The 5 Ps of Recruitment Marketing and How They Drive Great Hiring

Within the recruiting function, marketing should be king, because when assessing recruiting processes, I almost always find that the foundation components that are most responsible for recruiting success all have a marketing focus. Rather than focusing on cutting costs or process-administration efficiency, recruitment leaders need to become data-driven marketing experts in order to fully understand how to attract, engage and sell top talent.

Outsiders quickly see the similarities between product marketing/sales and talent acquisition, which is why for years I’ve characterized recruiting as “selling with a crummy budget.”

This characterization has become even truer as the competition for top talent has increased. The intense competition is causing a shift, where great recruiting is no longer driven by excellence in sourcing and assessment. Instead, the critical success factors are now shifting so that now in order to even be competitive, the branding and selling components of your hiring process need to be both market-research-driven and demonstrably superior to those of your talent competitors. 

The 5 Ps of Recruitment Marketing Now Drive Success

Recruiting leaders shouldn’t be surprised to learn that whenever the competition for anything increases in intensity, the importance of using marketing to differentiate what you have to offer rises proportionally. Some of recruiting’s evangelists for shifting to a marketing approach have tried to apply the five Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, place, and people) directly to the recruiting process. However, in recruiting, I simply don’t find that those five marketing Ps accurately match up. Instead, I recommend that you categorize the marketing components of recruiting with this similar, but different, set of five Ps: prospects, promotion, process, persuasion, and people.

1. Prospects

It’s called talent attraction because you can’t hire great people unless you first effectively attract them. And you can’t gain their interest and motivate them to apply until you thoroughly understand the factors that attract them to a new job.

The marketing-dominated approach emphasizes that it is a mistake to try to attract everyone. The needs and expectations of the prospects who are qualified for your job are likely to be unique. The goal is to fully understand what excites your target prospects.

Surveys and focus groups with prospects from this job family can provide a ranking of their top attraction and “dealbreaker” factors. Market research will also reveal the specific communications channels where prospects would most likely hear about a great company (e.g., print media, social media, or through colleague recommendations/referrals).

Steps:

  • The first marketing step is to fully understand your target group of qualified prospects. Begin by using marketing research methods in order to identify the specific attraction factors  that will get their attention. 
  • Second is to fully identify where prospects are most likely to read, see, or hear about exciting organizations and new jobs in their field. Then your organization can scientifically place your recruiting and employer-branding messages where your targets will see them. 

2. Promotion

Prospects won’t include your firm in their job search until they’ve been made aware that you meet most of their attraction factors. And the marketing approach suggests that you proactively create and manage that image. Awareness of your organization is best built through promotion marketing, which is a data-driven process of making your targets fully aware of your organization and why it meets their set of attraction factors.

The foundation step involves spreading your employer brand image to your target audience. The goal is to first make sure that targets know about what makes your product superior and, specifically, how your organization routinely meets each of their attraction factors.

The third element of promotion involves the effective placement of position announcements so that they will be seen by your target audience. A marketing approach needs to be used in order to sculpt the position announcement so that it is compelling to the point that once it is viewed, it will cause a significant percentage of qualified prospects to apply. 

Steps: 

  • Improve your employer brand by developing and spreading information about your organization’s brand pillars that match the attraction factors that draw recruiting targets to any firm. 
  • Then find out which brand pillars had the most impact by surveying finalists and all new hires to find out which pillars had the most impact on their decision to apply.
  • Encourage each of your employees to be 24/7 brand ambassadors so that they are continually spreading powerful stories about the firm among their colleagues and then converting the best into employee referrals. 
  • Finally, proactively manage both the positive and negative comments about working at your firm that can be found on the internet. A process must be developed to monitor and influence that image.

3. Process

In this highly competitive job market, you must take proactive marketing actions just to keep from losing people that already applied. Maintaining their continued interest requires a recruiting process that is designed using CRM principles so that it is candidate friendly.

