Don’t Look for Talent, Build It

The Next Gamechanging Recruitment Marketing Tactic

For a VERY long time now, recruitment marketing has been laboring under a flawed assumption. In marketing there’s a exchange: the consumer gets information about a product that is supposed to make their lives better or easier, and in return they give their attention.

But in recruitment marketing, there’s a catch: We promote and market a job in the hopes of getting people to apply, but then we reject 99% of them. We are, in effect, marketing a lottery, where the payoff is a job that should maybe be better than the one they have.

That’s not the most compelling story I can think of. In fact, it kinda stinks.

The assumption we’re making is that the job is enough bait to get people to apply. But is it? In exchange for 30–60 minutes worth of work in atrociously-designed websites to rewrite their resume into your ATS which parsed it horribly along with the ten minutes it takes to create an account with a password more complex than most banks require that will be forgotten ten seconds after setting it, you could get a chance at a phone call from a recruiter. Woot. Who could pass that up?

Obviously, we can’t change the ultimate goal of the process and we can’t exactly guarantee jobs to people who are willing to jump through the hoops, so we need a better draw.

That’s lead to a surge in recruiting content, to engagement campaigns in social media that have zero connection to the ATS (Snapchat, anyone?), to audience growth strategies on Facebook (c’mon, no one hangs around career-centric social for any longer than it takes to find a job), video strategies, podcast strategies, messaging app strategies and all these things designed to do one thing: give enough entertainment or information to the prospect to get them to apply.

Is it working? Sure. But compared to the candidate experience of five years ago (no video, no social, one paragraph vetted by lawyers about the “corporate culture,” a site with links back to the consumer shopping area, etc), almost anything is better. The bar was not very high.

But now that we’re all building content and videos and doing live video on Facebook and stuff like that, what’s next on the horizon? What’s the next big paradigm shift in recruitment marketing.

So let’s go back to the original issue: not enough bait to draw the best people. So what would be good bait. Ignore the question of channel selection (because that’s really not a strategy people), what do people want? What would your best prospects value? What would be so valuable, they’d sit through the annoying ATS dance?

The answer is simple. Go look at your internal surveys of employees. What do they want? Yes, they want more money and better coffee and maybe more chance to work from home, but there in every one of your employee engagement reports is the answer: Professional Development.

The best employees (and therefore the best prospects) want to learn. They want more skills. They want more coaching. They want to be better than they are so they can get better jobs, have more responsibility and opportunity to make a difference.

Go look at all the research on Millennials. They want to make a difference (it usually scores higher than “more money” in surveys). They only to do that is to give them more skills to deliver that impact.

Now look outside to the total talent pool. You want people who can do something? Teach them BEFORE they apply.

There has been a huge wave of companies, sites and tools who help you build and deliver training. Udemy, Coursera, CodeAcademy, Udacity, Skillshare all let someone build a course that other people can take (often for a small fee). They are growing, both in course offerings and in class sizes. You can learn everything from coding, networking, resume writing, Photoshop, Snapchat, you name it.

Why aren’t you in this game? Why aren’t you developing education materials that help people grow their professional skill set?

If other people are building and publishing courses others are willing to pay for, you can build a course, and give it away for the price of an application.

You have the skills inside you. Look at your developers and ask them to write a simple class that teaches tricks of the pros (e.g. the things they are doing right now). Ask your designers to build a class called “Things I Learned Designing for the [blank] Industry.” Ask your sales people to teach a class called “The Customer Isn’t Always Right (and our job is to help them).”

These classes would have a number of different points of impact:

1) Establish your employer brand as being focused on giving and developing talent, wherever it is. You think people don’t feel positively about organizations that provide them with a valuable skill?

2) Grow your audience and talent pool. For the price of an email address, they get something useful. That email address becomes the entry point for speaking to these candidates who you would have never got a chance to reach.

3) This is the sort of thing that gets shared. Only the most clever videos get talked about and shared, but if you provide value to someone, they will share that with their network? You want to go viral? Give people something they appreciate and will impact their careers for years. This kind of training helps them be more valuable to future employers and means more money in their pocket.

4) Train people before they apply. This might be as subtle as establishing “how we do things” and other mindsets within the company, but it might be far more meaningful. For example, if you have people applying with lots of PHP experience, but not a lot of Ruby experience, build a class called “Intro to Ruby for PHP Experts.” Make your applicants the right applicants.

5) It isn’t cost prohibitive. Built once, it can live for years, driving value and traffic (and applications).

6) It lowers hiring turnaround time. You don’t have to advertise a new role, you just have to tap into people who have the skills you need, because you helped build them.

7) If you get advanced, you can build testing tools, and when someone scores well, it can tell a recruiter to build a more personal relationship with that upcoming star.

If you are serious about building a durable competitive advantage in hiring in the next 12–18 months, this is how you do it. Regardless of what new social channel becomes de rigueur in the future, that channel is simply a way to spread the word about the professional development materials you’re launching. The class is the bait, and the social channel becomes the commercial for it.

So get serious about professional development. Your current staff will appreciate it, and it will quickly become a differentiating factor that elevates all of your recruitment marketing.

If you liked this (thank you!), you might want to follow me on Twitter @TheWarForTalent or listen to my podcast The Talent Cast.