Recruiting is Still Marketing: The Innovator’s Dilemma for Talent Acquisition

Recruiting is one of the toughest challenges facing businesses today. Finding the right talent is critical for success, but record-low unemployment, the flood of digital information, and a shift in the generational workforce (and their attitudes) have made recruiters’ jobs more difficult than ever.

most talent acquisition pros are still mastering the marketing skills that it takes to be a good recruiter in this digitally transformed landscape

With the rise of new technologies, companies have an increasing amount of both candidate and employee data. This data is the fuel needed to power innovation and drive machine learning algorithms,  setting the stage for AI (artificial intelligence) as the next big trend in recruiting. At least, that’s what we keep hearing, but I think we have a long way to go. As the tech-savvy early adopters continue to look to the future of AI, most talent acquisition pros are still mastering the marketing skills that it takes to be a good recruiter in this digitally transformed landscape. Figuring out ways to cut through the noise and start a meaningful exchange with future employees is the single biggest challenge facing recruiters today.

With average turnover among millennials (the biggest demographic in today’s workforce) at 33 percent, you’re effectively hiring an entirely new company every 3 years.

With average turnover among millennials (the biggest demographic in today’s workforce) at 33 percent, you’re effectively hiring an entirely new company every 3 years. The only way you’re going to do that successfully is by building a pipeline of talent and establishing an employer brand. In addition, the shift from desktop/laptop to mobile devices, coupled with the continued popularity of job review and networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor, further compounds the importance of your online presence. In this environment, your employer brand is going to become increasingly critical for acquiring top talent. Simply put, to win the talent of tomorrow you need to focus on the tactics of today, and at least for now, recruiting is still marketing.

Marketing tactics remain king in hiring

It’s been fascinating to observe the parallels between marketing and recruiting over the course of my career. It happens time and again — there’s an innovation in the world of marketing, and a few years later, we see the recruiting industry demand similar technology. Over the last decade, it’s become increasingly clear that marketing is a telltale indicator for the next trend in the talent acquisition landscape.

They have cropped up in various forms, modernizing how we approach the recruiting process. With the last decade of bullish growth and hiring demand at an all-time high, the industry’s leading recruiters are making the shift to talent pipelining. Branding and outbound efforts to drive career site traffic and interest in your company (push style marketing tactics) are fast becoming the most valuable thing a recruiter can spend time on. The struggle is balancing the short term demand to fill today’s jobs, while still finding time to focus on building a long-term talent pool. It’s the innovator’s dilemma for recruiters.

Putting the ‘personal’ back in ‘personnel’

To say that employer brand is more important than ever is an understatement. It’s not only key to acquiring top talent, it’s crucial to your company’s very survival. Corporate and recruiting brands are bleeding together. It’s kind of scary — for nearly half of the people surveyed, a bad candidate experience means not only never considering working at your company again, but also not using your products either! So, you might not only be losing out on talent but also customers too.

And in a market this competitive, it doesn’t take much for them to remove you from the consideration set. For example, according to Jobvite, nearly one-third of young people won’t hesitate to preemptively reject a company that has poor reviews on Glassdoor.

You don’t necessarily see that “Glassdoor effect” in your hiring reports, but it’s clearly an external factor that can have a huge impact. Thanks in part to millennials — who share an increased focus on values, transparency, and authenticity than previous generations — employer brand today requires a distinctly human touch. AI may help solve this problem someday, but for now, talent acquisition teams are looking to recruitment marketing and a personalized candidate experience to drive improvement.

That’s why it’s critical to build a proactive strategy around your employer branding, and more specifically, a strategy around candidate interactions with your brand. Poor experiences today can range from a website that isn’t properly optimized for mobile to slow response times from recruiting and hiring managers after an interview.

The rejection business

Recruiters are in the rejection business — having to reject sometimes thousands of applicants to make just a single hire.

The sales and marketing funnel shares distinct similarities with the recruiting funnel. However, one of the key differences between marketing and recruiting is that while we are both moving our “prospects” through a funnel, marketers want everyone to flow through the process and all become customers. Recruiters have the difficult job of narrowing that hiring funnel down to the one person that gets the job. Recruiters are in the rejection business — having to reject sometimes thousands of applicants to make just a single hire.

This is where recruiting software and artificial intelligence can make an immediate impact. AI and machine learning have advanced enough to help recruiters automate some menial tasks such as posting to job boards, digging through resumes, initial candidate screening, and interview scheduling. Full-cycle recruiting platforms equipped with automation in these areas can help solve the innovator’s dilemma for recruiters, freeing up valuable time to focus on the more human elements of recruiting.

People are the lifeblood of a company, and recruiters are the heart that keeps talent pumping into the organization. And CEOs are increasingly aware of its strategic importance — consistently citing attracting top talent as one of their top 3 challenges. Like marketers struggling with balancing the short-term demand for “leads” vs. the long-term corporate brand, recruiters too must consciously work to strike their own balance. If you’re only spending time on the short-term demand to fill open requisitions, you’ll be caught flat-footed whenever you have increased hiring demand or decreased employee tenures.

Think like a marketer, strive to engage with passive candidates who aren’t actively looking to keep your company top of mind when those A-players decide to make a change. Challenge yourself to further drive that change in 2019, deepen your talent pool, and be ready for the next hiring push.

Matt Singer on LinkedinMatt Singer on Twitter
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Matt Singer is Jobvite’s fearless marketing leader. He’s officially been in marketing and sales for the past 15 years, but informally for 30+ years starting with cookie, lemonade, and lawn mowing businesses in his neighborhood at the age of 8.


Outside of work, Matt is a proud husband, father, and “manphibian.” He tries to spend as much time as possible in the water abalone diving, fishing, and surfing.


A self-proclaimed data geek, Matt has spent his career channeling that data obsession into building great brands and scalable marketing machines. His career in B2B has focused primarily on the world of HR software, but recruiting is his biggest professional passion.




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Matt Singer is Jobvite’s fearless marketing leader. He’s officially been in marketing and sales for the past 15 years, but informally for 30+ years starting with cookie, lemonade, and lawn mowing businesses in his neighborhood at the age of 8.

Outside of work, Matt is a proud husband, father, and “manphibian.” He tries to spend as much time as possible in the water abalone diving, fishing, and surfing.

A self-proclaimed data geek, Matt has spent his career channeling that data obsession into building great brands and scalable marketing machines. His career in B2B has focused primarily on the world of HR software, but recruiting is his biggest professional passion.

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