Time to Step Up to the Marketing Plate

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 3.44.24 PMI recently led a session at a recruiting conference in which I asked how many of the talent acquisition professionals present had to give an account of or provide a forecast for their budget– which was on average between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. Almost no one raised their hand!

Surely there are some organizations that are more ROI-focused and demand more from their recruiters, but this is clearly not the norm. The norm is comprised of vague projections, with little to no accounting for the return on those budget dolloars.

Can you imagine any other department in a business having zero accountability for how it spends its money? How would it go over if, for instance, the sales department said, “We don’t think it’s necessary to explain what we spent our budget on. We spent it, and we need more next year. Thanks.”? It would go over about as well as a lead balloon. The typical budgetary process does not support dart-throwing.

So, why is this allowed in the recruiting function? There are several culprits behind these low expectations.

First, the organization is not forecasting its staffing needs, which results in a budget that lacks clarity in terms of measurable outcomes. Who can be held accountable when no outcomes have been defined? Second, recruiting is often viewed as a soft-skilled people profession that is difficult to quantify. Since there’s no guarantee that a recruitment marketing campaign will be successful, there’s a false perception that no hard equation can be formulated for how much money and time it will take to fill a position. Third, if people are being hired, then the system ain’t broke, and if it ain’t broke … positions eventually get filled, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that acquiring talent is not to be taken lightly. In the knowledge economy, talent is the last great differentiator for a business. The Boston Consulting Group says that of all HR functions, talent acquisition has the highest impact on the success of a business. Having the right people in the right places at the right time enables companies to take advantage of market opportunities, meet business goals, and spur innovation. In short, the better the recruiting effort is, the greater the competitive advantage a company has.

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In light of the fact that, to a large extent, recruiters determine the success or failure of an organization, the onus is upon you to be as strategic and competitive as possible in acquiring talent. To do that, you need to think like marketers. You think constantly about the messaging that goes out, and where it’s going, and the return on your investment.

“But I do think like a marketer!” you may protest. If you do, you are an exception in your field. How can I say that? Because in the course of my work I see a lot of bad job descriptions — and worse titles — and I see them showing up in the wrong places. If you are a good marketer, you do not:

  • Simply copy and paste the hiring manager’s job requisition. Broadcasting a bulleted list of requirements misses the opportunity to infuse company brand into the posting. Marketers understand that every piece of written content is a reflection of brand. Marketing messages are carefully designed to attract and draw in prospects. Take a look at the messages from the website of marketing masters, Red Bull. The gorgeous photos and short, catchy headlines are intended to attract high-energy, adventure-seeking types. Its content is compelling to its target audience. Is yours?
  • Use clever but confusing job titles. Job seekers are not searching for “sanitation engineer” when looking for custodial jobs. Other examples available here demonstrate how to ineffectively title your job openings. Good marketers don’t confuse prospects.
  • Push job openings out to the same places you always do, without considering if that’s where your target audience is. Smart marketers research channels to see where their audiences are, understanding that their audiences do not remain static and neither should marketing strategies.
  • Fail to use data to analyze the success of your marketing campaign to calculate ROI. Marketers are held accountable for every dollar they spend — and the results of that spend — so they determine ahead of time what success will look like and how to measure it. With the data available today from job boards, social media tracking services, external benchmarking sources, and internal HR systems, there’s no excuse for not analyzing your campaign. Even if the higher-ups don’t demand it (yet), this analysis will help you to be better at what you do.

The result of being better at what you do: your company has the necessary staff to achieve its goals, and you are recognized as an asset to the company. Executives are beginning to expect HR to contribute to business goals and even to consider HR as a “profitability contributor.” Thinking — and acting — like a marketer will put you well ahead of the curve. As they say in so many marketing messages, “Act now!”

David Bernstein is the head of eQuest’s new Big Data for HR/Predictive Analytics Division, which enables organizations to make evidence-based decisions about their recruiting and hiring strategy. He writes and speaks regularly on how data analytics can predict future behavioral patterns of candidates and create a competitive advantage in candidate sourcing.


