CMO's Advice: 5 Steps That Will Help Recruiters Work Better With Marketing

December 1, 2015

As a 6-time VP of Marketing, I have a passion for transforming fast growing companies. What I have learned from various stints at startups Veracode, Rapid7, Localytics and now CloudLock is that there is one critical point where marketing and talent acquisition closely intersect: Employer branding.

Why do I care some much about employer branding? It makes the difference between building a good company and a great company. In particular, when you are not working at Google or Apple, but at one of those companies that 99% of people have never heard of when you started working there, employer branding makes all the difference in attracting and retaining great talent.

Apart from hiring great talent, why does a CMO care about employer branding? Because employer branding and corporate branding are closely intertwined.

In October this year, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to join a panel with Ed Nathanson, founder at employer branding consultancy Red Pill Talent (full disclosure: Ed and I worked together at Rapid7 for a number of years) and Jon Stanners, Head of Global Talent Acquisition and Employer Brand at Talend, at Talent Connect to help tell the employer branding story (David beats Goliath: build an employment brand to compete with the big guys) from the perspective of a marketer.

  • talent connect

Ed and Jon prepped me that, as a VP of Marketing, I would be almost like a unicorn at Talent Connect, since recruiters and marketers don’t seem to mingle well. Most talent acquisition (TA) teams and executives are having a really hard time connecting with the marketing departments, I was told. They were not that far off in their perception based on a number of common threads that I heard throughout the conference:

  • “Think like a marketer” was a common rallying cry for TA teams. Well that’s easier said than done if you don’t know what motivates a marketer!
  • Recruiters can’t get any help from marketing as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has a different agenda and is stretched to execute on his or her own goals.
  • Marketing wants to control the corporate message and won’t let recruiters in on the party.
  • Even if the TA teams can get marketing’s support, a lack of backing from the executive team and legal can doom any will for driving employment branding forward together.

So, how do you think like a marketer and find common ground with the marketing team to drive your employer brand to new heights in an environment where the candidates seem to be holding all of the cards? Here are a few suggestions based on my experience:

1. Understand marketing’s goals and participate in PR efforts to drive your employer brand

Recruiters want to build great employer brands, while marketers desire to build great company brands.

Well, hello, that’s not that different!

Sit down with your marketing team and understand their goals to help drive your own. For example, as the VP of Marketing at CloudLock, one my goals is share of voice, i.e. what is my share of tier 1 press coverage relative to my top 5 competitors.

Employer branding helps drive the overall awareness around the company which ideally will help drive more inbound inquiries from the press. Even better, if you can make employer branding part of your PR efforts, there will be an even more direct benefit for marketing (and you) in driving their goals.

For example, at CloudLock the TA and marketing team work together in identifying PR opportunities that lead to press coverage, such as articles about hiring and interviewing practices. If you understand marketing’s motivation, you’ll be able to not only ask for help but provide assistance back to marketing as well.

2. Focus on things that marketers love to do too, get quick wins and establish an ongoing channel of collaboration

Recruiters are natural marketers - they love telling the company’s story. So do marketers!

Find a small branding project that gets your marketing team’s creative juices flowing and that is seen as fun and exciting, rather than as an ask. You’ll get volunteers in a heartbeat.

At CloudLock we started off by creating a bunch of recruiting videos that didn’t require a lot of time and didn’t cost a dime. After sitting around the room for a couple of hours, we came up with the idea of dubbing a cheesy 1970’s Asian Martial Arts B-movie and turning it into CloudLock’s first recruiting video - it was fun, it was different, and it definitely made us stand out. It was also a great way to start a strong relationship between talent acquisition and marketing.

After getting a couple more under our belt and proving that they are not only fun to make but actually have a material impact in page views and candidate mentions, we were able to get a funding approved for a brief video of the CloudLock Chicken Llama, our mascot.

