Is there too much recruiting content?

In the content marketing space, there is a lot of conversation about how we are living in “a content glut,” or even “peak content.” These statements are often paired with stats, like the two million blog posts published every day. In a world where we publish a million more minutes of video than we could ever consume in a day, how can we deny that there’s simply too much content in general and too much recruiting content specifically?

Actually, I would suggest that the opposite is true, that there isn’t enough recruiting content. Not by a long shot.

There was a time when there were only three television networks. Even when you added in a local UHF station and a PBS affiliate, there were rarely more than seven stations to chose from. Each channel tried to gain the most audience by broadcasting things they felt the most people would watch. Shows became simple, shallow and repetitive. How many sitcoms use “let’s switch jobs to show how hard we have it” as a premise? And aren’t we still seeing “surprise twin” and “amnesia” storylines on soap operas, themselves pablum content disguised as content, to draw housewives in so they could be sold soap?

When cable became the de facto at most suburban homes, Bruce Springsteen complained that we had 57 channels and nothing on. Because, as the number of channels split, they couldn’t all show the same pablum to their audiences (the TV audience, split 3–6 ways, could support these shows, but when you couldn’t realistically expect more than one-sixtieth of the viewing audience, you can compete in a different way.

That’s why MTV and ESPN and CNN (and the like) were created, to focus on specific markets. Sure, housewives might like drama, but maybe some like news more than soap operas. Or game shows.

As the channels continued to fragment from 57 to more than 300, they could get more narrow in their focus. How many different news channels are live right now? Enough to appeal to almost every flavor of political interest.

And then the internet came, and 300 channels became three million. If you can’t get enough of Fox or MSNBC, certainly there is an online publication tailored to your very specific interest. Many of them have just enough of a viewership or readership to maintain some version of profitability despite splitting the audiences into ever-shrinking slices.

The same is true for recruiting content. In the beginning, there was marketing and corporate brand content. Why you should do business with them was just as good a reason as to why you should work for them. There was one channel, and marketing owned it. It was fine, but it had to appeal to everyone, be they consumers, investors or prospects. And the content reflected it. There were rarely specifics, and when there were, it was geared toward the consumer, marketing’s client.

Then we realized we needed separate channels to talk to those interests, and the career site was born — the one that was more than a list of jobs. But still, this channel had to speak to all prospects the same, be they intern or executive, working in Atlanta or Austin, technical, medical or administrative. And so channels got more specific again, one to each region or each job type.

Which is why we find ourselves in “peak content.” The goal of recruiting content is to tell the right story to the right prospect in order to get them to apply (though a better goal might be to provide the right story — one that so engages the prospect that they feel compelled to apply and engage themselves with the entire process). This means more and more specificity. It might not be enough to talk to IT prospects in general, when the facilities and departments staffing them in Austin and Atlanta are so different. Or that the content that drives an entry-level nurse isn’t the same story that motivates an experienced one. Building more content that connects those dots, so that the prospect feels like the content is talking to just them, requires more stories told. Lots more.

Peak content comes from the marketers who worry that they can no longer command a huge audience just by telling a pablum story. They are the networks complaining that they can’t compete with what HBO and AMC are putting out there, because those networks learned how to leverage smaller but passionate audiences.

What differentiates recruiting from marketing is that recruiting doesn’t need the largest possible audience, they need the right audience. And often that right audience is only a handful of people. After all, if you have a mid-level IT job opening in Omaha, would you rather have a dozen qualified candidates or a thousand? Because marketing wants thousands, and you really only need a few.

So reject the idea that you’ve told enough stories. This is a world where our Netflix queues are straining from the number of great stories being told in the form of TV and movies. We have amazing podcasts and Twitter feeds that we follow. Do you complain that you have too much good stuff to watch? Of course not. There can’t be too many stories, just too many bad stories.

So, tell more great recruiting stories.