productivity from people, followed by a survey to see how US employers stacked up, many recruiting ‘thought leaders’ would be unpleasantly surprised, more likely horrified, at how horrifically short most companies measure up when it came to even providing the basics. And that is the underlying problem. Marketing and branding are irrelevant to most companies, especially when you consider that the over supply of candidates is so huge, that salaries are still stagnant, and yet their hiring processes are so defective that they still complain about talent ‘shortages’ when all objective evidence says there is no such thing.

  5. “The war for talent is over. The talent won.” I don’t even know what this means. I always thought the ‘war’ referred to the competition between organizations…not company vs. candidate?

    1. Either way, it never really existed to begin with. What happened in the ‘war’ is every company assumed they won, and wondered where the spoils went, and every candidate knew they lost the second they applied to forty thousand jobs without one call back.

    2. I interpreted “the talent won”, as it relates to this article, being the fact that people searching for jobs have a distinct advantage over employers when it comes to research before choosing/not choosing to apply. On average, companies do a poor job in marketing/selling their brand to attract coveted talent which leaves the coveted talent to draw their own conclusions from they read/see on-line from other sources.

      1. Lisa, thanks for your comment. You interpreted that correctly. The core point is that the tables have turned and candidates are now driving the process. I want to make a clarification from what Medieval says. When we say Talent, it doesn’t mean everyone. The world is filled with people lacking the right skills or experience for many jobs…for these folks, a job with a paycheck is success…and they’ll spend days applying to hundreds of jobs without caring who the company is or what they stand for.

        The Talent I’m referring to is the qualified candidates who have the right skills, personality and experience companies are seeking. These are folks who can be discerning about their next career opportunity…and will know far more about your company and why they should even consider applying before you even know who they are. Having a systematic, comprehensive recruitment marketing strategy in place is the best way to find, attract, engage and ultimately convert them into your next superstar.

        1. Michael, you said “The world is filled with people lacking the right skills or experience for many jobs…for these folks, a job with a paycheck is success…and they’ll spend days applying to hundreds of jobs without caring who the company is or what they stand for.”
          Personally I don’t think this is a bad thing.

          I mean – if you are unemployed, or your wife or husband is transferred to a new city, or you need to make more money, or you have a too-long commute — I think it’s perfectly normal and reasonable to simply want a new and better paycheck. I mean hopefully you’re signing a deal with a devil and going to an employer whose mission or product you really despise, but beyond that, I just think this is normal, reasonable, and not a bad thing.

          Should you really, if you need a job, or need a new job, turn one down because the company sells paper towels or chairs or widgets, and you’re neutral about paper towels, not head over heels? Similarly – do employers look down on people who simply want to get a job, or a better job, but aren’t wildly passionate yet about their product? I hope not.

          Gosh, I am starting to sound like Medieval Recruiter …

          1. Hey Todd, appreciate the comment. I don’t think I said it was a bad thing? I reread my comment..and that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I was just trying to make the distinction of when we talk about the “war for talent”, we aren’t referring to the folks who lack the skills or experience a company needs.

            When we talk with companies, to Medieval recruiters point, they aren’t complaining about the volume of applicants. Lots of people are applying. In fact, companies are overwhelmed with the large volumes of unqualified applicants they receive…it’s a big problem. This is’s not a “good” or “bad” thing. Folks need jobs and do whatever they can to get a better one.

            The war for talent I’m referring to is about “qualified” talent, in whatever that means for a given company and position.

            The people with the right skills and right experience are in high demand and tough to find and attract. That’s where a well planned and executed recruitment marketing strategy can add a lot of value.

            Hope that clears any misunderstanding. 🙂

          2. OK, good that it’s not a bad thing. I feel like it’s something I keep hearing over and over around the Internet, conferences, etc. – that somehow people who are passionate about your product and mission are far better than people who just need a job. Of course, I get it – you want people who fit your company, who are enthused about it, aren’t going to quit in a month for the job they really want, and so on. I get it. But, I think that’s a two-way street. Hire someone who’s fired up about the company and if the “life things” (commute, pay, etc. ) don’t fit and the passion disappears. Hire someone who’s unemployed and they’re grateful.

