The overlap between recruitment and inbond marketing has been widely discussed, and rightfully so; they’re more or less same exact stuff, different purchasing decision.
Both of these trending topics have moved to the mainstreams of the corporate margins, and no matter whether you’re driving applicants into an ATS or marketing qualified leads into a CRM, the rise of both disciplines seem linked together by a shared connection.
This connection is a focal point that, for recruiters, represents a radically different way of thinking about the recruiting process – or “funnel,” as marketers and sourcers both refer to the concept of turning a cold lead into a customer.
The thing is, what we think of as the traditional “recruiting funnel” has, in fact, significantly shifted recently. Today, if recruiters and employers can’t come up with scaleable, sustainable strategies for recruiting and retaining top talent, then they’re pretty much screwed.
Of course, this is easier said than done; the very nature of that infernal “funnel” has moved from a more or less static database into something much more dynamic, thanks in large part to the introduction of new technologies, like automation and federated search. The ease of reaching out means that even as we cast a wider net, recruiters, inevitably, come back empty handed.
Islands in the Stream.
The waters have been severely overfished by now, with mass email blasts, automated job tweets and crappy careers content making it even harder to get through to candidates than before. Not that cold calling was ever easy.
But somehow, it worked. Then, we made things all complicated in recruiting, so let’s make it simple: the only way any of these efforts or initiatives is ever going to pay off, as any inbound marketer can tell you, is through actually engaging that funnel of yours.
Yeah, I know it’s cliche and buzzwordy and probably overplayed. But engagement is still the only thing that separates success and failure when it comes to recruiting and inbound marketing alike. It’s not just the most important thing, it’s the only thing. Because a passive candidate you don’t engage with isn’t a candidate, nor are they passive.
They actually probably have no idea your company exists, much less that you’re hiring. If you don’t let your purported target audience know you’re there, how in the heck do you ever expect to make hires? Magic? Aside: if you could, that’d be really cool. If there are any magicians out there or anything…
OK. Before we get started with the whole actionable talent attraction tactics and staffing strategies and stuff, I have to ask. Do you even know who it is you’re trying to target? Do you know a single thing about your purported prospects? In other words, if you’re going after “top talent,” do you know what that looks like? Do you even have an ideal candidate?
If you don’t know where the candidates you’re looking for tend to hang out online, what they’re interested in (personally and professionally, in a non-creepy sourcing way), hobbies (extra points for LARPing), what communities they’re a part of or what groups they’re a member of online?
And by this, I’m not talking about a single candidate or a single search. Nah. You’ve got to know the jobs as well as the people you’re hiring – at least in terms of culture fit and business need. No one expects you to do anything but try to sound cool when you butcher some technical buzzwords you heard your hiring manager say during a meeting once.
But you do know a thing or two about your own company, as a rule.
The Gambler: How To Have The Winning Hand in Sourcing and Recruiting.
So if you don’t know what it takes to make it as an employee at your company, then you’re already going to fail, because candidates can spot BS a mile away, and they’re going to run from your Potemkin village the moment they realize there’s nothing behind the career site facade but another worthless recruiter who doesn’t even get what they do, much less why they should make a major life change and put so much on the line by switching jobs and making a move in the first place.
If you don’t know what you’re fishing for, then put that rod and bait back in the truck and get up on out of here, because no one has the money, time or energy to waste in trying to fit a square candidate into a round req. If the match isn’t there, a priori, than your expectations or requirements don’t really matter.
As Kenny Rogers once sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”
If you are one of the rare recruiters, however, who knows the prey they’re hunting for, where you can find them and what matters to them most is critically important, because it’s only by thinking like a candidate that you can actually even think about developing a successful strategy for attracting the mission critical hires your company needs to succeed, increase trust and build positive word of mouth (and referrals) from both internal and external stakeholders.
In other words, know the candidate, know thyselves or no candidates. Stick that in that funnel of yours.
You and I: A Recruiter’s Guide to Candidate Segmentation.
The easiest way to segment your prospects in inbound marketing is by starting at the very beginning, as it is a very good place to start. It’s also imperative if you want to truly understand who it is you’re talking to and who you need to be targeting.
There are an infinite number of ways your company can choose to approach segmentation, but here are the most common ways to slice and dice their freshly converted leads through structured forms online.
“Apply Now” is basically just a call to action that doesn’t seem to work all that well, but chances are you’ll get at least enough of this information to start with building an audience persona:
- Demographic: Age matters to marketers and recruiters, only recruiters refer to it as “experience,” and HR and your hiring managers refer to it as a job level (or grade, or rung, or whatever weird convention you may have for their years running the recruiting rat race. But just like ad agencies buy commercials targeting specific age groups, recruiters need to consider this as a primary filter for thinking about just how to make their message meaningful to the candidates and connections they’re trying to reach.
