Recruiting with a Marketing Mindset: An Interview with Laura King

Recruiting and retaining talent: two major concerns in the workforce today. COVID, employee shortages and other factors have recently challenged the recruiting process, making it difficult to find and retain great talent.

I spoke with Laura King, President of Marketers’ Community and Practice Leader at SkyWater Search Partners, on the changing role of recruiters and how the recruitment process is shifting. She offered great insights on the importance of employer branding, how to adapt recruiting strategies and how to approach recruiting with a marketing mindset.

Changes to the Recruiting Industry

In the past year, we’ve seen the job market turned on its head. Suddenly, candidates have the upper hand. What once was an employer-driven market has flipped to a candidate-driven market. What does this mean, exactly? Candidates are able to be more selective about where they apply, what they’re willing to settle for in a company and what kind of interview process they’re willing to endure.

All of this is great for people looking to make a career switch, but how are companies handling this change?

Laura King states that companies are still focusing on the traditional mindset of having candidates prove why they belong at a company, requiring that candidates jump through hoops in the interview process, failing to communicate where they’re at in the recruitment process and leaving candidates high and dry, causing them to lose out on talent.

This approach is failing businesses because individuals have shifted their mindset to asking why this is a company they should even consider.

Laura King spelled it out as “sell first, screen second.” Acquiring great talent requires convincing talent that your business is worth considering. How will whatever job you’re trying to fill benefit that individual, and why would they be happy at your company? Can your company meet all of that individual’s needs? Does your company’s values align with the individual’s? Laura says, “It’s all about understanding the candidate’s motivations and then speaking to how the company can meet them.”

Many businesses skip straight to the screening process where it’s all about the individual’s abilities and potential to benefit the company. But in this job market, candidates aren’t willing to go through so much to prove themselves. They need to be sold on the company first and screened second.

These Changes Require New Strategy

If the recruiting process we’ve described sounds suspiciously like a sales effort, it’s because it is! You are quite literally selling your company to potential talent. So why wouldn’t you approach recruitment with a sales and marketing mindset?

According to Laura, recruiting requires “the same level of strategy as acquiring a new customer. They’ve got to use that same mentality with talent — bringing someone in and treating them well through the process, because how you’re treated through the interview process is indicative of how you’ll be treated at the company.” Candidates are more likely to accept a job offer when they’ve felt comfortable and appreciated during the interview process.

To better inform your recruiting strategy, utilize common goals to unite marketing and human resources. Keep an open line of communication, analyze your progress, meet periodically to discuss your goals and understand shared KPIs. As Laura King explains, “It all goes back to making sure teams are talking the same language, defining what KPIs are and then marching in that same direction.”

While there are many ways marketing teams can assist human resources on the recruitment front, Laura suggests supporting the nurture stage using a drip campaign. She says adding prospective talent to a campaign and then dripping on them over time can result in great returns on talent as prospective employees become aware of your company and eventually identify it as somewhere they’d be interested in moving to when they are ready for a job switch. This is just how customer nurture campaigns work with a drip campaign, but rather than selling your brand or product to customers, you’re selling your brand and business to talent.

Another strategy improvement is having your recruiter meet with the business leader before holding candidate interviews to educate the HR representative on the open position. Candidates can get frustrated when talking to recruiters who don’t fully understand the position. Laura says that “A good recruiter does a thorough intake with the business leader to understand how this person relates to the overall business strategy, and can articulate that.” That way, candidates can get their questions answered and feel like the company took their time to educate HR on the position and why it’s important to the company.

An alternative option to having the recruiter answer questions is to have the candidates talk to the business leader, allowing for “an exploratory dialogue with no strings attached,” as Laura puts it. This allows the candidate to get more comfortable with less pressure and the two can get to know each other.

Recreating Your Recruiting Process

For a stronger, candidate-oriented recruiting process, engage employer branding. Employer branding is crucial because “brand is the inbound,” as Laura puts it, and allows for people to identify your company and reach out to you as they recognize your great brand in the marketplace.

[Read More: How Your Content Marketing Supports Your Employer Branding]

Laura also described brand as “a gut feeling about a person, company or product. It’s also the experience. Brand creates a visceral response and is a long-term play. It’s about doing something over and over again so that the marketplace understands what you’re about.” It keys in the market on what your company’s values are, what your company is committed to and what kind of culture your company has.

Today, we see brand advocates and business leaders participating in thought leadership, and advocating for their company’s culture and business practices. This greatly strengthens employer branding and demonstrates a top-down approach to branding.

Potential talent searches for content like this. “People work for people, and they want to see the people behind the brand,” Laura explains. They are looking for that insider scoop of what it’s really like to work for a company, not just what the company states on their website. So getting your employer branding together is beneficial not only for brand awareness and generating business but for pulling in top talent as well.

How to Strengthen Employer Branding

According to Laura, the best way to get your employer branding moving in the right direction is to “get your business leaders together and agree on your values, and then figure out how to start rewarding employees for embodying those values.” She says that it’s not enough to list the values on your website anymore. Instead, you need to be doing something with them to show that you really live those values and that they come from the top but are communicated through everything your company does.

Employer branding is different for every company, but Laura suggests utilizing those company leaders and designating brand ambassadors who can attend events, talk about the company online and better represent the company. She reiterates that whatever your company decides to do to strengthen its brand, your strategy must be sound and your leadership team must be aligned; it must involve the entire company and not just be an HR initiative.

[Read More: Employer Branding Inspiration: 5 Brands That Are Killing Their HR Game]

Looking Ahead

While Laura and I agree that making predictions for the years to come is difficult, she mentioned the possibility of more structured training in-house for new talent coming into their roles that would show companies are invested in their employees and are putting time into them in the hopes that they can retain that talent. I loved this idea, and I think it’s an important point because businesses often struggle with retention, especially in this type of employee-driven market. So focusing on your hires, showing them that they are an asset to the business by investing in them and allowing them to grow with the company, might be the solution to turning jobs into more long-term positions that talent is prone to stay in.

Recruiting is tricky, and in the market we’re in now, it’s becoming volatile with talent coming and going. Don’t let your business fall behind with old techniques that don’t allow for talent to see the benefits of working for your business. Showcase your culture, implement recruiting techniques like drip campaigns and work toward strengthening your employer brand to have talent coming to your company rather than working in the opposite direction.

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