Recruiting isn’t rocket science. But for some reason, that hasn’t stopped a cottage industry of consultants and commentators from adding unnecessary complexity to a pretty straightforward profession. Recruiting, ultimately, all comes down to filling requisitions as cheaply and quickly as possible with the best talent you can both find and afford.
Of course, recruiting is easier said than done. This might be one of the reasons pundits spouting specious theories seem so much more prevalent than real recruiters really practicing what those thoughtless “thought leaders” preach.
This isn’t to bite the hand that feeds me, of course; if recruitment were really as straightforward as simply putting a butt in a seat and moving onto the next open req, then I’d quickly find myself out of shit to write about – and out of a job, more than likely.
You Can’t Fake Authenticity.
So, I do what pretty much everyone else does, and look for ways to keep cranking content around trending talent topics like “employer branding” and “candidate experience” without questioning the intrinsic value (or recruitment ROI) of these and the litany of other questionable concepts that have somehow become codified into “best practices” by analysts, consultants and technology companies all looking for their share of your recruiting related spend.
With that spend worth an estimated $90 billion every year in North America alone, it’s no wonder that there are so many recruiting products or providers out there, both established and emerging, hawking so many snake oil “solutions” designed to address stuff that’s not actually a problem to begin with (see: video cover letters) or that these vendors’ crappy products created in the first place (see: “candidate experience platforms”).
There’s a talent gap out there impacting recruiting, alright. It’s called a credibility gap, and, incredibly, it’s still growing. From the endemic “black hole” so often associated with the candidate experience, to the mass automation and depersonalization of recruitment communications, it’s harder than ever before to earn a candidate’s trust .
Chances are, that crappy culture collateral, cliched employer branding copy and second rate stock photos cluttering up your careers site probably aren’t helping you much, either. We can talk about engagement all day, but if no candidate really wants to engage with you, you’d be better off posting and praying for a miracle than spending more time on money on social recruiting or pipeline building.
We can talk about building an employer brand, but if no one’s talking about you, then word of mouth marketing doesn’t much matter to your recruiting efforts. We can talk about candidate experience all day, but when you deter potential applicants with lengthy online applications, cumbersome workflows and anachronistic legacy systems, then there aren’t going to be many candidates left to have any kind of experience with you, good, bad or indifferent.
They Won’t Be Fooled Again.
It’s the latter option, however, that employers should be really worried about, because it’s that indifference that stands to make the biggest difference when it comes to recruiting success.
And when top talent is increasingly inundated, that indifference may be the only way to deal with the deafening din and tuning out recruiters entirely. Hell, you can hardly blame them. Recruiters are still selling the same shit as always, and slightly different packaging can’t change a product that no one really wants in the first place.
Every employer is trying to do more or less the same thing, building the same strategies with the same technologies as everyone else out there competing for top talent.
But as an industry, the one thing employers have been unable to do is to overcome the same deeply entrenched, employer centric status quo and recruiting related hubris that caused such widespread candidate discontent and job seeker trust to begin with, addressing new problems without fixing the old ones, first.
It’s easy to blame technology or tools for our shortcomings as recruiters, but if we want to close the talent gap, we’ve got to close the credibility one, first. This means for recruiters, “authenticity” and “transparency” have to move from vacuous buzzwords to meaningful behaviors.
When you’re recruiting, you don’t want top talent to think of you as another generic recruiter at another generic company peddling the same “employer bland proposition” as every other employer e out there; when it comes to top talent, these talking points are likely to fall on deaf ears.
While you probably don’t control compensation, culture fit or career advancement – the stuff that most easily and expediently closes candidates – you do have control over your personal presentation and style. And if you can use these to connect with candidates, you’ll control the most meaningful competitive differentiator any recruiter out there has in their talent toolkit.
Stop Talking Down To Top Talent.
Let’s face it: top talent today has no shortage of career opportunities or options; it’s a buyer’s market, which makes selling a job a whole lot harder for recruiters and employers alike.
Half-assing it is a surefire way to achieve total failure – if you’re going to beat the competition, you’ve got to go all in, always.
This means actually taking a step back and taking a look at how, exactly, the twin tenets of authenticity and transparency can become inexorably intertwined with every part of hiring process.