- Industry Experience: Let’s face it, recruiters are perpetually on the lookout for niche industry experience, which seems to matter even for roles like accountant or executive assistant. For example, if you’ve got a couple years biotech or pharma experience at one company, you’re more or less set with the rest of them – you’ve got that coveted industry experience everyone wants but very few people actually have. If you’ve had success hiring from certain competitors, or if your req requires industry experience, knowing what’s worked before helps make knowing what’s going to work on the same sort of role a no-brainer. Even for recruiters. I kid, I kid.
- Language Skills: For English, press 1. Para espanol, primera dos. And for anyone who speaks Mandarin with native fluency and doesn’t require sponsorship, name your price. If it is gold ye seek, matey, it is gold ye shall get. Or, you know, restricted stock options (that’s dinero falso en Espanol).
- Hard Skills: Does your candidate need to know a certain software package or have specific professional certification? Do they have the right experience for the role, and how can recruiters best make sure they’re not falling for a bunch of hot air when it comes to candidates’ credentials – since most potential hires, let’s face it, do stuff most of us who do the hiring really don’t know what that really entails for most of our reqs. We do a good job of being unconsiously biased and consciously bored, which are kind of critical competencies in recruiting.
- Online Behavior and Marketing Intelligence: This is some hardcore inbound stuff, but the thing is, tracking online behavior from things like conversion events (when a prospect completes a form, or a candidate an application – this happens rarely), expressions of interest from trackable touchpoints like email opens or display ad click throughs, page views, SEO/SEM and that sort of marketing stuff that’s so imparative for building a sustainable, scaleable funnel (and knowing where to spend your budget, too).
Once you have this information, segmenting your audience by these sorts of sweeping brushstrokes can at least help a little painting the right picture of your audience and what they’re interested in – and once you know that, you’ll actually be able to create compelling calls to action and campaigns that they actually care about (and take the time to engage with, too). If a career site falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?
The answer is, unfortunately, yes, there’s probably some cheezy corporate overview on autoplay, an infinite loop of the same diverse professionals talking about how much they love your company and how miserable their lives would be if they weren’t helping make the world safe for capitalism and Secret Santa celebrations.
But if you really want to get the right list of leads, try looking at how you segment your database and the sorts of searchable fields that exist within your system. By looking at your database not as a system of record, but as a great repository of market research with really specific information on the kinds of people who are applying for your jobs, where they came from and, with many dynamic profiling systems, what they’re doing now.
Don’t Fall in Love With A Dreamer.
This is all critical information not only for building targeted lead lists, but also, knowing who not to send certain content to.
For example, you would not want to blast a funnel of recent silver medalists a few days after that “thanks but no thanks” call with some automated e-mail about how awesome working at your company is and how kick butt your culture is.
This makes you look, well, kind of evil to recently rejected candidates, but that’s exactly the collateral you’d want to target to those who just entered the process or who had started an application they hadn’t yet submitted.
E-mailing your database without careful segmentation and persona specific messaging isn’t inbound marketing.
It’s not recruitment marketing. It’s spam, and no one likes a spammer – particularly not those needle in a haystack candidates you need to really make sure every interaction counts as much as possible since their skillset is so rare there are only a finite number of qualified workers in the world to burn through, much less with lazy e-mail sends.
Other easy fixes to make the intersection of inbound and recruitment marketing work better at work: make sure the email is in the correct language, you refer to them by the correct name and double check to make sure the system didn’t screw up any fields (like inverting a job title and company name, keeping it short and making sure before every send you think: “is this something these candidates care about?”
Because as a recruiter, your company reputation and professional relationship with most candidates are often only as strong as the most recent interaction you’ve had with them. And if they don’t care enough to engage with something that you don’t really give a crap about in the first place (e.g. how sweet a deal the optional vision insurance is), then why the hell are you doing it in the first place?
Remember this is still all about relationships – and inbound marketing, like recruitment marketing, is still about people, no matter what the technology is capable of. And if you’re not someone that top talent wants to work with, well, it’s going to cost your company.
If you work in a niche or highly skilled kind of function or in a highly regulated industry or other places where talent pools and networks are tied up quite tightly, as an example, you don’t want to go down as “that guy who accidentally sent the hourly applicants the executive benefits package information and stock schedule.”
It’s about kicking butt and generating names, but if you can’t turn those names into actual leads and ultimately hires, then you’re probably in the wrong line of business – no matter whether that happens to be inbound marketing or recruitment marketing.
About the Author: Adriano Corso is currently a Sourcing Science and Digital Recruitment Consultant with IBM Smarter Workforce, where he works to solution digital and online recruitment marketing activities for Kenexa, IBM’s RPO division, across the APAC, North America and European regions.
Prior to joining IBM, Adriano has amassed diverse experience in digital marketing, sourcing, lead generation, marketing automation, social recruiting, employer branding and email marketing in a variety of talent related leadership roles, both as an internal employee as well as an external consultant. A native of Italy and a graduate of the Università di Catania, Adriano currently lives in Krakow, Poland.