This compelling candidate experience is necessary because top prospects often assume that how they are treated during the recruiting process will mirror how they will be treated as employees. And that means that you will likely lose many prospects and candidates if your hiring process contained even one negative experience.

At the very beginning of the recruiting process, it’s important to realize that even already excited prospects are not likely to complete your application process if they find it to be the least bit tedious. And candidates that are interviewing are not likely to remain throughout a lengthy hiring process unless they find it to be engaging, personalized, and reasonably fast because interviewing takes up a lot of their time. Once interviews begin, proactive action must be taken to maintain communications, to quickly resolve issues, and to continually remind candidates about the exciting aspects of working at your organization. 

Steps: 

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  • Begin by using marketing research tools to first identify and then to minimize any process pain points that are experienced by candidates.  
  • Ask all new hires during onboarding to identify the positive process elements that influence their decision.

4. Persuasion

In today’s job market, top candidates are likely to have multiple offers. You need to be extremely persuasive if you expect any top finalist to accept your offer. And you can’t effectively persuade people unless you first identify their job-acceptance criteria and then throughout the interview process show that you meet each of them. 

Steps: 

  • Begin by examining each step in the hiring process to make sure that each one includes a selling component. Start your persuasion effort by scheduling the top finalists with a few one-on-one informal meetings with key future teammates. Peer interviews can also help to sell them. In addition to assessment, they show finalists that they are wanted, and they also help to alleviate any of their fears. Providing them with short LinkedIn profiles of each team member can also show candidates that they will be learning and working alongside great teammates. 
  • Next, because most top prospects expect some degree of freedom, convince the hiring manager to provide them with choices and some degree of freedom in their job.
  • Finally, because top talent frequently wants to have an impact, show them specifically how they in their work will make a difference because that may be the final persuasion factor that may close the deal. 

5. People

The importance of this fifth “P” element shouldn’t be overlooked. Because the most impactful selling feature that is present during every step of the hiring process may be how employees, recruiters, and managers treat the candidate. 

Steps: 

  • You can assume that everyone involved treats candidates in the prescribed manner. Instead, educate everyone on the importance of being courteous, responsible, and professional throughout the process. 
  • Everyone should be charged with the role of providing encouragement and excitement. 
  • Finally, a sample of applicants and all finalists should be surveyed to identify the employees who left the most positive impressions and those who didn’t.

Productivity May Be The Final Silent “P” 

Although it involves more than marketing, the primary strategic goal of the recruiting function should be increasing the business impact of hiring. Unfortunately, most in recruiting fail to realize that the ultimate goal of every business function is to have a direct business impact. And in recruiting, that strategic business impact should be to increase a team’s productivity through effective recruiting.

Yes, tactical recruiting goals might include filling x positions on time and under budget. But the ultimate goal of recruiting should be the dollar impact on team productivity as a result of great hiring. For example, when you’re filling open positions in a sales team, the strategic goal isn’t to fill each opening. Instead, it is to increase the team’s sales output by x% by hiring the right people with the right capabilities in the most critical jobs on the team. 

Steps: 

  • Make it a strategic goal to utilize hiring to increase team productivity. Start by prioritizing the jobs in each team so that you focus on the ones with the highest impacts. 
  • Next, develop a simple process for measuring the performance of new hires (quality of hire), and with that increase in performance data, work with the CFO’s office to quantify the overall business impact of great recruiting on each team’s business results.

Final Thoughts

The importance of marketing and recruiting is very significant. However, that importance will surely grow as the competition for talent with advanced skills steadily increases. And as the amount of information that is quickly available to a prospect about a company and its jobs also continues to grow, it will become even more essential for an organization to differentiate itself as a great employer

In my view recruiting lags significantly in the area of marketing, and it is now critical that the recruiting function works closely with the professionals in product branding, marketing research, and marketing metrics to first learn and then to adapt the tools to the recruiting environment.

Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, please take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn and subscribe to ERE Daily.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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