Marketing Matters When It Comes to Recruiting Top Tier Talent

November 6, 2018

For many years I have advocated a “small batch, high touch” recruiting process. This involves identifying 12-15 highly qualified people who would see the job as a career move. Highly qualified means they’ve accomplished something comparable to what needs to be done and they have been recognized as a high achiever. For example, the person was promoted rapidly or received some type of public recognition for his/her work. Given this, it’s highly likely the hiring manager would be open to meet with the person and, since the job appears to offer more career growth, it’s more likely the person would respond to the right message.

With this small pool of prequalified people, I then contact them multiple times to connect with most of them and spend extra time with each one to ensure they have a full understanding of the career opportunity inherent in the open role. LinkedIn Recruiter is a perfect platform for identifying these people given all of the filters available.

The difference maker is that by doing more upfront prequalification and spending more time with fewer people, it’s possible to improve quality of hire, reduce the number of candidates interviewed to get a person hired, increase job satisfaction for the person hired and reduce time-to-fill and cost per hire.

While this process is ideally suited for filling senior staff and management positions the “high touch” part is not as practical for high volume hiring. Regardless, getting the attention of just one person or dozens requires customized and compelling messages, whether they’re emails, voicemails, texts or job postings. Over the years I’ve found that the following outbound marketing techniques work wonders for increasing response rates.

Marketing tips to maximize response rate

  1. Highlight the major challenges in the job rather than listing skills and “must haves.”  For example, “Rebuild the international financial reporting function,” will get better response than, “Must have 10 years experience and a CPA."
  2. Capture the person’s intrinsic motivators in either a tagline in the title or the first line of the message. Bose used “Marketing Intern – Prepare Whitepapers in Any Color You Want” to attract creative marketing undergrads.
  3. Tell stories rather than just list requirements. For a VP of HR in an undesirable location I wrote a message from the CEO describing the strategic importance of the role. Fifteen of 20 people responded with just two emails. Here’s one for an “Oscar Winning Controller” that I pushed to 15 MBA/CPAs I found on LinkedIn with a creative InMail.
  4. Offer a “Let’s have a discussion” button before forcing the person to apply. By shifting the conversation to career growth you’ll be able to get more people to engage in a preliminary conversation rather than forcing them to formally apply.
  5. Use “job branding” to elevate the importance of the role. By tying the job to an important company mission or initiative your message will stand out. For example, McFrank and Williams ad agency in New York added, “Your attention to detail drives our corporate profitability” to a traditional cost analyst posting to highlight the importance of the job and the key competency.

Since this process appears to contradict conventional wisdom, I asked a top U.S. labor attorney for advice. Here’s his whitepaper contending that applying directly doesn’t need to be the first step and by defining work as a series of performance objectives you open the talent pool to a more diverse population who can do the work but have a different mix of skills and experiences. While the process is legally sound, you still need to attract the attention of the right people. That’s why creative and customized messaging coupled with multiple touches are essential. Recent research conducted by Lever (an ATS) indicated that three emails is the key to maximizing the response rates

As Gerry Crispin, the “Candidate Experience” guru says, part of a great candidate experience involves telling people exactly what the job is as part of any serious discussion. In fact, I contend that this should be the primary topic of the initial conversation, whether the person applied directly or not. The objective of this first call should be to determine if the job represents a good career move and if the candidate is interested and competent. Compensation should only be discussed if these conditions are met. If the job represents a true career move compensation then becomes a negotiating item, not a filtering one. When compensation is discussed too soon it prevents an open and relationship-building discussion and a chance to get referrals if the prospect is not a perfect fit.

While this “small batch, high touch” process takes extra time with each person being considered, it takes less time overall since you’re dealing with fewer candidates at the top of the funnel. More importantly, by preselecting the people the hiring manager is likely to want to interview and those who would see the job as a potential career move, your response and conversion rates will soar along with quality of hire.

*Photo from Death to the Stock Photo

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