Recruiting is Strategic…or it Can Be

By: Will Staney, Director of Recruiting, Strategic Programs at SuccessFactors

Let’s face it. The times they are a changin’…and fast! Like many industries, the recruiting business over the last handful of years has seen a boost from social media and technology innovations, including mobile, making it more complex and candidates even more segmented across the web.

The number of tools, online sources, social media sites, and yes job boards, are vast and can range anywhere from free to extremely expensive. Like with any business, as an industry becomes more complex, the need for a strategy to meet goals becomes even more important. Now, more than ever, is the time to get strategic with your recruiting efforts and measure those results with analytics. After all, recruiting IS strategic…or it can be!

How does this effect the role of a recruiter? Well, I believe the role of recruiting is quickly moving closer to the Marketing department than the HR department in many ways. If you know anything about marketing you know that strategy is key, analytics are essential, and branding is everything.

To understand how complex recruitment marketing has become, let’s first take a look at how we got here. The evolution of recruitment marketing can be split into 3 “eras”:

The Pre-Web Era aka “The Dark Ages”

Remember what it was like to recruit before the internet? Maybe you’d rather not think about it? Honestly, these were the good ol’ days and if you ask me things were a lot simpler.  If you wanted to advertise an opening there were only a handful of things you could do. Candidates were looking for jobs all in the same place: the newspaper. A “help wanted ad” would hit all jobs seekers and theoretically they would self-qualify and either fax or personally come in and hand in their resume. Recruitment marketing was extremely transactional and reactive. ABC company has a job that just opened, they post it in the news paper with only a small character limit to describe the position, and then hope the right candidate walks through the door. I also call this “The Dark Ages” because, honestly, there just wasn’t enough information or communication pre-application/interview at all and both sides were largely in ‘the dark’ before making a large time commitment. Recruiters had to greatly rely on referrals and their own networking to proactively get ahead and hire the best talent. Later I’ll talk about how we are going back to that mindset.

Web Era

Hurray! The internet is born and shortly after job boards begin to emerge and recruiters and companies have the ability to instantly get jobs in front of the eyeballs of candidates all over the world. Candidates could go to CareerBuilder or Monster and apply….and apply (repeat 100 times)…spraying resumes into the databases of companies faster than they can read them. The role of the recruiter went from networker to resume sifter looking for that needle in a haystack. A plus side for the candidates was that job descriptions were longer, more descriptive, and career sites on corporate websites, though underwhelming, could give a better picture of what that company was all about.  While still transactional and reactive this was a step in the right direction and recruiting organizations had to begin thinking a little about how to brand the company and the job at least in text form but they were still pretty in the dark relying on purely a resume or bullet point skills to determine if a candidate was worth pursuing. Candidates were a little more segmented but still primarily going to the same few places on the web to find jobs in addition to being referred by friends.

Web 2.0+ 

Here we are. Like I described at the beginning of this piece, the landscape has become way more complex and candidates more segmented with new layers added to the web including the social web (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube etc), the mobile web, aggregators, etc. Now SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become even more important as more and more websites emerge on the scene competing for candidates attention and career sites become the hub of a companies employer brand and gateway to apply to jobs at that company.  The economy is in tough shape with unemployment hovering from 8-9% over the last few years. This means there are A LOT more job seekers and companies can afford to be picky. The war for specialized talent though, especially in the tech sector, is very real and the old ‘post and pray’ mentality of the web-era doesn’t work anymore. A social, mobile and proactive strategy using dynamic content is the best way to effectively recruit in our current climate.

I believe that recruiters should be expert recruitment marketers and utilize the power of employer branding and social sourcing. This is the the key to a recruiter’s effectiveness adding efficiency to the recruiting process while not forgetting those important skills from “The Dark Ages” of proactive networking and referrals. To stay ahead recruiters need to try new techniques, new ways of marketing their employer brand and open positions but at the same time measure the effectiveness so that they can hone in their strategy over time. For the most part recruitment marketing is a lot like an old saying they used to say in the advertising business in the 1960’s, “We know our advertising is working 50% of the time…we just don’t know which half.” Today, it is possible to know what parts of your recruiting strategy is working and what parts aren’t if your measuring it through web analytics. Then, once you know whats working and what’s not you can pull your resources from tactics that aren’t working and put more time and investment in what is.

I leave you with the following questions:

What are recruiters doing right when it comes to driving strategy today?

What do recruiters need to do better to move from a reactive to a proactive function?

What makes recruitment “strategic?” Is this a matter of role/responsibility or perception?

What role does social media and technology play in determining recruitment strategy and efficacy?

How is the recruitment function evolving, if at all? What does the future of recruiting look like in 5 years? 10?

How would you answers these questions? Answer in the comments below or check out my past appearance on TalentNet Radio where we recently tackled these very questions!