If you’re like most people today, you’re probably spending a bit more time in front of the television. Which means that you’ve probably viewed panning shots of empty cities and up-close portraits of essential workers while a piano plays gentle music and a subdued voice tells us about the “new normal” and how a company will be here to help us as we “get through this together.”
While one can debate the motives behind such advertisements and argue about their effectiveness, one thing is readily apparent: They are all the same, literally.
They are so alike that a YouTuber named Microsoft Sam posted a video two weeks ago titled “Every COVID-19 Commercial Is Exactly the Same.” It featured a supercut of every TV ad made specifically to advertise during “these trying times.” Having garnered over a million views, the video illustrates the eerie similarities of attempts by companies to connect with their audiences, with commercials from across all industries by well-known businesses, from Apple to Verizon and every company in between. It’s a sure bet that if you’ve heard of the company, it’s probably represented in the montage.
So, what do these TV commercials have to do with recruiting?
The spate of COVID-19 ads demonstrates a problem that afflicts not just general corporate advertising but recruitment marketing, as well — the failure to differentiate yourself.
Recruiting professionals are keen on buzzwords (candidate experience, AI, D&I), and they love to quote talent acquisition case studies about companies like Facebook and Apple — and then copy them. But that’s no way to do employer branding.
Try this little test: Take a look at one of your company’s job posts. Compare it to your competitor’s job posting. My guess would be that the ads are pretty similar, probably a basic description of your company followed by a generic and likely unrealistic list of skills that you want in your new worker, capped off with some legalese.
For instance, I conducted a recent job search on Indeed that revealed over 3,000 jobs within a 25-mile radius requiring a “self-starter.” Over 4,000 positions demand “detail-oriented” candidates. And almost 7,000 jobs need someone who’s “passionate.”
You can do the same test on your corporate webpage and compare it to your competition’s. While you’re at it, you might as well check out your presence on third-party websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Again, my guess would be that you’re blending in with your competition. If you didn’t work for your company, you might not even recognize your own company’s marketing. You might not recognize it anyway! The point is that it’s pretty easy to see how the uniformity and the sheer amount of certain messaging can overwhelm a candidate, who’ll end up either ignoring your communications or group you in with everyone else.
With the current slowdown in recruiting, now is the perfect time to take a look at your recruitment marketing strategies to really think about how your brand comes across. Depending on the scope of your resources, this can be as simple as modernizing your job descriptions or a more complex endeavor such as hiring a consultant or engaging your internal marketing team to completely revamp your messaging and marketing focus.
Whatever route you choose, the biggest problem I see in our industry is failing to define who you are, what you do, and how you are different. Most organizations try to do this through lofty mission statements, but how often do those translate to the down-and-dirty function of everyday talent acquisition? You’re better off spending some time outside the recruitment bubble by talking to other departments to gain their perspectives. For example, I like to do day-in-the-life interviews so that I truly understand other roles from the point of view of the people actually doing those jobs. From there, I can better demonstrate those attributes through my attempts at recruitment marketing.
Ultimately, a recruitment marketer’s job will never be completely done; it is constantly evolving. But being cognizant of how the outside world views (if it views at all) your offerings is a great place to start. Combine that with some introspection and creative messaging and you are well on your way to avoiding being just a face in the crowd.