I showed the video at our Talent Connect panel and was more than pleasantly surprised when afterwords I had a number of people come up to me and say, “You are the Chicken Llama guy!” Symbols can help make brands!

3. Take time to build trust

Building trust with marketing is much easier when you’ve had quick joint wins like the ones described above. Leverage that when it’s time to focus on more substantial progress, like social media integration.

When the TA team at CloudLock came to marketing wanting to create a new social hashtag just for employees, I initially had reservations because I felt we were diluting our brand too much when nobody even knew who we were. At the same time I had enough trust to share our corporate social handles directly with our recruiters so that they could engage with candidates. We are now running joint experiments using Periscope to drive brand awareness, employment branding, and lead generation.

Jon Stanners at Talend was successful with an alternative social media strategy by creating a people-centric hashtag that gives the employees an authentic, rather than a corporate, voice. After seeing success with the new hashtag, marketing has been much more receptive in working on joint projects.

4. Share your talent funnel to help marketing better understand your goals and motivation

When talking to Jon and Ed in prep for our session at Talent Connect, we spent a lot of time talking about our respective pipeline funnels we are trying to optimize. Marketers have become extremely data-driven over the last five to 10 years and are optimizing their entire funnel conversion. While old-school marketers have traditionally focused on measuring the top of the funnel, i.e. how does traffic turn into inquiries and leads, the new marketing world requires marketers to understand the entire funnel from lead generation to closing deals.

John described how the TA world is typically flipped upside down from that, i.e. recruiters are often asked to produce results, i.e. are measured based on the bottom of the funnel, i.e. how many open reqs have been filed (“closing deals”), without necessarily having a great understanding of the source of the pipeline and measuring the entire candidate pipeline based on specific recruiting channels (e.g. social, job postings, referrals, etc.). 

  • marketing and talent funnel

Where marketing and talent acquisition are completely aligned is that the most successful leaders are able to measure the entire funnel from top to bottom. Use funnel conversion metrics as a conversation starter with marketing. Share your funnel conversion metrics and how different sources (e.g. social) are helping to drive the top of the funnel to get buy-in to your joint initiatives.

5. Learn from the best to make yourself better

The level of talent and thoughtfulness of the people I met at Talent Connect blew me away. Recruiters are by far the most outgoing, friendly and helpful bunch of people I have met at any conference.

There were so many thought leaders at Talent Connect who get it and who are leading the pack. I felt truly inspired by listening to and learning from folks like Ed Nathanson, Jon Stanners, Lou Adler, Stacy Zapar, Charlie Milne, Dave Hazlehurst, Bryan Adams, Lars Schmidt, Katie Burke and Matthew Jeffery. If you have an opportunity to spend time with any of them - do! They all have significant experience in collaborating with marketing, driving employer brands, love sharing their stories and certainly are willing to share tips and tricks. Make sure you take every opportunity to collaborate with thought leaders and your peers at conferences, meet-ups and through social channels. 

  • talent connect

What has good collaboration between talent acquisition and marketing meant at CloudLock?

It has helped move the company to a whole new level.

We’ve been named the No. 1 cloud startup to work for in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine. What I’m most proud of is that we’ve seen a 10x increase in inbound candidates in the last 6 months alone and by far exceeded any hiring goals for the year. We’ve also achieved a perfect 5.0 company rating and a 100% CEO approval rating by our employees on Glassdoor with more than 60 reviews. Why do these things matter to a CMO? Because it takes great people to build a great company and I see every employee as a brand ambassador.

At the end of the day, we all share a common goal - to make our companies successful. To do that we need great people and it shouldn’t be too hard to find that common ground. It is not just about recruiters thinking more like marketers, I think the opposite holds true as well, marketers can learn a ton from recruiters.

I actually believe that talent acquisition and marketing will continue to grow more closely together and I’m envisioning a new role that oversees aspects of both marketing (in particular Corporate Communications and PR) and employer branding in the form of the Chief Branding Officer. More on that in the future. 

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