May 15 2019 06:00 AM

Using the same marketing strategies you use to attract customers can also attract employees in this tight labor market.

What do recruiting and marketing have to do with each other? Practically everything! Recruiting is marketing, particularly in today’s tight, competitive labor market. To attract and hire great talent you need to leverage your marketing expertise more than ever.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of January 2019 there were 0.9 workers for every job available. That means there are more jobs open than there are people to fill them. Prior to the recession that began in December 2007, that figure was 1.7 workers per job. By the end of the recession in mid-2009, there were 6.6 times as many unemployed workers as open jobs.

In addition, the quit rate hit an all-time high in January 2019. This signals that workers are confident enough in the job market to leave their current job and seek another. Things sure have changed over the last 10 years! The tables have turned, and the job seekers have the upper hand.

This data substantiates what hiring managers and recruiters already know, that it’s hard to hire right now. But hope is not lost; by answering four questions, you can uncover recruiting secrets from the marketing strategist’s playbook that will allow even a small company to build a successful team.

1. What is your product and target market?

In professional sports, managers of winning teams know what positions they need to recruit for and what skills the players in those positions need to have to make their rosters complete. You need to be just as focused, because in a tight labor market, there’s no room for hiring by the seat of your pants.

This is where workforce planning comes in. It’s a critical discipline that company leaders should practice regularly, sitting down with each other to forecast their personnel needs for the year, pinpointing any skill gaps in the organization, identifying high-potential individuals already in the company for development and creating succession plans for key positions.

But this isn’t an exercise that’s just for big corporations. Even a small business will benefit greatly from gaining an understanding of the composition of its current workforce and what kind of workers it will need in the future. Once you can clearly see the number and types of job openings you’ll have over the next year, it will greatly inform your recruiting strategy.

Think about taking your jobs to the job seekers’ market in the same way as you would take any of your products to market. It takes intentionality, planning and strategy to make your products appealing to your target buyers. You need to know exactly what your products are (the jobs you need to fill) and the target market for those products (the job candidates with the skills you’re looking for).

Once you identify your ideal “buyers” through workforce planning, it becomes much easier to put together a strategy to identify and hire great talent.

2. What will your message to your target audience be?

Most hiring campaigns begin with boring job descriptions. How would these inspire anyone? Instead, use marketing tactics to create a value proposition for a job, much like a customer value proposition — one that makes your job stand out from all the others like it. McDonald’s and Burger King both sell hamburgers, but they work very hard to differentiate themselves from each other and the rest of the market. They don’t do that by writing dull ads. Neither should you.

The more you know about your target — your ideal job candidate — the more you can develop a customized message that speaks directly to that candidate’s question: “What’s in it for me?” A compelling employee value proposition should be an aspirational message. It should include details about what candidates might learn on that job, the sort of interesting projects they would tackle, what the company culture is like and the compensation and benefits they can expect. All of that creates a very different impression than a dry description of duties.

Let me give you a real-life example. Here are two actual job postings from the internet:

Job A: “The Sales Representative will call on a company or individual who has shown interest in Company X’s products to develop a robust pipeline of prospects. Warm leads will be provided through our websites, tradeshow contacts and directories. When a lead is qualified it will be passed on to the appropriate sales representative, blah, blah, blah.” (Boring!)

Job B: “Our Sales Representatives Make Things Happen. Our sales reps partner with industry professionals to help them grow their businesses through local advertising. Do you thrive in a fast-paced, competitive yet team-oriented environment? Do you love turning feedback into progress and continually being challenged? If the answer is yes, then we might just be your next home.” (Kudos to Houzz, the company that posted this job.)

Which position would you be more excited to explore? Clearly Job B with its engaging opening catches your attention. Enlist your marketing department in helping create more compelling messages for your job postings.

3. What channels will you use to reach your target audience?

Just as you promote your other products, you should promote your job openings through a variety of channels. But if you want to attract better quality candidates and hire faster, you can’t just post your jobs and leave them there; you need to do more, such as leveraging social media.

Social media has become critical to any marketing campaign, and it’s the same with recruiting. Potential buyers spend a lot of their time on social media and job candidates do as well. Not only do social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram help build awareness of your company and increase the candidate pool, they are critical in converting passive candidates into applicants. Statistics show that many job seekers will check out a company on social media before deciding to apply.

You can build a larger social media footprint by empowering employees to share your company’s job postings on their personal social media pages. By trusting employees to tweet, share and post jobs, you are creating a channel that can reach deep into your target talent pool.

In a tight labor market, job candidates need to be courted. Treat them like customers because their journeys are similar. We need to approach candidates the same way we would potential customers and sell them on what we can do for them.

4. How do you want your target audience to experience your brand and company?

Hopefully, the answer is that you want to provide an authentic, unique and positive experience. This starts with the very first touchpoint and continues throughout the process and beyond. Don’t forget that candidates that engage with your brand could also become customers down the road.

For the best hiring experience, you need to view the candidate/employer relationship as paramount. Look at it not as a mere transaction to fill an opening but as a journey to learn more about someone and explore if your job is really a fit for that person.

When you take a longer view of the hiring process, candidate relationships become more important. Candidates that are not a fit for or are not interested in the opening you have at the time should be captured in a system so they can be cultivated for future opportunities. Companies who nurture candidates and provide a great experience for them are rewarded with higher offer acceptance rates.

By borrowing a few strategies from your marketing department’s playbook and applying them to recruiting, you’ll be able to compete for and hire great talent. As a great marketing leader once said, “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.”

Kate Kjeell is president of TalentWell, a recruiting firm that specializes in helping small and midsized businesses thrive by finding and hiring the right people. The firm’s approach can be described in three words: find, fit, flourish. She can be reached at