The definition of “recruitment” is the action of finding new people to join an organization or support a cause. The definition of “marketing” is the action of promoting and selling products or services. When these two actions are combined they become “recruitment marketing”, which is the actions of an employer that promotes finding new talent to join an organization.
While there are similarities in traditional marketing to recruitment marketing, they are very different due to their intent. Recruitment marketing is different from traditional marketing in that it focuses on the intent to promote an employer’s brand and employment opportunities and not their products or services. Just as there are many components to the actions of traditional marketing, that is also true of recruitment marketing.
If you got here by googling “What is recruitment marketing” and are already exhausted by the results of your search, we get it. Pages of links, reams of posts, lists of buzzwords (this industry really likes talking about talent acquisition funnels) … it’s a lot to take in.
There are different tools in the recruitment marketing toolbox. Some areas that fall under recruitment marketing include employer branding, digital advertising (including programmatic job advertising), content marketing, social recruiting, candidate experience, candidate engagement, and others.
Why Is Recruitment Marketing Important?
Among people outside the talent acquisition industry, there’s a myth that hiring is easy—just put up a Help Wanted ad and watch the qualified candidates pour in!
Those however that actually deliver on the talent acquisition, know that hiring the right people is a challenge. The last few decades have brought revolutions in technology, business models, and consumer preferences, which means that even when resumes are abundant, qualifications are not. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated (way back in 2017), that 40% of the global workforce would need partial reskilling to keep their current roles.
And then 2020 came along and made the situation even more daunting.
The pandemic completely changed how we work. Obviously, there’s been a pronounced shift toward working from home and the reliance on digital skills to accomplish anything. But the changes go deeper. Businesses have intensified their calls for innovation. Emotional intelligence is at a premium as we’re suddenly called on to maintain professional relationships from a distance. And, of course, there are particular skills involved in managing one’s own mental health amidst global fear and a reactive professional landscape.
Clearly, although the number of unemployed Americans rose more in three months of COVID-19 than it did during two years of the Great Recession, companies still don’t have their pick of qualified candidates. The coronavirus is transforming the job market by creating even more of a focus on skills vs. roles—and the right combination of skills can be hard to find.
So, for those folks who think hiring is easy: The war for talent is real, it’s cutthroat, and winning it is a crucial component of business success.
What’s the Difference Between Traditional Marketing and Recruitment Marketing?
While both types of marketing are clustered at the top of their respective funnels (there’s that term again!), there are a couple of important differences between traditional and recruitment marketing.
First, the obvious one: traditional marketing focuses on consumers while recruitment marketing focuses on candidates.
Another difference between the types of marketing is the people responsible for it: Marketing teams work to turn prospects into customers. HR teams (including SMEs -subject matter experts- in talent acquisition, employer branding, diversity and inclusion, social media, etc.) are responsible for making job seekers (passive and active) into applicants and eventually employees.
Finally, there’s the discrepancy in budget and innovation. HR is historically less generous with their resources and slower to catch up with the tools and strategies used by our traditional marketing counterparts. For example, consumer marketing began to use paid search in the late 1990s. Recruitment marketing didn’t follow suit until around 2006. Yelp! reviews came into vogue for consumer marketing around 2003—and not until 2008-ish for recruitment. The dates were closer together for adopting social media tactics, but still, there’s really no competition. Recruitment marketing is lagging in the innovation department (for now).
What’s the Difference Between Recruiting and Recruitment Marketing?
Recruiters are all about one-on-one. They’re relationship builders. They find and woo individual candidates for a specific hiring need. They review resumes, negotiate salaries, and find the right fit for the right person.
Recruitment marketing, on the other hand, isn’t responsible for filling job reqs directly. Instead, the discipline forges multiple relationships simultaneously, often with unseen candidates, to build a pool and pipeline of quality (and qualified) applicants.
Here comes that funnel again: Recruitment marketing comes before recruiting in the candidate journey. It tackles the work that makes it easier for recruiters to do their work because it’s responsible for communicating everything that interested a candidate in the first place.
What Practices Are Included in Recruitment Marketing?
There is a long list of practices that fall under or closed aligned with the recruitment marketing umbrella. Below are just a few of them.
- Advertising strategies
- Brand awareness
- Candidate engagement strategies (including AI, SMS, email, website, social media)
- Candidate experience optimization
- Candidate personas development
- Career websites launch and management
- Channel and media strategies
- Content creation for inbound marketing
- Diversity recruitment strategies (which encompasses veteran and military)
- Employee ambassadorship management
- Employee Referral Program (ERP) strategies
- Employer brand management or collaboration
- Employer reputation management
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) definition, tracking, and reporting
- Recruitment channels definition and strategies
- Recruitment events (on- and off-line) strategy and management
- Recruitment technology definition and management (including ATS, CRMs, CMSs, email distribution systems, and other recruitment marketing tools)
- Social media management (social recruiting)
- Talent community creation and management
- University recruitment strategies
What’s the Difference Between Recruitment Marketing and Employer Branding?