            I recently talked to a hospital near Los Angeles. It needed a new lab director. It called a guy who had a long commute and said he could walk to work if he took their job. He took it. Sure, perhaps (we didn’t get into it) they told him the hospital is great and the people are great and all that, but ultimately I think they were smart in focusing in on what is important to most people, which is pay, benefits, commute, working with nice people and a good boss, and so on, and sometimes we forget that the passion about the mission can follow.

          3. “[U]ltimately I think they were smart in focusing in on what is important to most people, which is pay, benefits, commute, working with nice people and a good boss, and so on, and sometimes we forget that the passion about the mission can follow.”

            Bravo; stated plain and simple. Those are the priorities of most people, but for too long companies have been told otherwise, and by our very industry. When companies want passion for their product/mission, they always seem to think that can substitute for the pay, benefits, commute, etc., and they get that idea with encouragement from our very industry. It can’t, though. You have to have the basics of pay, benefits, commute, etc., covered before you expect passion to come into play.

            When, on pages like these, writers report survey results which say people prefer job satisfaction over pay, all else equal, the writers don’t seem to get that employers read that and miss the ‘all else equal’ caveat, and think they can deprioritize pay and benefits, and save overhead, by finding someone who is ‘passionate’ about the product. The reality is that person will be more productive, and so on the long term market will command a higher salary, not a lower one.

            Companies need a reality check, and so do recruiters. No one is going to work for you for very long if you can’t even pay an average salary. The employment market, like all other markets, comes down to price.

          4. Medieval, I have to leave one last comment about your points here. Your argument through all the comments I see is that most companies underpay, have bad management and really don’t treat employees very well. It seems your point is they should pay better, provide good benefits and treat employees better…and that’s the real problem….forget all this nonsense marketing stuff.

            I agree. For most companies, fixing those basic things is where they need to start. To me, it’s a very important, but entirely different topic of discussion.

            The point of this article wasn’t about finding a silver bullet to fix all the challenges of recruiting. It was focused on a very specific part of the recruiting process….how do you let the best qualified candidates know you exist? 85% of the workforce isn’t actively looking for a do you get on their radar? Posting a job on a job board? Hiring dedicated sourcers to scour LinkedIn? Hiring an agency to run social media campaigns for you? What’s the best approach? How do you measure it? What else could you be doing? I’m sure you have a ton of ideas yourself.

            The point of the article was to propose that companies should be taking a more systematic approach to how they get their company and opportunities in front of the right targeted audience regardless of the stage of the candidate. You should want them to know about your company and why they might consider it a great next career move. It’s really that simple.

          5. I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s a different topic, but the topic. Those companies that need to improve tend to act, in large part thanks to constant affirmations from the recruiting and HR industry and articles which refuse to address root causes, as if they are the best. And while not most companies are poorly managed on purpose, or even maliciously as I’ve seen, the simple fact is with a near permanent labor surplus and suppressed wages, good enough for the market isn’t necessarily even close to tolerable for employees, with regard to management, pay, benefits, etc.

            I would reiterate my point; the strategies that are advisable and work for the top 5% are largely irrelevant to the remaining 95%. For a bad company, making people aware of their employment opportunities these days is as likely to have a Streisand Effect as help. So while your article is correct as far as it goes, without our industry addressing root causes it’s kind of like learning to squeeze an extra few horsepower out of a car that’s got a valve rattle and is maybe ten thousand miles from the scrap heap.

            I would say that if our industry could get some guts and start developing standards and best practices based on actual research we would see a more objective, successful, and realistic approach to recruiting, and marketing would be a big part of that. But another part of that approach would be explaining to companies how to objectively assess their market position, and them realizing that if they’re a commodity company, then they get commodity employees, and to market accordingly. Every company wants to think and act as if it’s Google, none wants to admit they make store brand toilet paper.

            And part and parcel of all articles about marketing in recruiting should be a strong proviso that you’d better have the goods before you try and market them. And unless I miss my guess, based on feedback here and on LinkedIn and other recruiting oriented sites, candidates and employees are for the most part extremely dissatisfied with most of their employers. That has to be addressed before any successful marketing can take place.

          6. “The war for talent I’m referring to is about “qualified” talent, in whatever that means for a given company and position.”