From your initial job postings to candidate outreach, offer extension, on-boarding and beyond, consistently sounding like a real person, and not just another recruiter, will help any talent pro overcome the limitations of any legacy system – and the legacy of the credibility gap from crappy candidate experiences and recruiter interactions most of these potential new hires have had in the past.
Job seekers already expect their job search to suck. And, unless you’re really giving your candidates the white glove treatment, chances are you’re not going to change their mind about the relative trustworthiness or value of the recruiting profession writ large.
All you can hope to do is prove the exception to the recruiting rule. Offer top talent resources instead of red tape. Stop keeping the gate and start opening doors. Speak about your company and opportunities openly and honestly instead of relying on platitudes and PR boilerplates. See the candidate as a person instead of a transaction, and there’s a good chance they’ll do otherwise. Stop selling and start listening.
The sad thing is, most recruiters don’t do any of that stuff, which is why being yourself is so important to achieving success. Because you’re not most recruiters. You’re you.
And unless you’re a total douchebag, that’s a pretty killer competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and converting top talent.
Job Postings: Bullet Points To The Head.
Alright, so here’s the thing: for the canon of copy and cottage industry of consultants dedicated to transparency and authenticity, there’s no way in the world to actually anyone teach anything actionable about these concepts.
No one can tell you how to be yourself. It’s all relative, highly subjective, and at the end of the day, there’s only one person who knows if you’ve succeeded in keeping it real or not. Conversely, if you’re not staying true to yourself, then you’re also the only person who has to live with the results of being inauthentic or opaque.
If you’re not capable of leading your own thoughts or influencing your own outcomes, there’s no saving you in the first place. No matter how many consultants and content marketers weigh in on the subject, there’s no extrinsic way to professionally benchmark against an intrinsic value that’s inherently personal. I can’t describe to you what being authenticity actually looks like, either, because it’s one of those amorphous concepts where you only know it when you see it.
Similarly, while the elements of authenticity and transparency are defined largely by personal perception and self-awareness, that doesn’t mean that these principals can’t be codified throughout your enterprise wide recruiting process.
While personal style, tone and voice will vary between individual recruiters, by ensuring that everyone in your talent acquisition organization has a clear and comprehensive understanding of your company’s mission, vision and values (and what these concepts really mean).
If your team’s interpretation of these concepts within your organization is consistent and cohesive, then your external representation of these core components of company culture will almost inevitably align when speaking to candidates and ensure messaging that’s on point and on brand.
Authenticity happens when each individual recruiter can speak about what the company’s mission, vision and values mean to them, how it’s shaped or influenced the recruiter’s own employee experience, and what candidates can actually expect from a company culture or career opportunity from someone who actually lives it every day (this can also be framed as transparency, if you’re keeping score at home).
Closing the Credibility Gap: 4 Employer Brands Getting Recruiting Right.
Recruiters are the real brand ambassadors, but that doesn’t mean that authenticity and transparency can’t scale across an enterprise. Here are some examples from some companies whose employer brands seem to get this stuff right – and why I think you should follow their lead.
Remember, though: this all comes down to a matter of personal preference, so while examples might not work at every employer, you should get a sense of what works when it comes to creating authentic authenticity and truly transparent transparency – even if, indeed, you only know it when you see it.
Now, see here.
LifeLock: Protecting Its Virtual Identity.
As far as credibility issues go , it probably doesn’t get worse (at least on the consumer brand side) than a company whose founder was so confident in his own product he drove around New York with his social security number plastered on top of a taxi cab, only to have his own identity stolen soon after pulling what can only be referred to as a misinformed publicity stunt. Talk about trust issues.
LifeLock’s employer branding copy, however, manages to be clear and concise, doing an effective job spelling out their mission, vision and values in a straightforward, simple way that’s both elegant and accessible, eschewing fluff to let potential employees know exactly how their work contributes to a bigger purpose of detecting identity theft and restoring stolen identities.
As lofty as that purpose seems, LifeLock’s company blog, LifeLock Unlocked, does a great job of capturing real employee testimonials and expertise, showcasing real employees doing real things to really help the company advance its greater purpose of preventing identity theft while also advancing their own careers in the process.
The content here is informational and a great source of information about important trends and topics related to identity protection, whether you’re a candidate or a consumer; with a roster of writers consisting primarily of real employees, LifeLock does a great job establishing themselves as credible subject matter experts while putting a human face (and voice) to their employer brand – and what their company culture really looks like in action.
