Time to Step Up to the Marketing Plate

Jan 2, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 3.44.24 PMI recently led a session at a recruiting conference in which I asked how many of the talent acquisition professionals present had to give an account of or provide a forecast for their budget– which was on average between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. Almost no one raised their hand!

Surely there are some organizations that are more ROI-focused and demand more from their recruiters, but this is clearly not the norm. The norm is comprised of vague projections, with little to no accounting for the return on those budget dolloars.

Can you imagine any other department in a business having zero accountability for how it spends its money? How would it go over if, for instance, the sales department said, “We don’t think it’s necessary to explain what we spent our budget on. We spent it, and we need more next year. Thanks.”? It would go over about as well as a lead balloon. The typical budgetary process does not support dart-throwing.

So, why is this allowed in the recruiting function? There are several culprits behind these low expectations.

First, the organization is not forecasting its staffing needs, which results in a budget that lacks clarity in terms of measurable outcomes. Who can be held accountable when no outcomes have been defined? Second, recruiting is often viewed as a soft-skilled people profession that is difficult to quantify. Since there’s no guarantee that a recruitment marketing campaign will be successful, there’s a false perception that no hard equation can be formulated for how much money and time it will take to fill a position. Third, if people are being hired, then the system ain’t broke, and if it ain’t broke … positions eventually get filled, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that acquiring talent is not to be taken lightly. In the knowledge economy, talent is the last great differentiator for a business. The Boston Consulting Group says that of all HR functions, talent acquisition has the highest impact on the success of a business. Having the right people in the right places at the right time enables companies to take advantage of market opportunities, meet business goals, and spur innovation. In short, the better the recruiting effort is, the greater the competitive advantage a company has.

In light of the fact that, to a large extent, recruiters determine the success or failure of an organization, the onus is upon you to be as strategic and competitive as possible in acquiring talent. To do that, you need to think like marketers. You think constantly about the messaging that goes out, and where it’s going, and the return on your investment.

“But I do think like a marketer!” you may protest. If you do, you are an exception in your field. How can I say that? Because in the course of my work I see a lot of bad job descriptions — and worse titles — and I see them showing up in the wrong places. If you are a good marketer, you do not:

  • Simply copy and paste the hiring manager’s job requisition. Broadcasting a bulleted list of requirements misses the opportunity to infuse company brand into the posting. Marketers understand that every piece of written content is a reflection of brand. Marketing messages are carefully designed to attract and draw in prospects. Take a look at the messages from the website of marketing masters, Red Bull. The gorgeous photos and short, catchy headlines are intended to attract high-energy, adventure-seeking types. Its content is compelling to its target audience. Is yours?
  • Use clever but confusing job titles. Job seekers are not searching for “sanitation engineer” when looking for custodial jobs. Other examples available here demonstrate how to ineffectively title your job openings. Good marketers don’t confuse prospects.
  • Push job openings out to the same places you always do, without considering if that’s where your target audience is. Smart marketers research channels to see where their audiences are, understanding that their audiences do not remain static and neither should marketing strategies.
  • Fail to use data to analyze the success of your marketing campaign to calculate ROI. Marketers are held accountable for every dollar they spend — and the results of that spend — so they determine ahead of time what success will look like and how to measure it. With the data available today from job boards, social media tracking services, external benchmarking sources, and internal HR systems, there’s no excuse for not analyzing your campaign. Even if the higher-ups don’t demand it (yet), this analysis will help you to be better at what you do.

The result of being better at what you do: your company has the necessary staff to achieve its goals, and you are recognized as an asset to the company. Executives are beginning to expect HR to contribute to business goals and even to consider HR as a “profitability contributor.” Thinking — and acting — like a marketer will put you well ahead of the curve. As they say in so many marketing messages, “Act now!”

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