Recruitment Marketing in 2019: The New Black Hole (and How to Fix It)

Let’s pretend I’m the head of marketing for a company that sells a specialized product to a targeted audience of elusive corporate HR leaders — a tough audience to reach and an even tougher one to persuade (sound familiar, technical recruiters?).

Now, imagine I run a six-figure campaign to generate awareness among those folks and encourage them to schedule a demo of my company’s product. And let’s say the campaign works. After a month, the campaign’s generated hundreds of leads who are eager to learn more.

And then, I do the unthinkable: I completely ignore 99 percent of them.

That’s right: I ghost ’em. No drip nurture campaign. No follow up. No personalized outreach. Instead, I let them languish in a dead-end database, leaving them to wonder why the heck they’d ever want to do business with us.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Welcome to recruiting in 2019, folks.

The Chasm Between Tech Investment and Adoption

In 2018, global research firm IDC reported that investment in employer branding and recruitment marketing would reach $2 billion by 2022. And recently, several other reports — including one from The Talent Board — indicated this tech category will be one of the primary areas of investment in 2019.

And that’s great. There are a lot of fantastic technologies out there that can help companies tell their story, grow their pipelines, deliver better candidate experiences, and pass higher quality talent to hiring managers. The problem? Companies might be buying this stuff, but they aren’t using it — and that’s creating a scenario akin to the anecdotal one above.

Consider these findings from our 2019 Fortune 500 Recruitment Marketing Benchmarks Report:

  1. 44 percent of the Fortune 500 provide candidates the option to join a talent network — but only 5 percent of those companies (11 in total) send anything other than job alerts. In a tight job market dominated by passive candidates who don’t care about your jobs, that’s akin to marketing spam.
  2. 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies with a talent network don’t send anything after the confirmation email. Not even job alerts. Think about all the time, effort, and money spent on attracting passive talent to your career site. You get people there (yes!), they raise their hand to learn more (double yes!), and then … you do nothing. That’d get most marketers fired.
  3. Of the companies sending job alerts to their network, just 28 percent personalize those jobs to each person’s profile and behavior. The disappointing thing here is that this is exactly what (good) technology can help with.

Here’s the big issue: Candidate behavior and expectations are changing have changed. We’ve bought candidate-facing technology to adapt and appeal to those changes. And candidates are actually engaging. And then … nothing. Even worse than nothing, the whole pre-apply experience becomes another black hole where any hope of meaningful relationship building goes to die.

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How We Fix This

This isn’t meant to be a condemnation of recruiters or any of the fantastic employer-brand teams who are fighting the good fight and pushing back against the norm. And I’m not saying recruiting is exactly like marketing. It’s not.

Instead, I think all of this data points to a very clear problem: Companies are investing in technology, but they’re not matching that investment with people and processes, too.

To quote IDC Talent Acquisition Analyst Kyle Lagunas: “Before you run off and decry your recruiters’ failure to adopt the technology you’ve invested so much in, consider whether the problem isn’t one of user adoption. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the problem is something more akin to a lack of dedicated recruitment-marketing specialists.”

Bingo.

What we’ve found in our research is that the companies truly excelling with recruitment marketing have worked diligently to acquire the skills and people to build and manage effective marketing campaigns (as in real recruitment marketing headcount!). Those companies are seeing real ROI — using engaged pipelines to fill positions before they open and eliminating countless inefficient hours and wasted dollars from their internal processes.

It’s past time that we recognize the importance of this stuff — and the risk to the business if we don’t. For any corporate talent-acquisition team to successfully embrace recruitment marketing, tech alone won’t cut it. It’s essential and it can absolutely help. But without the right people and strategy behind it, I’m not sure anyone’s better off.

Josh Zywien leads SmashFly’s marketing team, working directly with a team of creative and operational pros who manage all aspects of SmashFly’s brand, thought leadership, demand generation, sales enablement, and product marketing. He previously served in sales enablement and product marketing roles with SmashFly, and he’s passionate about helping companies better communicate their story -- who they are, what they believe, and how they help a particular market solve real, meaningful challenges. Prior to SmashFly, he ran his own business, worked with a Boston-based venture capital firm that defined thought leadership in its space, and worked in an operational role at a marketing technology startup.

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