In today’s war for talent you’re not just recruiting, you’re selling jobs to candidates. Make sure you know how to market and sell effectively.
If you’re reading this, you probably hire people. You may be in HR, a hiring manager, or just someone who interviews candidates to help your company recruit. No matter your role, you know how important it is to attract the right people.
Another way to look at your job is that of a salesperson. Most people who interview see themselves as a gatekeeper: There’s a horde of would-be employees all trying to get this great job. My role is to filter out the riffraff and pick the best one.
While it’s true that many under qualified people apply for open roles, the ones who are qualified are likely to be in high demand. It’s not unlike walking into a party and noticing the pretty girl you want to meet; many of the other single people want to meet her, too. You’ve got competition. While you started by filtering out applicants, when you get down to the candidate you want the table is turned and now the potential employee is deciding between multiple job offers. You’ve gone from job gatekeeper to job salesperson.
You don’t just sell products to customers, you’re selling job opportunities to candidates
I could write a whole chapter on different job sales techniques and will likely cover them in subsequent articles. The goal here is to get you thinking about your job as a salesperson so for now let’s consider just some basic marketing concepts: branding and brand awareness, customer surveys, and competitive analysis.
Branding is how a product or company is perceived and brand awareness is how well it’s known. Marketing departments focus on the brand for a specific product or service and for the company overall. But in the latter cases it’s for the company as an umbrella for those products or services. Rarely do they think about that brand for “selling” open jobs to candidates. Is anyone at your company focused on your brand in the labor market? If you’re hiring at scale you need to be thinking about your recruiting brand.
Another common marketing tool is customer surveys. While they can be done at any time, most commonly they are done shortly after the product was purchased. Companies often ask about the product itself: Did it meet expectations? How was the sales process? Any ideas for improving the process or product?
You may be surveying your employees but that’s looking at the steady state of being at the company. Did anyone look at how the “sales” went? We do exit interviews when people leave, but do you do on-boarding interviews?
You might be thinking, “But we won the candidate, what we’re doing works, what more do we need to know?” But what worked? Was it the mission? The manager’s closing pitch? The high salary? The work from home policy? Whether it’s done through interviews or surveys, understanding your appeal, or lack of appeal, in certain areas helps you stay competitive.
Marketers also do competitive analysis. Do you? Consider universities competing for students. They know the other universities they compete against. It might be Ivy League universities, top STEM institutions, small rural liberal arts colleges, or Big Ten Football schools but each college can tell you what other schools are most likely to compete for the students they want.
Do you know the answer for your company? It might not be a specific company, but a class of companies. Wall Street realized their rigid culture wasn’t appealing compared with Silicon Valley and while financial services used to pay more than any other industry, big tech was now offering competitive compensation. It wasn’t that Goldman Sachs lost out to any one company, but that MBA students who used to want to wind up on Wall Street were now looking at Silicon Valley. Financial services companies have been working to update their image to compete in the labor market.
Who do you lose out to? It begins by seeing where candidates who turn you down wind up (which you can find on Linkedin). Better yet, can you survey those missed candidates and find out why they choose the other companies? Any one candidate may have a specific reason. If you track them all, you may just see a pattern.
HR isn’t engineering, finance, or any other department in the company; it’s always had its own process and culture. However, in today’s war for talent, HR and anyone involved in hiring would do well to borrow some best practices from sales and marketing to become more competitive. You don’t just sell products to customers, you’re selling job opportunities to candidates and that’s as important, complex, and at times even as subtle, as any other sale your company makes.
Have people told you networking is important? What about communication, teamwork, and leadership? For all the lip service given them, how much formal education did you have on such essential skills? Probably little, if any. What are these skills and why haven't they been taught to students?