Why Podcasts Might Be the Recruitment Tool You’re Missing Out On

July 12, 2018

One in three applicants for an entry-level job is unqualified. That’s a lot of resumes to sift through to find someone great. And if a job posting is attracting more unqualified applicants than usual—say, because of an ineffective job description—then you might be missing your mark completely.

This was a problem that the city government of Edmonton, Canada knew all too well. Its job postings were drawing lots of unqualified applicants and not enough of the type of people they were looking for. And since 90% of each job description was dictated by union specifications, there wasn’t much they could do to make the job posts more effective and highlight why working for them was so rewarding.

So in 2016, the recruiting team began experimenting with a radical new solution: podcasts by hiring managers. These short recordings give candidates an immediate insight into what the job and culture are really like. Here’s what the City of Edmonton discovered—and how you can try recruitment-focused podcasts for yourself.

Five-minute podcasts let candidates quickly get a feel for the job—and the manager they’d be working under

The idea to incorporate podcasts into the application process came from Shahid Wazed, The City of Edmonton’s team lead of talent sourcing strategies. Realizing that 50% of applicants came through a mobile device, Shahid wanted to give candidates a quick and easy way to digest information about the job—without requiring a lot of reading.

Each five-minute podcast features the hiring manager discussing what success in the role looks like, what vision the department has, and what aspects of the job are the most enticing. They also get to share insights into their unique leadership style, helping candidates get a sense for whether the position is a good fit for them. And if the department has any interesting projects coming up, this is a great avenue for the hiring manager to get potential hires excited about the work they’ll be doing.

Here's an example of how the podcasts show up in the City of Edmonton's job descriptions:

Podcasts are embedded into the job posting itself, giving candidates a tool to help them self-select. They don’t replace the job description, just enhance it, providing a quick and engaging introduction to the job before candidates read a single word.

And candidates have responded with enthusiasm—each recording is downloaded between 150 and 1,000 times.

Recording a podcast is quick, easy, and cheap—and avoids any on-camera jitters

As the first major employer in North America to try this unusual recruiting tactic, The City of Edmonton had to figure things out from scratch. After researching podcasting techniques, Shahid settled for recording software Garageband and hosting service Libsyn to bring his vision to life.

Recording audio rather than making videos was an easy way to put the hiring managers at ease and avoid anyone freezing up in front of the camera. To make the process even easier for each hiring manager, the team develops a script that they can look at and gives them a quick coaching call beforehand. And if anyone says “um” and “ah,” the recordings are really easy to edit.

Having no prior experience of podcasting, Shahid and his team initially spent about 60-90 minutes making each recording. Today, recordings take just 15-20 minutes at most—and are inexpensive to produce.

Adding podcasts to job descriptions has improved quality of hire 

While the recruiting team is still measuring the initiative’s ROI, the feedback they’ve received from both candidates and hiring managers has been overwhelmingly positive. Even high-profile hiring managers like city councilors have been excited to get involved. And many applicants have referred to the podcasts enthusiastically in their cover letter.

Most importantly, while the total number of applications has gone down, the quality of candidates has gone up. After listening to the job’s podcast, candidates instantly have a clearer idea if the role is a good fit for them—without needing to read a lot of text first. This means unqualified candidates are less likely to apply, while qualified candidates have their interest immediately piqued. As Shahid explains on Forbes, “candidates self-select in or out after listening to hiring manager podcasts, which is great for recruiters.”

The team says the podcasts have also helped them attract candidates they never would have reached otherwise—and made candidates more informed about the job expectations.

How to make podcasts part of your hiring process

As The City of Edmonton proved, podcasting can be an accessible recruiting tool on any budget. By using free or paid software that’s readily available online, it’s easy to record, edit, and publish a friendly conversation with a hiring manager. Simply ask them a few questions about the role, culture, and team, and put your podcasts where candidates will see them—like at the top of your job postings.

The first step is getting your hiring managers onboard and ensuring they’re comfortable with the idea. Help them understand the goals of the podcasts and get them excited about sharing their vision with prospective candidates. The best podcasts are ones where everyone sounds engaged with what they’re talking about, so when your hiring managers are invested in the idea, candidates will feel invested listening.

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