From Buy to Apply: Why Recruiting is Becoming More Like Marketing and Sales

October 8, 2012

The most recent US jobs report points to a surprise fall in unemployment, but there still lies ahead a long road to economic recovery. The jobs crisis is an international phenomenon, with economies across the globe looking to stimulate growth. Despite this apparent abundance in available labor, most companies are struggling to find the people with the right skills to fill professional positions. Close to 4 million positions remain unfilled in the U.S. alone, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, preventing organizations from creating the value that will drive recovery.

Talent is, more than ever, determining winners and losers. Companies no longer compete primarily on their access to capital, technology or natural resources, but also increasingly on their ability to attract and retain the best talent. The skills, experience and creativity of people drive the innovations that push organizations ahead of their competition.

So what does this mean for today’s organization? It means companies, and their recruitment teams, are being forced to adapt. They are shedding prior notions of recruitment, including the idea that talented people will come to them. The best candidates usually aren’t looking for a job, but despite being employed they’re almost always interested in opportunities that could accelerate their careers – and these “passive” candidates make up 80 percent of the workforce. To target passive candidates, talent leaders are adopting a new mindset, thinking of jobs as products that must be marketed and sold, and great candidates as potential customers who need to be found and courted. Consequently, the job description of tomorrow’s recruitment professional is being rewritten, driving recruiters to behave more like marketers and salespeople than ever before.

Evidence of this dynamic can be seen in the increasing use of social media as a recruitment tool, which has caused more disruption in the talent acquisition industry in the past few years than has been seen in decades.  For the first time, the global talent market is highly visible, accessible and searchable online. No longer do recruiters have to “post and pray,” hoping that the best candidates will discover their job ad.

Today, the relationship between employer and candidate begins long before a job opportunity becomes available, and long before the candidate might actively be looking. With the help of data-driven, brand building and digital marketing tools, the best talent acquisition professionals are looking outward, assessing the market for talent, better understanding how that market perceives their company, matching up supply with demand, presenting their talent brand to the right audience and looking to persuade and spur action. But, instead of prompting the audience to buy a product, the recruiter’s call to action is to apply for a job. Not only do we hear this from the companies we speak with every day, it’s also guiding our own recruiting efforts as we compete in the war for talent.

As talent acquisition embraces skills and strategies once the domain of the marketer, what lies ahead? Three groups will emerge as winners. The first: vendors of tools and training to help recruitment teams make this challenging migration. The recruiting game is changing, and recruiters will race to retool themselves with new capabilities. The second: recruiters at forward-thinking companies.  They will receive more investment as competition for talent increases, and will elevate their role in the organization.  Third, and most importantly, is the pool of professionals with scarce skills.  These professionals will have abundant opportunities as they are discovered by proactive recruiters, and will see better options at their current employers as their companies redouble retention efforts to keep their best and brightest.  Those who fail to adapt and embrace the new reality of recruiting will fall behind.

With this change will come a more nimble labor force, more dynamic industry, and a greater chance that by placing our scarcest professional skills in the right opportunities, we will find ourselves on a faster path to economic recovery.