Learning to recruit better (3/3)

The project cycle in recruitment is amazingly long.  A job opens up, documents are drawn up and approved, advertisements go out.  We rarely have a chance to change the process while it is in mid-flow; and in any case, that may be illegal.

But what can we learn by thinking like a marketer?  Are we just learning to tweak our advertisements?  Are we learning more about our people, i.e., our market?

The key ideas in this phase revolve around a concept that is really difficult to grasp.  Markets are organic and we need to think about them as it they are ‘alive’ and ‘talking back to us’.  We not only learn about them but we grow through our conversations with them as they do in turn.  But they are influenced not only by us but by other people too.  Herein lies the catch and three goals.

  1. We listen to what the market is saying back. Do we get phone calls asking for more information?  And what are applicants interested in?
  2. What did applicants already know about us and who around them prompted them to call? Are we learning more about the market and personas?
  3. Do we see “welcome” in this group and what is the market pulling us to do?

How can we think about this procedurally?

Anticipate the patterns of calls and questions.  At the start of a recruitment cycle, we should write down whom we expect to call and the questions we expect them to ask.  Is our sense of who will take an interest and when they enter and leave the application process getting updated?

Anticipate the community around the job.  At the start, write down whom we think is interested in this job.  Which mentors and patrons will notice the job and pass it on?  Who is actively watching the recruitment channels and who was alerted by a colleague?  What are we learning about the community around the job?  If you asked callers a question such as do you have colleagues who are applying, what would they say?  Above all, ask if they knew the job was coming up before you advertised it?  Is the job part of wider community or are you trying to forge a relationship with the community?

Anticipate your role in this living thing called the market.  As you listen to the question people ask, then you develop a sense of whether you are part of their world or whether they are applying because you offered a job. We often look for this information, arrogantly, in selection.  But what you are trying to establish in recruitment is whether your recruitment is talking to an established need or if you are having to stimulate that need.  Are we already part of a community?  Did applicants know this job was coming up and did they know because someone told them but because “of course” the job was coming up because there is an internal logic to their community of which we are a part?  Importantly, it also follows that this community, being ‘alive’ is always changing.  We should be getting a sense of this ‘living creature’ and understanding that our relationship with it will change.   Recruitment is not just doing some set piece tasks; it is an expression of this relationship and the next time we recruit, we be going through the entire process again because the market has changed, as have we.

Will a marketing mindset be helpful to you?

Recruiters exist to bridge an organisation with the outside world but most are simply on the periphery without a good sense of what the organisation does and so focused on their commissions that they don’t think very much at all about the community behind the labour supply.  But if you want to write better advertisements and achieve good placements more quickly, that paying some attention to the essential marketing character of recruiting might help you.

 

How to manage the recruitment process (2/3)

In the academic world, it is the norm to give a contact number of the future line manager who is expected to take calls and talk around the job.  It is amazing how often, though, said contact person is away.   What should applicants read into that?

In the non-academic world, I remember inviting candidates around to look over the job themselves.  Technically, this is called a realistic preview, but it made an enormous impression that they were being taken seriously.  Indeed, I also worked for a university who invited shortlisted candidates in for a week. They were put up in a hotel. Anyone and everyone who wanted to interview them could in addition to the formal interviews.  And candidates were run around the town to see everything that interested them. Sometimes it was schools; sometimes it was the beach.  Their questions were answered.

Are there formal ways to think through our interaction with applicants?

Core value proposition.  What is the core value of the job and how does it relate to the applicants’ core problem that we defined earlier?   Immediately, we see that skipping steps in our homework will cause a problem!  We do need to understand our people as well as the job!

Hook.  Having identified the core value proposition, how can we express it in the simplest terms?

Time to Value.  How quickly will the applicant experience value? What is value to the applicant in the application process?  Now here is a tough one, though probably because we spend so little time thinking about this, we can quickly identify points that would annoy them!  Where is value for them in the recruitment process?  Perhaps helping them find the information they need to make an informed decision?

Stickiness. Who begins this process and who wanders off?  And most importantly, on a 2×2 who arrives whom we sincerely believe might benefit from an employment relationship with us?  And who are we losing?  But specifically, what is that we are doing that helps applicants sift themselves?

Will a marketing mindset help you?

If I am utterly honest, I see so few people manage their entire application process that I would be hesitant to call it.  And if the previous exercises to think through the job and advertisement had not been done, it would be difficult to think clearly about the process.

How to write a good job advert (1/3)

Recently, some academics complained to the big academic job board, www.jobs.ac.uk, that an advertisement for a lectureship contained exactly one sentence that was useful to the job applicants.   We know that our job advertisements are often bad.  But in truth, most of us have no idea how to fix them.

I think the trick, which I put here for you to consider, is to remember that selection is about prediction but recruitment is about securing supply.  It is marketing.  We want to catch people’s attention but we also want them to pre-select and arrive as marketers put it, pre-qualified.  There is no merit in attracting lot of applications when you only have one job.  It wastes your time and it makes a lot of enemies.  But how do we achieve the twin goals of being noticeable and being useful?

Some marketing terms

Were we to be marketing the latest £1bn FMCG product, we might think in terms of {Category, Personas, Problems, Motivations}.

Category.  In recruiting, we probably assume that Category is just “a job” but we will probably return here to answer the question – what category of product does the customer put you in?  In other words, what would be their alternative if they weren’t using your product?  Gather your competition and you will have some idea of the category, or set, in which you fall.  Sometimes you are surprised by what people would be doing if they weren’t working for you/

Persona.  Who is likely to be interested in this job?  Where have they come from?  Where are they going to?  Who are they taking with them?  Simply imagine candidates that you would very much like to apply and write down who they are – though keep this private because to do it well you must draw out of your imagination details that will be illegal if they remain part of the system. So, if you imagine yourself recruiting a young male, write it down. Then later you can challenge yourself to imagine recruiting a young woman, an older woman or an older male.  Your task here is not to finalise the system but to begin to walk in the shoes of your applicants and to learn too what assumptions you make about them.

Problems.  Now imagine the issues that your applicants have with your category – that is you and your competition (and your competition might be a gap year!).  What questions are candiates likely to ask, not just you, but other people privately?  What are they googling?  What issues have come up with previous incumbents?  I remember being asked by a very senior person where the printer was.  It really irked him that he had to waste time running around to find his stuff.  This was not central to his competence but it pointed me to factors that he was taking into consideration.

Motivations.  What is the motivation behind these problems?  Why are these problems important to the audience?  In the case of the printer, the person wanted to be efficient, didn’t want to do administration and wanted to be respected?  Maybe these are traits I don’t want and I can signal that in the advertisement.  Or maybe, these are traits that I do want and I can indicate the ‘state of the plant’ in the advertisement.  In recruitment, money and location is important.  And so too is not lying about these.  It is amazing how often recruiters do.

Will taking a marketing mindset help you?

I know a lot of recruiters who just can’t be bothered. They don’t really understand the jobs they are filling. And forgetting that they have two audiences, concentrate mainly on what hirer wants.  That is of course, their judgement.

My experience of using marketing in recruitment is that both we successfully fill jobs, and on the first pass.  Moreover, the number of applications plummets by an order of magnitude. We get better replies and we get fewer replies.   We satisfy both our audiences: the hirer and the applicants.

With this little bit of homework, which is quite enjoyable to do, particularly in a group, we write better job advertisements.