Recruitment is no different to sales and marketing. I haven’t changed my position on this since I started writing for this publication over 5 years ago. (See my article here from 2020, Recruitment Marketing Blackjack).

For a time, I wondered if talent assessment was the one unique aspect of recruiting but sales qualification could be considered a parallel over on the ‘other side’. I’m pretty sure they’re analogous. Tell me why they are different? I’ll wait…

You’ll have heard your colleagues or industry analysts saying, “We are 10 years behind,” “We are 3 years behind,” “We are 5 years behind.” Yes, we are behind. That can’t be denied but why?

Well, if I had a world leading innovation, whether that be technology or process, I’m unlikely to apply it to recruiting. The first venture capitalist I speak to is going to tell me to immediately apply this break-through to mainstream sales and marketing instead, where the addressable market and attainable revenue is over 30 times bigger.

For context, the value of the recruitment software market is $10 billion whereas it is over $344 billion in marketing tech.

So, we’re on the back foot in talent and it’s just nature’s way. We aren’t going to get things first. Other richer professions will. It’s the same reason why Lionel Messi chose to play soccer in the MLS rather than my beloved Scottish Football League.

So therein lies a big opportunity for both TA leaders and entrepreneurs in our space; to lessen the delta between GTM and talent technology and process.

Venture capital firm OMERS Ventures recently wrote on Medium,

“The core premise of our thesis on the recruiting stack is that talent acquisition organizations of the future will resemble the high performing sales organizations of today. Like the rise of RevOps and DevOps, Recruiting Ops is a requirement and not a luxury, yet there are few tech platforms or operating systems designed for them. In our view, you can map out the various opportunities in recruiting operations to their Go To Market (GTM)/Sales stack counterparts and highlight opportunities for innovation within the stack.”

In March last year I sold my 6 year-old start-up, Candidate.ID, to the industry-leading ATS player, iCIMS and I loved my time there. In Candidate.ID, my co-founder Scot McRae and I had created the world’s first genuine marketing automation technology for talent acquisition; ‘Marketo for TA’ if you like. The inception of the company came about by chance. Scot was the marketing automation expert and I knew talent acquisition. We stumbled onto a great idea, thankfully had the capability to execute and now, many more talent teams are benefiting from a more sophisticated way to nurture talent, through marketing automation technology.

‘Stumbling’ Is No Longer Part of My M.O.

I spent 6 months this year undertaking focus groups to understand the granular details of everyday life in a TA team. I hosted focus groups on talent acquisition in financial services, retail, tech and engineering, diversity, recruitment marketing, talent sourcing, recruitment operations and many more. Hundreds of practitioners took part in my focus groups and I listened carefully. Here are a few of the most important issues I learned:

1. Recruitment is more of a marketing-led discipline than ever and of course, not every recruiter is a great marketer, so where do they go when they need social media copy or InMail messaging or email copy or …? In many TA organizations there’s no solution for that.

One talent acquisition manager revealed at a focus group that just that day, three recruiters in her team had written and posted versions of the same job advert. One was good. One was average. One was poor. We all agreed the process would have been better if they’d had a library to manage job adverts and collaborate. One attendee said this same concept extends to InMail copy, social media posts, objection handling and much more.

2. TA teams don’t get enough bespoke tactical induction to help them get up to speed quickly.

One seasoned in-house recruiter told me, “Day one is the company induction and on day two you’re expected to get on the phones.”

This was backed up by a multitude of other focus group attendees. The term “thrown in at the deep end” came up more than once.

3. Recruiters are often starved of technology solutions, relying on enterprise file sharing systems to manage their assets. The reverse can also be true and recruiters are regularly overwhelmed with the number of individual niche tools they are expected to use to accomplish their tasks.

One recruiter said, “It’s even hard to remember the names of all the different things I’m supposed to use, let alone recall where to access them.”

I’ve learned this year that we in TA typically do not enable recruiters with all of the content assets and tools and props and policies and calculators and learning and Boolean strings (I could go on. And on..) that they need to get their roles done.

This is, of course, sub-optimal and mainstream sales and marketing recognized these same problems earlier than we have so sales enablement products like Seismic (2010) and Highspot (2012) emerged to provide solutions.

Renowned industry analyst Sarah White of Aspect43 posted on LinkedIn last month, “Much like sales enablement is a vital part of your business strategy, I firmly believe we are on the cusp of a massive shift in the way talent acquisition teams are trained, supported and developed. Marcom and sales enablement-inspired tech and investors have been reaching out to better understand the talent market and if their solutions could move over.”

In a follow-up piece I’m going to outline more about the specific problems we need to solve and share a playbook for recruiter enablement, including many tactics you can put to work today at no cost to your HR budget.

Adam Gordon

Adam Gordon became a recruitment consultant in 1999, placing Big 4 accountants into industry in Scotland. He then spent time in recruitment marketing and in HR consulting at PwC before founding a talent sourcing company and then Candidate.ID (now iCIMS Marketing Automation). He is co-founder at Poetry, the recruiter enablement workspace, lives in Glasgow, Scotland and plays rugby at the weekend.