Some people use recruitment marketing and employer branding interchangeably (please don’t do this). It’s true, the two areas have a lot of overlap. In fact, many experts disagree as to exactly what function each category plays.
It’s an ongoing discussion, but for now, here’s a snapshot of how recruitment marketing and employer branding work together—yet individually—to optimize talent attraction:
Employer branding is your reputation – candidates perception of you as an employer.
Recruitment marketing is how you convey and promote that employer reputation.
Let’s go a little deeper.
An employer brand is everything you think of when you think of an employer. It includes an organization’s font, logo, and tone of voice. It encompasses company culture, or that thing your cousin’s friend said about a work party. Employer brand is more than the rumor about free beer on tap, on-site yoga, and an office masseuse. It’s that acquaintance who always posts about how much she loves her job because she/he is feeling challenged and has been given a chance to grow in her career. It’s a negative Glassdoor review and how a company responds to it. It’s everything.
An employer brand is who you are. It’s up to recruitment marketing to make the right introductions.
Who Is Responsible for Recruitment Marketing?
Different organizations have different setups and reporting structures for their recruitment marketing function. For most companies, recruitment marketing sits under talent acquisition or HR. In some, it may be part of marketing. What’s the best solution? Well, there are pros and cons to both.
Recruitment marketing as part of talent acquisition or HR
Pro: The recruitment marketing function is part of a greater team united behind one goal. You are close to the information that provides context to what you are about to market.
Con: There may be less budget resources, as well as more work to ensure the recruitment marketing narrative aligns with the master brand.
Recruitment marketing as part of marketing
Pros: The recruitment marketing function may have access to more resources. The knowledge of other marketing professionals may be inspiring. It may be easier to influence the corporate brand to partner on some initiatives.
Cons: Less day-to-day contact with recruiters, and the risk of being a bit detached and potentially flashier less targeted marketing campaigns.
Recruitment Marketing Platforms and Tools
Recruitment marketing software has evolved significantly since it first made print ads obsolete and post and pray job boards seem old school. Remember when CareerBuilder, Monster, and DICE were all the rage? Then there was Indeed and SimplyHired. Eventually, Glassdoor and LinkedIn came on the scene. By 2012, jobs started being distributed programmatically (note that the first consumer ads networks were created around 1998) and the first recruitment marketing analytics dashboard was introduced by Recruitics. Since then, recruitment marketing platforms (RMPs) have become indispensable.
RMPs find candidates by sourcing passive job seekers, distributing job descriptions to job boards, promoting via social media, and more. Recruitment marketing platforms can help with employer branding, SEO, and even creating career sites.
RMPs nurture candidates through email and sms recruiting campaigns, talent networks, and candidate relationship management features.
RMPs track candidates through analytics and reporting.
RMPs measure results so you know what’s working and what isn’t and can make informed decisions.
Overall, recruitment marketing platforms help manage the potential chaos of recruitment marketing. Everything from digital channels to social ones, content marketing to candidate communications, text recruiting to chatbots—it’s all under one proverbial digital roof.
Along with a recruitment marketing platform, there are few other tools you can’t live without (or won’t want to):
Career Site Platform
Today, career site platforms help the right person find the right job. It personalizes content, job recommendations, geographic locations, upcoming events, and more. A candidate simply answers a few questions posed by a chat assistant or search fields, and the site is populated with tailored results on relevant benefits, location-specific perks, roles that fit their qualifications, and other pertinent information.
Job Distribution Platform
Gone are the days of manually posting to job boards. Job distribution platforms have brought the opportunity to do it all and then from one centralized platform. They can post to multiple job boards, social channels, and career pages with actions as simple as a click. This also includes job programmatic platform that can manage job pay for performance media with activity such as supply and demand-based buying.
Candidate Relationship Management System (CRM)
A CRM helps build and maintain good relationships with candidates. You can divide candidates into categories and then personalize your marketing and communication accordingly. A candidate relationship management system allows you to stay in touch with candidates, keep tabs on who’s doing what and where they’re doing it, and track if and why you’re losing talent by noting where a candidate abandons the recruitment process. Some CRMs also keep recruitment marketing professionals organized by recording every communication and providing data for figuring out next steps.
