I have just finished reading David Meerman Scott’s: ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR’. An excellent read, which made me think again about some of the ineffective – and very expensive – ways in which I used to work as a recruitment consultant to attract candidates and clients. I am thinking, in particular, about the standard process which I would go through when I took on a new vacancy with a company.
It went something like this: spend days cold calling for vacancies (or if I was lucky enough, a previous client would phone up or email a vacancy); I would then hastily write a quick advert using a standard format (used by the vast majority of recruiters); post the advert on one or more jobsites at quite considerable cost; sit back and wait for candidates to notice the advert and hope that they were interested enough to apply; notice half an hour later that the same vacancy had been posted by half a dozen other recruiters; hope against hope that the better candidates would send their CV to me rather than one – or all – of the others; a few days later wonder why my inbox was still empty or had been bombarded with unsuitable CVs, or CVs of candidates who had already applied via one of the many other agencies working on the vacancy; if I was lucky enough to get the better candidates first, I would then email the client with a covering note saying ‘please find attached….’, and sit back again and wait whilst they selected their preferred candidate(s) from my short list.
What is wrong with this approach is that it is (i) untargeted (ii) reactive (iii) largely ineffective (iv) very expensive (v) not very rewarding as a career. Thankfully I was then introduced to the good practice of selling retained recruitment projects, rather than fighting for scraps at the contingency end of the market; and this helped to eliminate many of the woes associated with the better candidates being lost to the many other agencies working on the vacancy at the same time. But what it didn’t necessarily eliminate was the problem of attracting the better candidates, the cream of the market, in the first place – it would be perfectly normal to introduce four or five ‘suitable’ candidates to a client and sell their skills and knowledge in a way that would convince the client to interview and recruit one of them. The biggest issue, therefore, turned out not to be whether I had managed to secure the vacancy exclusively; rather, the biggest issue was that I still hadn’t found the right way to tap into the network of the industry’s top performing individuals, motivate them to work with me as a consultant, and think about applying for this particular opportunity.
So what does this have to do with the ideas contained in David Meerman Scott’s book? One of the ideas I have taken from his book is that businesses need to think about developing a marketing strategy using various social media tools and techniques that ultimately position the business as a thought leader – primarily through publishing content that specifically targets its niche market (and various buyer personas therein).
As far as recruitment consultants are concerned, what I would take from this is that the hard work has already started in earnest long before working on a retained project with a client – it requires consultants to be continually working to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise within the market sectors in which their preferred candidates are working through publishing content on the web that appeals to their specialist interests. And this idea can be unpacked further to say that rather than waiting until a vacancy comes in and then going out and trying to hit it lucky by posting an advert on a generic job site, recruiters should be continually working away on building their personal brand and creating their image as experts in their sector. Some of the ways in which this could be achieved include:
- Define your niche market sector and carefully think about the different types of candidate you want to attract and what specific interests they may have
- Attract the best performers in your sector by publishing content on an ongoing basis (blogs, videos, podcasts, news articles, etc) to appeal to their specialist interests, thereby demonstrating your expertise in their sector and professionalism in recruitment and selection
- Be more interactive and engage directly with your candidates through social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, to answer specific questions of interest and at the same time infuse your consultancy with the personality it may otherwise lack as a faceless agency
- Build a personal profile and create a brand that the top performers want to be associated with
- Pull them into the recruitment process and motivate them to take action by offering compelling and exclusive opportunities, rather than advertising ‘just another vacancy’ shared by every other agency
- Gain automatic referrals as a result of your expertise and professionalism and thereby begin to tap in to the massive passive candidate market that is out of reach of most other consultants who waste much of their time and company profit working the contingency market
In summary, attracting the best performers in the industry is the lifeblood of recruitment and many recruiters (including me) have made the mistake of using ineffective and very expensive processes to do this; ultimately it was always bound to fail as a strategy – even if, by chance, on the odd occasion, it happened to work. Elements of a better process would therefore include:
- Identify and define your niche market, including the personalities and interests of the top performing candidates that you want to attract
- Develop a powerful social media strategy to demonstrate your expertise, and hence find and attract the best performers in the industry from the outset, rather than play the reactive game played by the majority of recruiters
- Develop an approach to selling retained recruitment projects so that you can offer your top performers a compelling and exclusive opportunity – a reason why they, their colleagues, and their wider network, have to come to you to secure their next move