Unless You Segment Your Recruiting Messaging, You Won’t Attract Top Performers and Techies

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 10.35.36 AMUnless you tailor your bait, you’ll never attract the very best prospects

It might sound silly on the surface, but fishing and recruiting have a lot in common. Any seasoned fisherman or woman would tell you without hesitation that the same bait that effectively attracts small fish simply would have no impact on attracting the harder-to-land big fish.

In recruiting, the need to match your “bait” or attraction features to your target is no different. The job and company features that would attract the average Joe to a job (I call them “paycheck jobs”) would barely get the attention of top performers, techies, and innovators. For example, the average Joe might be excited about the fact that you have good benefits while an innovator may be more interested in how often you take risks and fund innovative ideas.

There lies the problem in corporate recruiting. Almost all the information provided by corporate recruiting is designed to be general to meet a larger audience. But unless there is a separate message on your site or external to it that has “bait” that is tailored to attract this more desirable and harder to land target, they will never view your firm as desirable.

Every organization of course needs to do its own market research, but for those that haven’t yet done that, I have provided a list of most powerful attractors both for the high-performer group and for the average worker who is looking for a paycheck job. The top-performer list, which is provided in the next section, starts with doing the best work of your life, having an impact, and having a great manager. But where in the corporate array of recruiting tools including the job posting, the job description, or on the corporate careers webpage is there information or evidence indicating that workers here are doing the best work of their life are having a great impact and have a great manage? In fact, on this last item, you won’t even find the names of key managers or the one who a new hire might work under anywhere on the corporate site, so that you could research them on your own.

Segment Your Recruiting Messages

It’s basic marketing 101. Generic information often fails to attract. You can’t attract currently employed top performers, techies, diverse applicants, and innovators unless they can easily find out that a relevant job contains the unique factors that they care most about. Even if they are convinced that a desirable attraction factor (like new technology) is available at the company, that won’t be enough unless you also provide information indicating that it also exists in this particular team and job.

If you’re a corporate leader, think seriously about it. There is a high probability that every single element of your bait (i.e. written recruiting materials) is extremely general and as a result it might be having a zero impact on top performers and techies who expect unique things in their next job.

How to Identify the Job Excitement Factors of Top Performers

The first rule of market segmentation requires you to realize that those in this highly desirable group (top performers, techies, innovators, and diverse candidates) do not want the same things in a job as average hires or the unemployed. Thus, you must segment your messages so that they fit this target group. The best way to find out what top prospects care about is to interview some of your own top-performing employees and also to ask every top candidate to list their “job-attraction factors” that would cause them to apply for and accept a new job. In my own research, I’ve identified many of the “top-performer job excitement factors”:

A List of the Excitement Factors for Top Performers, Techies, and Innovators

Here’s a list of possible excitement factors for top performers. They are listed in descending order of importance. Your recruitment messaging must highlight the level that each one is present in your jobs that require top performers. The two most critical ones are bolded.

  1. Doing the best work of my life
  2. Doing work that has an impact on the customers and the world
  3. Having a great manager
  4. An opportunity to innovate and take risks
  5. An opportunity to learn rapidly and be challenged
  6. The opportunity to implement their ideas
  7. A choice of projects and assignments
  8. A chance to work with the latest technologies and tools
  9. Input into their schedule/ location
  10. An opportunity to work with top co-workers
  11. The opportunity to make decisions and for fast approvals
  12. Working in a performance-driven meritocracy where rewards are based on performance
  13. A transparent environment where the needed information and access is readily available
  14. Sufficient budget and resources to reach their goals

If you compare this list to what the average worker wants which are listed below (i.e. pay, security, benefits, work-life balance, etc.) it is easy to see why your current recruiting materials and messaging may have zero impact on attracting the interest and applications from top performers. 

The Attraction Elements of a Typical “Paycheck Job”

Do your own market research, but here is the list of attraction factors that I use for the average worker who is satisfied with a “paycheck job.”

  1. Guaranteed pay
  2. Exceptional benefits
  3. Security
  4. Time off with pay
  5. Seniority rights
  6. Equal treatment
  7. Minimal risk and stress
  8. No surprises/predictable
  9. Work/life balance
  10. A good commute

Incidentally now might be a good time to compare the elements of your current job with the two lists to see if your current role really exceeds the elements of a simple paycheck job.

How to Make it Easy for Top Prospects to Find a Job’s Excitement Factors

It’s great that corporations provide general information about what the company has to offer, but top prospects want to know about the excitement factors for the job, manager, and team where they would be working. Not only must these excitement factors be present, but they should be clearly visible in each of the major recruiting information channels that are available to top applicants. Some approaches to consider for making those “excitement factors” more visible include:

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  • The job posting — there is not much space, but mentioning one or two of the excitement factors here is a good idea.
  • The job description — although normally written by dull compensation people, this is the best place to detail the excitement factors.
  • Through employee referrals — the most credible and authentic way to spread the excitement message is through messaging from employees who work closely with the person and the job. Obviously employees need to be provided with the key attraction features so that they can spread them when they are looking for referrals. Employees can also spread them and blogs and on comments on websites like glassdoor.com.
  • On social media — exciting features can be mentioned on social media landing pages.
  • Supplemental job information — providing a link to supplemental information that covers the excitement factors can be effective. Providing access via the mobile phone is the most important avenue.
  • Videos — manager and team-created short videos can make it easy for outsiders to feel the excitement in these key factors.
  • Manager and team statements — key member and manager testimonials either in writing or on video can be extremely convincing and powerful.
  • The corporate careers page — almost everything here is too corporate to be credible, but a mention of key excitement factors is still a good idea.

Final Thoughts

The time has come for corporate leaders to realize that generic messaging that covers the factors that average applicants want will never be effective in attracting other highly desirable prospect segments.

Once you realize how poorly most corporations currently provide compelling bait that covers what top performers expect, the next steps are easy to recognize. First, you must realize that the messages must be tailored to top performers and customized to a particular job or job family. Next, you must identify the key attraction factors of top performers. Third, you must use market research to identify where they would likely to see and read those messages, and finally you must polish the actual messages so that they are credible and authentic to the point where they actually cause top performers to apply for the open job.

If you’re currently having difficulty attracting top performers, now you know why. Your bait is generic and it is not designed to attract top performers.

 

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic 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.