            What qualifies as qualified? I recall one stark example from Peter Cappelli’s book where literally over 10,000 people were rejected for an entry level role because they “weren’t qualified.” Further examples can be found in that book of Engineers being ‘unqualified’ because they couldn’t type fast enough. I think, given the quadruple laundry list of ‘qualifications’ for jobs these days that continues to grow, a healthy skepticism about this claim is warranted.

          7. Perish the thought. (;

            But, that is reality. I remember once a manager going off about passion and commitment to the company and blah blah blah. The subject at hand was… wait for it… a data entry position. Ten bucks an hour.

            If you look at employment and contrast it with any other market as an analogy, you start to realize how insane much of recruiting is. To use cars as an analogy, it’s all geared around Ferrari/Bentley/Lamborgini sales and marketing, meanwhile the vast majority of employers are selling Honda and Kia level opportunities, but have been convinced by recruiting ‘thought leaders’ that they are selling Ferraris or Lambos, etc. Meanwhile, they treat their employees and candidates like rusted out Pintos.

            The vast majority of positions opened and filled on a year to year basis are not big time, high paying jobs. They are the nuts and bolts ‘commodity’ positions in companies where the vast majority of people who fill them will not be passionately wedding themselves to the company or its product, and they never will. They just want a job, a reasonable paycheck for doing something productive for someone else, and to not have to spend the majority of their life in a cubicle with an HR drone fussing over them when they have to take their kid to a parent-teacher night.

            I blame recruiting thought leaders, Hollywood, and silicon valley for this massive misalignment of expectations. It was SV that, filled with borderline personality types who wanted to spend 90 hours a week with circuit boards, that in the end killed the forty hour work week and jumped it to 50, 60, and 70 for everyone now. It’s Hollywood that portrays people as career minded workaholics who are always stressing about the ‘big account’ or the ‘big meeting,’ but somehow always find time for family and friends, and spend half their workday drinking coffee and chatting outside the office, when in real life that kind of work/life balance is nonexistent for 99.9999999999% people without sacrificing health and family. And it’s recruiting thought leaders who have convinced every employer that they are THE employer to work for, regardless of any objective evidence for, or as is way more common, against that claim.

            Recruiting will always fall short so long as reality fails to make an appearance at the table.

  6. What’s interesting here for me is that the actions taken and investments made today are impacting your recruitment team’s longer term ability to recruit. At Social-Hire we’re seeing a huge divide building up between those companies that are focused entirely on today’s urgent hires and those who also have an eye on building for the future. Which companies in your recruiting niche fall into each of these camps? Time to research that and ensure you’re not becoming a recruiting dinosaur I would suggest… ?

  7. I’m a big fan of recruitment marketing efforts, but the topics highlighted in this post seem to focus on “filling the top of the funnel” type marketing. In regards to talent acquisition, the top of the funnel isn’t where the problem’s in the middle.

    I’ve heard this from quite a few staffing leaders, “We don’t have a problem with getting applicants, we have a problem getting qualified candidates.” Recruiting analytics on the drop off between total applicants to onsite interviews by req back this up. The drop off is huge.

    Analytics also show that the majority of onsite interviews for targeted talent come from employee referrals, manager referrals, and direct sourcing.

    Furthermore, marketing by definition drives “customer acquisition.” In recruiting’s case, applicants…those that have expressed interest in our company by applying and submitting their information for a job…marketing has done it’s job.

    Here’s my worry when telling companies they should go out and build a marketing program to drive more applicants…they don’t know what to do with the ones they already have. ..and they have a lot of them. Recruiting analytics around ATS data to drive pipeline is another conversation.

    I’d recommend that companies focus on direct relationship management rather than “general” broadcast marketing. I love Seth Godin and his permission marketing concepts. Combine permission marketing with defined talent pipelining and you have 1 to 1, direct marketing with candidates.

    These are candidates who have expressed prior interest in your company and your company has “qualified” them to some extent by putting them in the pipeline. Qualified…interested…the timing just has to be right. That’s main reason why we manage ongoing relationships, to get the timing right.

    From a recruiter’s perspective where my time available is “finite” and it has to be spent wisely on a day to day basis in order to keep all my req load moving along…I need to spend my time on those tasks/candidates that have the highest chances of moving forward in the hiring cycle.

