Stranger Than Fiction: Recruiters and The Myth of Generational Marketing.

back+in+my+day+blue+plateThere’s always at least one recruiter in every room who still reminisces fondly about the days of when candidates used to mail in resumes to ads they found in print newspapers.

This, let’s face it, is a way bigger pain in the ass than any ATS will ever be, but that was just how things were done (and not too terribly long ago, too).

Then came fax, e-mail, mobile, social and who the hell knows what’s next. But no matter how far we’ve come in terms of better living through consumer technology, the fact is that going through a job search or company application process is still really, really painful.

Even if, as many recruiters seem to perceive it, it might not be as excruciating as it used to be. I can only imagine how shitty that must have been – seriously.

But even if you’re one of those recruiters still nostalgic for the “goold old days” of cold calling and Boolean search, you have to concede that you’re badly behind the curve, even though you’re adopting best practices that have a proven track record, shit that’s always worked – like picking up the phone, for instance.

You’ll take the proven methodology over a passing fad, any day of the week. All that stuff is really just a speed bump for recruiters, anyways. It all comes down to making placements, and you’ve made enough to make a stand on the impact of new technologies on old school recruiting.

Generational Marketing: Recruiting Best Practice or Bullshit?

marketoonistIn all fairness, we’ve all made our predictions. I’ve made mine.

I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong, and with that, I wanted to go ahead and address what’s becoming an increasingly prevalent trend among practitioners and pundits in the weird little world of talent attraction these days. I’ve been watching and waiting for a little while now, and I feel I can stand before you now, and say to you with great authority:

Generational marketing is bullshit. And don’t let the snake oil salesmen selling this shit convince you otherwise.

So, let’s talk about what I mean by generational marketing.

Just to be clear, I am not bashing the utility of persona based marketing, or developing specific messaging or campaigns based on personality profiles. This is actually something recruiting needs to do more of.

When you open any requisition and look at the kinds of candidates that are going to be successful, you’ve got to know what their most likely professional aspirations and personal drivers will be in order to better target your talent focused communications and have more relevant, effective recruiting conversations.

This is why, whether you’re trying to engage with targeted talent through any channel, from blogs to direct e-mails to job ads, you have to talk to their interests and aspirations, not yours or the employer you happen to be representing on that particular req.

Personas work. Period.

But let’s be clear: persona marketing is not the same thing as generational marketing. Because in persona based marketing, you have a precedent for what success looks like, and can make some generalized assumptions on shared characteristics of high performing, high potential workers within any job group, function or project team. Once identified, targeting and marketing to  candidates whose personalities or performance potential aligns with previously defined personas isn’t only smart, it just makes sense.

What makes no sense, though, is building these personas explicitly around when those candidates were born or what arbitrary age range they happen to fall into – which is more or less the entire point of “generational marketing,” missing the point that candidates, as consumers of work, are unilaterally going to perceive job opportunities or recruiting communications through the lens of experience, not age.

These are two completely different concepts that should never be confused. Since one’s, you know, really a thing. The other is BS.

Old News: Why Generational Marketing Doesn’t Matter in Recruiting.

iconI’ve considered that the widespread adoption and seemingly sudden shift of “generational marketing” from the recruiting margins to the mainstream, recently, can be attributed mostly to misperceptions or misunderstandings by recruiters about what persona marketing truly entails.

I thought somewhere, most recruiters had mistakenly mixing this marketing concept with the ubiquitous conversation around generations in the workplace.

But as much as I want to at least give the benefit of the doubt, the fact is that every week seemingly brings on a new brocade of all those “silver tsunami sweeping the workplace” or “millennials say the darndest things” headlines, and with it, the reassertion that recruiters really believe this stuff.

Which is ridiculous, really.

The biggest problem (and my biggest issue) with “generational marketing” is that we ignore fundamentals so that we can cater to smaller groups when we haven’t got the fundamentals right.

For example, recruiters have no way of knowing how to write a job description that specifically speaks to what a millennial really needs, but then again, recruiters don’t know how to write job descriptions that speak to anyone about anything, really.

And on the other hand, the fact that we’re writing job descriptions or creating campaigns targeting certain demographics defined exclusively by age is actually a compliance violation at best, discriminatory hiring at worst. Hell, you’d think recruiters would know better than to approach protected classes differently than any other job seeker – there are whole government agencies devoted to cracking down on that kind of shit.

Sure, there are certain scenarios where you are targeting a very specific mentality, one that happens to fit into the millennial, Gen-X definition or whatever generation you want to write for, but in reality if your fundamentals aren’t right and you haven’t met the most basic criteria for someone to be able to apply to a job, it doesn’t fucking matter.

There’s a reason why technology companies have huge development teams and they take a ton of time to do quality assurance testing before they roll anything out or let marketing see it (at least outside of HR Technology, that is).

Because you can’t build a customized message to a customer if you don’t know the fundamentals of how something works. Especially if it doesn’t work at all.

5 Recruiting Fundamentals That Matter More Than Generational Marketing.

gen zMy other problem with targeting generations with recruitment marketing is that we make a ton of assumptions about what that group is or isn’t, what that group likes and dislikes, and what type of job that person wants to do.

In reality, we’re supposed to be learning how NOT to make assumptions.

It’s how we lose star candidates before they even walk in the door, assuming that because they didn’t finish college they can’t do the job, or because they make a certain amount of money, they would never consider going to your smaller company.

Those types of assumptions burn placements and make it harder for job seekers to find the right job and for recruiters to put those people into the right jobs. We’re wasting our breath focusing on generational marketing. Period.

And if you really want to talk generations, I challenge you to this.

If you can’t check the box for these 5 things, it’s time you checked out of the “generational marketing” conversation for good:

  • Referrals make up the majority of my applicants.
  • I know exactly how long it takes candidates to apply for jobs.
  • I’ve reevaluated my entire recruiting tech stack within the last 3 years.
  • My job descriptions are more interesting than reading the dictionary or the phone book.
  • I can accurately measure my source and cost per hire and monitor my conversion rates.

If you couldn’t answer “yes” to these recruitment marketing fundamentals, you’ve got way more pressing issues to worry about – and if you don’t get these right, you’re going to get recruiting wrong – no matter what age of candidate you happen to be hiring.

So shut up about “generational marketing,” already – it’s getting really old by now.

Just like those of us in Gen Y, really.




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