Bizport: Small Business, Big Employer Brand.
You probably haven’t heard of Bizport; I hadn’t either, and likely, neither had any of their new hires when they first came across career opportunities at this 25 year old Virginia based reprographics SMB.
That’s why their playful tone, from the company “Biztory” to the compelling candidate CTAs and engaging company culture collateral, do a great job of creating immediate value out of an employer brand that doesn’t have a whole lot of brand equity. For example, instead of some cliche content marketing or tired taglines, here’s how Bizport introduces itself to candidates and consumers alike:
“We are a culture of can-doers, united by a passion for providing exceptional customer service — and an extreme aversion to the word “no.”
This sure beats the hell out of “our people are our greatest assets,” which Bizport doesn’t actually need to say in order to convey their employee-first culture to candidates; instead, they show it, extending their quirky brand tone and voice to their “Taking Care of Bizness” page, which contains headshots, brief bios and fun facts about every employee, from CEO to intern – and their contact information, too.
I appreciate the fact that for this company, the emphasis of their careers site isn’t on application CTAs or job search, but rather, on who their employees really are and how potential applicants or candidates can get in touch with them, too. If every company did this, we’d be a lot closer to having solved our collective candidate experience crisis.
This not only sends a powerful message to potential new hires, but to current employees too, demonstrating that at Bizport, every employee matters and can have a unique personality and identity. Bizport underscores the fact that you don’t have to be a big brand with a big budget to get employer branding right; after all, transparency is free (and can be kind of fun, too).
Plus, I want to know how their litigation manager scored a gig as a Power Ranger on the weekends. Don’t you?
Living the Brand At Hulu.
I know what most of you are probably thinking: one of the biggest and most successful brands in online media probably has talent attraction pretty easy. As someone who’s recruited for the entertainment industry, I was always surprised at how difficult it was to get candidates engaged or interested in opportunities at the studios I represented.
Based in Santa Monica, Hulu not only has to compete for a finite amount of experienced creative and administrative talent in a competitive market, but also to establish an employer brand that stands out in what’s more or less a company town. Hulu not only has to hire for the same critical development and engineering roles as any other high growth tech company, but also to compete for key hires with the likes of its co-owners, which include Disney and NBCUniversal.
Hulu’s career page makes a pretty clear candidate call to action, inviting job seekers to “be part of the team that’s powering play.” How cool is that? Furthermore, as an online media company, I really like the way Hulu is living its brand by incorporating personalized employer branding videos and careers collateral like employee testimonials and day in the life features throughout their careers site, job ads and application process.
Swapping Stories at Sierra Trading Post.
While it wins no points for looks, the Sierra Trading post career site more than makes up for it in style. First off, there’s the fact that their careers page explicitly answers the most important question in recruiting: “Why Work At STP?”
If you’re not explicitly addressing this question – and providing a persuasive answer – on your own career site, then you’re missing the entire point of employer branding. Sierra Trading Post not only gives a pretty compelling list of competitive differentiators, but this outdoor retailer also uses an extremely conversational tone throughout their recruiting related content.
While this may be the voice of the brand, STP succeeds in sounding more or less like a real person – and one that I think most of us would probably want to work with. Sure, there are the generic employee photos, which don’t stand out all that much, although featuring each with their favorite product is a nice touch and consumer marketing tie in. What makes this site succeed is this kind of killer copy:
“Some say this is a great place to work because we keep it casual and fun while working really hard to make our company great day in and day out. That makes STP a primo place for career-minded folks who want to learn, grow and contribute from the moment they join our team. It’s an environment that encourages the entrepreneurial spirit. We like to say “We’re all in marketing and customer service here.” And it’s true. We are!”
Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, and more than a little cliche ridden, but this employer brand at least succeeds in standing out from the boring bulleted lists and boilerplates most recruiting organizations currently use in their content marketing. STP’s career site, job descriptions and other employer branding collateral sounds like a person, and if you can pull that off, well, you’re probably too busy keeping it real to even think about silly stuff like “transparency” or “authenticity” in the first place.
Which is really how it should be in the first place. Because no matter what, being yourself is always a best practice.
By Matt Charney
Matt serves as Chief Content Officer and Global Thought Leadership Head for Allegis Global Solutions and is a partner for RecruitingDaily the industry leading online publication for Recruiting and HR Tech. With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.”
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