    Filling the top of the funnel with unqualified applicants isn’t the answer. Managing the pre-existing relationship with targeted talent so I can get a timely response…that’s where I’d put my resources.

    1. Sean, thanks for the comments. I think we’re in violent agreement. Recruitment Marketing isn’t just about the top of the funnel, but like marketing, it starts there.

      The end goal of Marketing isn’t generating leads. It’s generating qualified leads.

      The end goal of Recruitment Marketing isn’t generating applicants. It’s about generating qualified applicants.

      An effective recruitment marketing strategy enables a company to put in place the people, processes and technology to reach and attract those qualified folks at the top of the funnel and then move them through the funnel via targeted content and nurturing campaigns until they become a qualified candidate.

      They then hand off those qualified candidates to the recruiters who do what they do best….recruiting them and matching them to the best opportunities at the company.

    2. Another approach for middle-of-the-funnel recruiting is shared online career centers designed to help professionals find education, certification programs, job opportunities and advice that aligns with their unique career goals and stage. Think: lifetime career hub, not job board.

      I serve on the board of directors of, the first shared inbound recruiting platform for the Accounting industry. Ecosystem stakeholders are jumping on board now. I really believe in this vision, because it offers huge value for a dedicated career professional – and keeps them in the driver’s seat.

  8. This Recruiting trend is just another change brought about by social media. Social apps shift power from the organization to the individual by giving each person a worldwide publishing platform. It’s the same reason that Social Selling has become a big deal. In fact, companies now ask me to teach their Sales Managers social content sharing skills for the recruiting reasons mentioned in the article.

  9. Every time I hear a recruiter say “Where are all the qualified candidates?” I translate it to women saying “Where are all the good men?”

    The response to these is revisiting your ‘qualified’ checklist/definition [and/or reading “Marry Him: The Case for. Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb”] ..because honestly, it (gasp) also matters how much the demander (the employer) is bringing to the table.

    1. There used to be an old commercial that, to paraphrase, said, “If everyone from your friends to your family to your wife thinks you have a problem with alcohol, but you don’t think you have a problem with alcohol, you have a problem with alcohol.” Applied to this situation, if everyone thinks your pay is low and your benefits noncompetitive, but you think your pay are benefits are fine and you’ve not been able to fill a position, then your pay is low and your benefits are inadequate.

      Every single company on the planet ‘demands the best’ when it comes to their ‘talent.’ But few of them offer the best, so there’s obviously a serious mismatch between someone’s expectations and reality in these situations. In my experience it’s almost always the employer.

      1. Interesting point. But as a marketer, I would argue that in addition to your ‘pay peanuts get monkeys’ kind of mantra, one could (& should) identify what unique value is offered, other than the obvious basic salary – and then work out to whom is it valuable… analyse and identify if that ‘value’ can be matched to previous intakes where great candidates stayed on board for years. Also, get extreme clarity on the source of those candidates, What are their characteristics and life motivators etc?

        Example, consistently paying the biggest bucks, for many things in life, isn’t always what’s needed. A Honda / Audi / Skoda can be as good as a Merc these days, though the price gap between such are ever closing (thanks to PCP).

        Still not convinced? If a company can offer more flexibility than the competitor paying a higher salary, then there will be many greatly skilled people who would value the flexibility and/or culture higher.

        Of course your point is valid, but amongst a mix of many other valid points I feel. Interestingly, Marketing Mix and Conviction Messages play a part which I suspect is now getting into what this article is about… empower your Recruitment Team with ‘Marketing Principles’ know-how and mindset. I’ve been training a UK Insurance Giant on this very same thing; it’s proven challenging due to the Cultural Change required and buy-in of Senior Management.

        I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!! Do reply please! 🙂

  10. Michael –

    Awesome article thank you so much.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Talent Acquisition Marketing exists for longest time. We have companies filling H1-b visas & then market them in US market, companies in India have candidates on their payroll & out source to various clients as contractual staffing.

    Is it that talent marketing a new buzz word? I have been hearing brand building, content strategy, digital marketing, social media since last 2yrs!

    Is my understanding of talent marketing same what you have said? Either way I am blessed with your article, maybe I got a different understanding of talent marketing

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