Businesses are having a hard time filling open job-postings, which makes sense given the current unemployment rate of 3.6%. So it’s no surprise to us that our clients are telling us that finding and keeping talent is currently at the top of their list of concerns.
As a digital marketing and PR agency, we partner with our clients to execute inbound strategies that provide valuable content and attract customers. If talent acquisition is a primary concern, what about applying an inbound methodology to recruitment?
We recently executed an inbound recruiting campaign for an international rescue services company, and in this article, I plan to tell you more about this campaign and offer tips on how you can apply inbound strategies to your own recruiting efforts.
The campaign targeted individuals working in emergency services in a specific geographic region. The objective was to build out our clients’ standby rescue service division, which goes onsite to industrial facilities and does their utmost to prevent rescues from happening in the first place through rigorous planning, and stands ready to perform rescues when accidents occur.
The campaign utilized a variety of tactics including creative branding, video, a recruiting event (branded as “Selection Day”), hard-copy posters, organic social, paid social, a custom landing page, blogging, CRM mining, and more. Challenges we faced included a tight timeline and the fact that we were recruiting for a part-time role and our ideal candidate already has a full-time job, so we would have to reach people who might not be actively “looking.”
We wanted candidates to visualize themselves in the role by communicating the mission they would be supporting, so strategic use of video was key. The result of the campaign was the largest pool of qualified candidates for this position that our client had ever achieved in one recruiting push.
Whether you’re a digital marketing agency, a recruiting specialist, a hiring manager, or a business owner, today's tight labor market demands that you take a different approach to your staffing needs. Here are some tips:
- Get To Know Your Persona
The lesser-known corollary to the adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere will do” is “if you don’t know who you’re looking for, anyone will do.” That’s the PowerBall approach to recruiting, and the odds are that you’ll end up with high employee turnover.
Just as you would spend time upfront doing segmentation work to identify your ideal customer before beginning a marketing effort, put in the energy before beginning your recruiting efforts so that you really understand the person you’re trying to recruit. In fact, you can use the very same tools and strategies to do both jobs. When it comes to unpacking your recruiting persona, I recommend speaking to a few high-performers in the role you’re recruiting for, to see if there are common psychographic threads among them, and to ask what motivates them, and even how they might approach recruiting co-workers.
Make a list of qualities and qualifications. Qualifications might include educational attainment, licensure, years of experience, previous job titles, etc. These are relatively easy to verify. Qualities are equally, if not more important, but they are often intangible and more slippery to zero-in on. For each intangible quality, think about how you might verify if a candidate has that quality (more on this later).
In our campaign, we wanted people who were certified Emergency Medical Responders, and who had at least one year of emergency response experience. We knew that firefighters and EMTs would be good candidates. Speaking with a few current employees about what makes a good rescue service team member, what motivates them, etc., gave us what we needed as far as keywords and overall tone to use in our campaign.
- Don’t Limit Yourself to Active Job-Seekers
Assuming that somewhere between 5%-20% of people in a given field are looking for a new role at a given point in time, that means that you can increase your persona pool by 5x – 20x if you can reach people who match your persona but aren’t “looking.” It will take extra effort and a very compelling message to reach this group… like creating a need where the consumer doesn’t yet know one exists. I didn’t really think there was a need for 2-day delivery right to my door of virtually any product on the planet, but now that I know about it, I am glad it exists and happy to pay for it. In our campaign we used language making it clear that we were looking for actively-employed rescuers who have availability during off-shifts to join our team.
- Learn How To Reach Your Persona
As part of getting to know the persona of your ideal candidate, you’ll want to think about where to find these people. It may be physical geography, but it also may be where they congregate online, what activities they’re interested in, and what online publications they read.
Remember the intangible qualities you identified in #1, above? If you want a lifelong learner who keeps up-to-date on her industry, you might be able to hone in on these people by targeting an audience on social media who have “liked” certain industry publications, or by targeting candidates on LinkedIn who have certain badges signifying online learning/certifications. The precision tools available to marketers and recruiters today make content distribution much more effective and efficient than it has ever been.
We zeroed in on our personas in social media-based upon:
- specific job titles,
- people who had interests indicating they were likely receptive, such as having liked FireRescue Magazine or EMSWorld,
- their physical geography.
In the case of our client, they are best-of-breed in their space, and they position their service offerings as “premium.” Based on this and on the interviews mentioned earlier, we opted for an aspirational campaign tone that reflected the high qualifications required and the elite status the company represents, without being too aloof.
Our client held a recruiting event at their training center that we branded “Selection Day” (rather than “job fair” or “recruiting event”), and we made it known that applicants would be evaluated for their technical skills and physical fitness. We wanted applicants who would find that motivating. We knew some prospects would drop out upon learning this, but consistent with the inbound approach, that is actually good news! We don’t want to burn resources handling non-qualified leads, so self-selection is a very good thing.
We had just over one week to run our campaign. On Facebook, for example, we were able to reach over 14,000 people, of which 8,500 engaged with our post. That speaks volumes to the value of precision targeting and messaging. And we were able to do this for just over $500.
- Get Creative With Your Message and How You Deliver It
Thirty-eight years after it killed the radio star, video is at it again, and this time the printed word is the victim. Did you know that videos on social media generate 12 times more shares than text and images combined?
That said, the actual content in the video still matters tremendously. Not all video is created equal. A great recruiting video will convey a feeling and make an emotional connection to your candidate persona.
How do you create an emotional connection? One approach is to highlight the values underpinning your organization. Address the “why?”, as in why does your organization exist? What purpose does it serve? Your video should enable your target audience to picture themselves doing what you do, serving the mission.
Make sure you test it out on a good sample of people from your target audience to try to assess if your message is resonating as intended. It’s important to seek this feedback because you are too close to the project and probably not truly representative of your audience.
Another video production takeaway… There are a lot of bad videos out there. The worst videos are often those that try to pack too much information in, and as viewers, we tune out. It’s just not possible to create emotional resonance if you’re trying to throw all the details of a job spec on the screen too. So be prepared to cut nearly all the logistical information out of your recruitment video.
Wait, what? How will applicants know what steps to take, if they’re qualified or how to apply?
Turns out, a little mystery goes a long way, and a link to a landing page containing all the details and a data submission form will answer all your applicants’ burning questions. Just like nobody reads the credits after a movie, your recruiting video is not the place for all the job spec details. Attention spans have gotten shorter, especially on social platforms, so your video should be 30 seconds max, and ideally closer to 15 seconds long.
I’ve written a lot about video, but remember that it is only part of your campaign. Think about your positioning holistically and pay attention to your entire “candidate journey” (the marketing analog being the “buyer’s journey).
- It Takes a Team to Build a Team
Developing the most successful recruiting campaign will involve HR, Marketing, Operations as well as members of the functional area for the open role. All bring perspectives and expertise that will help you solve your biggest and most critical problem: how to grow your organization with the right people.
I believe that in healthy organizations, thinking carefully about organizational needs, empathizing with a given candidate persona and especially reflecting on what is widely resonant about your culture is a process that has the power to drive engagement among your existing team in ways that may surprise you.