The 4 Ps of Recruiting

From the time I had my entree to recruiting many moons ago, I’ve been convinced recruiting shares many of the same attributes of the sales and supply-chain functions, with a little process-excellence and creativity on the part of recruiters and hiring managers thrown in to keep things interesting.

You’ve read many articles on ERE about how recruitment encompasses elements of both sales and supply chains, so no need to re-hash them here.

While I still draw parallels between recruiting and these functions, I’ve recently changed my tune a bit, inspired by a conversation with the president of one of our medical-device companies. He was sharing his excitement about how one of the company’s newest products was poised for aggressive growth, and proceeded to highlight some of the elements of the marketing plan that he believed would propel the product to capture the lion’s share of its target market.

As I listened, I was taken back in time and realized he was sharing a real-life version of the “4 Ps of Marketing” I learned about in graduate school (but never personally used). These are Product, Promotion, Price, and Place.

Essentially, the 4 Ps of marketing represent another repertoire of tactics, tips, and tricks to use in recruiting. Here are some ideas on how to directly apply these concepts to recruiting:

  • Product. In the world of marketing, a product is what a company sells to make a profit. In the world of recruiting, the product arguably is the opportunity you are selling to your target audience, or candidates. Landing the right candidates will hopefully translate to profits for your organization. Think about the product as not only the job to be filled, but as a “career bundle” entailing the organization and all the reasons why someone should want to work for it; the actual job opening; the career progression the job can lead to; and the engaging experience being part of the organization can provide. As you think about your product, consider that marketing often bases its decisions on product development and features/benefits to highlight on the findings of market research. This can be easily adapted to recruiting. Consider conducting research on what features and benefits you should highlight in marketing your product. A great place to start might be with your own employees; it could be as simple as asking them why they came to your organization and why they stay.
  • Price. Marketing people spend a lot of time and effort on pricing products right. So should you. How you “price” your opportunities (i.e., a compensation package) could determine which of your target-market segments you will most likely attract. Many candidate surveys claim that compensation is not the primary driver of a candidate considering an opportunity. That may be so, but I can tell you from nearly every candidate I speak with and what my recruiters share with me, it’s high on the list and should not be ignored. Make sure your compensation packages are competitive and creative. Communicate the total value of what you’re offering, including base salary, bonus, perks, and benefits. It’s no different than marketing, as consumers consider the value of what they are getting for the price. Your candidates are doing the exact same thing as they consider your opportunities and offers.
  • Place. How a product or service will be made available for purchase by the customer is the focus of this P. For recruiting, place represents where you will make your product (opportunity) available in the talent market. Will it be nationally, regionally, or locally? General populations or targeted niches? Another dimension of place is where your product is made available, such as company career websites, job boards, print advertisements, associations, and networks. Think about your channels carefully and be selective, since the “kitchen sink” approach is usually not economically feasible, cost effective, or targeted enough for a good portion of opportunities.
  • Promotion. This refers to the techniques for communicating information about products to consumers, and includes advertising, selling, sales, and special promotions, and public relations. How will you promote your opportunities and organization? Do you currently have an employment brand? Is it aggressively promoted? If you answered yes to these questions, assess the effectiveness of the efforts by determining how you are viewed in the talent marketplace. How do your own employees see the organization? What do candidates tell you? You need to ask these questions to determine whether the messages you’re conveying through your promotion are the messages that are actually getting through and yielding the desired response (i.e., candidates are interested in and applying for your opportunities).

In addition to these four Ps, one other to consider is position, which focuses on how one differentiates itself from the competition. As outlined in the classic business text Competitive Strategy, Michael Porter describes three potential generic strategies: cost leadership (leading on the basis of cost, such as a Wal-Mart), differentiation (based on unique features and benefits, like a Wegmans), and focus (targeted to a certain group, such as Lexus targeting the luxury car buyer).

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Translate these strategies to your product. Cost leadership can be translated to an organization’s position in terms of total value of the opportunities (i.e., be a market leader, lagger, or just keep pace when it comes to salary and benefits packages).

Differentiation focuses on communicating an organization’s features and benefits (such as how Southwest Airlines focuses on being a “fun” place to work). Focus targets specific types of candidates, similar to how commercial airlines recruit pilots from the military.

Consider putting some, or all, of these marketing approaches to work for your organization to stay fresh in your approaches to talent acquisition. These classic approaches applied in new and creative ways can help keep you ahead of your competitors and, of course, make the all-important sale. In our world of recruiting, this means closing the deal by landing the best candidates.

Finally, I have not yet figured out how I can adapt some of the basic approaches in research and development (i.e., the Scientific Method) to recruiting, so if anyone has any ideas, please share with the rest of us. We’ll then have a complete parallel between the recruiting and the major line functions of the business world.

Lisa Calicchio, SPHR, is Director of Recruiting -- Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, the internal talent acquisition organization of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. In this role, Lisa manages the development and delivery of talent acquisition strategies and execution for Johnson & Johnson?s U.S. pharmaceuticals and biotechnology operating companies. In addition to managing this segment of the business and a significant client base, Lisa focuses on enhancing JJR's consulting capabilities through specialty teams for business analytics, training, and recruitment marketing. Her background includes extensive experience as an HR generalist and recruiting, though she started her professional career "on the line" and held several line positions across key functional areas before moving from sales and marketing into HR.