8 Comments on “Time to Step Up to the Marketing Plate

  1. Thanks, David. It must be nice to work in places where there’s a recruiting strategy.

    Happy New Year,


  2. Why recruiting departments wouldn’t need to calculate the ROI of their advertising spend is beyond me. I would think that the recruiters themselves would want to know the most efficient use of dollars and time. It’s valuable information.

  3. You have nailed the point. The accountability of HRs hasn’t come on par with rest of the functions. There is a data driven approach to Sales, Marketing, Product Development, but HR? Very few companies use data in some of its processes. Many of my clients have a mandate of X hires which needs to done with a spend less that $y. There is hardly any ROI calculation that is done here.
    Things like Employer Brand, Talent Engagement etc have just begun to get acceptance. With companies like Redbul, Coca-Cola, PWC etc going that extra mile for top talent, invariably other companies need to cope up with them.

    Shankar Ganapathy | http://www.huntshire.com/recruit

  4. Great article, David! In addition to thinking like marketers and using data-based decision making, I would encourage all talent acquisition leaders to ensure that their TA strategy is in line with the company strategy. Imagine a day when the VP of Talent Acquisition can show the C-suite, with data, exactly how all recruiting activities support the company’s strategic objectives.

  5. Hmmm. ISTM that we already have the facts needed and they can be easily compiled and presented. There’s a saying in law: “If you have the law on your side, use the law. If you don’t have the law, use the facts.” Recruiting is similar: if you need facts to win your fight, you’ve already facing an uphill battle. FACTS/data don’t determine influence- POWER determines influence.
    BOTTOM LINE: More Machiavelli, less metrics.

  6. Fantastic Artile David and your rightly said That this is the future of recruitments.I think in coming years organizations will hire a common VP for both Marketing and Recruitments.


  7. I work in Higher Ed and I have to justify my advertising budget each year $75-100K. The way I do that usually comes from metrics on the efficacy of the vendors I use and not from standard cost per hire metrics in HR. I do track things like click through rate and number of applicants from the different sources to justify spending the funds on the different sources. For example, I use click through advertising on Indeed and usually realize a .4% or higher click through rate. Considering the average “good” click through rate for internet advertising is .2%, it makes sense to spend money doing this. I also track the number of applicants form the different sources in our applicant tracking system. Recruitment marketing efficacy in my opinion is directly related to the candidate pool generated not always the number of hires. It makes sense that with a greater number of qualified applicants, you have a better chance of making a good hire.
    I think that the reason that HR may not commonly be held accountable is that true metrics can really be difficult to develop when it comes to costs. You could use a calculation that only includes recruitment advertising to calculate cost per hire. For example, $100,000 divided by 250 hires gives you a $400.00 cost per hire, but this is only part of the recruitment budget. Other things that can be considered in the calculation of cost per hire are salaries, applicant tracking system, support personnel, office space, office equipment, communications cost, office products, etc…
    One way to forecast a budget is to add all of these things together. Determine the average time to fill in man hours. When calculating the average time to fill we should look at the number of man hours involved in an easy to fill position, perhaps an administrative assistant. This should include things like the posting time, time to source, number of applicants that must be dispositioned, number of interviews (prep time)and posting removal from marketing sites if required. Then we should also calculate the same for a hard to fill position. We could average these in to a man hours per position metric. We calculate the cost per man hour by adding all the fixed costs together including recruitment advertising. We can multiply the average number of man hours per position by the number of positions filled to get the total man hours need for that number of positions and then divide into the total for costs to get an average cost per man hour. To forecast we only need the number of positions we expect to fill in the next year. As an example

    Fixed cost $375,000.00

    Average man hours per position 7 hours

    Number of positions filled 250

    $375,000/7X250 = $214.28 per man hour

    If the company want to hire 300 next year

    $214.28 X (300 X 7) = $ 450,000

    If you look only at the recruitment advertising cost for a cost per hire, the number is not accurate because there are always positions we post only to the ATS and fill. We do not spend extra advertising dollars on these. To get a more accurate cost per hire this way we would need to track the number of positions where we spent extra advertising dollars and made a hire then divide that number by the total dollars spent.

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