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Recruiters, please stop selling jobs [Guest Post from Aki Kakko]

It’s the end of 2016 and by now you’ve probably noticed that marketing and sales are in the midst of big changes. Due to the internet and social media, we are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming number of marketing messages everyday. As marketers, we have seen this “push marketing” approach grow less and less effective, and as consumers we are, to say the least, annoyed by it.

In addition, the internet and social media have dramatically changed the role of a salesperson. Customers typically don’t reach out to salespeople for information anymore. They reach out for advice and guidance related to a purchase or the actual use of a product or service. The purchasing decision might have been made earlier. And, in many cases, the buyer knows even more about the product or service than the salesperson.

The same applies to jobs and careers—and this represents a major change from how things were just a few years ago.

However, over the past few years, recruitment marketing has evolved very little. For example, we still create job ads based on job descriptions that were created by HR and hiring managers. Unfortunately, these descriptions are primarily intended for internal use … but we are just too lazy to change them. To be frank, 99.9% of the time these ads are little more than uninspiring lists of candidate qualifications. Then we spend a fortune to spam these same job ads via job boards, job search engines and other means. It’s no wonder so many ads receive so little interest. If we marketed our products and services as poorly as we market our jobs, there wouldn’t be any roles to fill!

To really start understanding how to connect and communicate with our potential candidates we need to understand them much, much better—and not just their skills and experiences. We also need to understand their interests and motivations. What drives them? What would compel them to consider and make a career change?

The importance of candidate personas

In the sales process, we use “buyer personas” to understand the key factors that motivate our buyers. We need to apply the same approach to recruitment by defining our candidate personas before we do any marketing to them—and even before we have actual roles to fill.

To create candidate personas, we begin by doing research on our candidate target audiences and conducting interviews with them. Then we use our completed candidate personas to create employment content that effectively engages our target audiences and begins the process of forging meaningful relationships with them. The only way to do this is to create content that provides real value to them—for example, content that educates them or that keeps them informed of the latest trends and developments in your industry.

People who are not even aware of your company will not respond to your uninspiring job ads or to content that doesn’t appeal to their personal needs and interests. They won’t even give your content a glance. And why should they? Remember, they’re constantly being bombarded with mediocre and poor content from a hundred other sources. To stand out, your content needs to be more thoughtful and tailored to the reader.

Creating content that stands out

Consider sponsoring or organizing an event or webinar that allows your best people to share their knowledge and expertise. Or why not to open up some of the work you do or technical challenges you have by open sourcing or by blogging, writing whitepapers and publishing ebooks? These kinds of marketing activities will also provide you with relevant leads—individuals who will eventually view you as a potential employer.

Again, providing your talent targets with meaningful content is the key to having them consider you a viable employer. Make sure some of your content reveals the culture and spirit of your company. Show what makes your organization unique. Give people a clear picture of what daily life is like for your employees. And be sure to avoid those dull generalities that so many other companies crank out—“We are an amazing and innovative market leader with foosball table and funky perks blah, blah, blah …” Above all, be honest in your content. The best way to draw the right talent to you is to be authentic and open. If you require people to work long hours, don’t hide the fact or lie about it. Every experience is relative to the expectation you set.

As recruiters, our role is not limited to opening the door to talent. We also need to making sure we help retain the people who best fit our organizations and who thrive in the work environments we create. Our key metrics shouldn’t be limited to number of hires, speed to hire, and costs. Retention of our best and brightest is equally crucial.

Bottom line, we need to stop “selling” jobs and start thinking about engaging our talent targets with meaningful content. We need to help the talent we’re interested in take an interest in us. This means providing them easy access to all the information they might need during their candidate journey—a journey that begins with simple awareness of our companies and then transitions into actually considering us as employers. As our content successfully moves more and more of our candidates to the final stage of their journey—the decision stage—we can be sure of two important things: the first is that we are on the right path as recruiters … and the second is that we’ve made our candidates’ journey much easier and more fulfilling.

Special thanks to Aki Kakko, CEO of Candarine for this guest post!Follow Aki on his inbound recruitment marketing quest here, here and here.