In a nutshell: CRMs strengthen a company’s employer brand by nurturing relationships and creates a cultivated pool of qualified candidates that’s always at the ready.
Recruitment Marketing Strategies and Tactics
Every situation calls for a different strategy based on goals, industry, company size, and budget. But when you’re putting a strategy together, here are some basics to consider.
Understand your target audience.
Who is your target? What’s their age? Gender? Ethnicity? Location? Education level? What keeps them loyal? What makes them leave? How much do they care about values? Culture? Diversity? Do they seek learning and development? Mentorship? Work/life balance? These questions may seem deeply in the weeds, but they’re paramount to knowing who your audience is—and how to attract them.
Pro tip: Candidate personas are a great way to visualize your target audience. By creating fictional representations of ideal employees, you’ll have a better sense of how to communicate what matters to them.
Define your recruitment marketing goals.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? Sure, you’re trying to attract candidates, that’s a given. But go deeper. Are you going for quantity or quality? Are you trying to increase awareness or improve engagement? Are you hoping to expand the reach of your career site, social channels, referrals? Are you looking for more diverse applicants, more interns, more offer acceptances? All of the above? The more clearly you define your goals, the easier it is to achieve them.
Make sure your employee value proposition (EVP) is rock solid.
An employee value proposition is a contract. In exchange for the talent and skills an employee brings to a company, the company provides … what? What makes your company special? What are your values? Your vision? Your culture? Do you offer a focus on career development? Any special benefits? What’s the work environment like? What’s the work itself like?
Once you know the answer to those questions, you can craft an EVP. And once you do that (if you do it well and authentically), your current employees will become passionate, proud, and loyal ambassadors; your future employees will be eager to apply, and candidates who don’t share your vision will move on to other prospects.
Pro tip: Don’t just base your EVP on your own feelings. Do your research. Talk to employees across the entire workforce, from interns to entry-level to C-suite. If your EVP isn’t grounded in truth and the collective experience, it won’t resonate.
Define the channels you’ll use to reach the target you need.
If you’re targeting millennials, Facebook isn’t your best bet. Senior executives probably aren’t trolling job boards. And Gen Z never answers emails. It’s not enough just to know your audience—you need to know where your audience spends their time. Here are a few channels to consider when crafting your recruitment marketing strategies:
- career site (consider content marketing hosted on your career site)
- corporate website
- digital media (including programmatic job ads and digital radio)
- email and job alerts
- employee referral programs
- job boards (don’t forget the company profile in those job boards)
- social media (multiple channels)
Hiring events (even if virtual)
Out-of-home (radio and billboards have their place in some situations)
Optimize your career site for conversation and candidate experience.
Getting a candidate to a site is only the first step. Once they’re there, then what? Start the optimization process with these fundamentals in mind:
- Make sure your site works on mobile. Many job seekers use their phones for career searches. In fact, among Glassdoor users, the number is as high as 58%. So be sure that your interface and design work on a phone just as well as on a desktop computer.
- Use video. Culture matters to a majority of job seekers even more than pay or benefits. And the best way to showcase your culture without bringing a candidate on-site is video. Even short, low-budget or user-generated (iPhone footage can be charming) videos can do an excellent job of communicating work culture to candidates.
- Showcase real employees. We all have to use stock once in a while, but candidates will know instantly that the gorgeous model posing with puppies on your homepage doesn’t really work there. Keep it authentic whenever you can.
- Make it easy to share jobs. Word of mouth (or more accurately: word of social media) can take your job recs further. Make a posting easy to share and candidates will be more likely to pass it on. Adding a simple “share this job” function will work, or even include a way to share on various social channels.
- Blog. If a candidate is truly interested in a company, they’re truly interested in what that company does. Stand up a blog to share stories about customers, projects, and insights. Thought leadership will keep your company top of mind and position it as a desirable place to work.
Understand how to track and measure success.
Your strategies should be driven and validated by data. Whether you’re a data lover or a data hater, data is crucial. More on that below.
Tracking and Analytics
Why do we need data in recruitment marketing? Because it’s the only way to know if you’re spending your budget wisely. It reveals who’s clicking on what and how often. It helps you redirect and reallocate if something is under or overperforming and will drastically improve your ROI.
There are many categories to track; decide what’s most beneficial to your strategy and go from there. Consider tracking:
- clicks/job views
- cost per click
- cost per applicant
- cost per quality applicant
- conversation rate
- cost per hire
Congratulations! You’re now well versed in recruitment marketing! You now have a basic understanding of everything from employer branding to analytics and that recruitment marketing leads to stronger companies—and stronger companies are good for us all. Be sure to join our community to stay informed on the emerging trends of recruitment marketing.