Recruitment advertising in a sea of change

 In Press Releases

Job advertising has come a long way since the ‘help wanted’ sign. With globalisation, the Internet and media fragmentation exposing job seekers to more employment opportunities than ever before – but simultaneously making them harder to find – Human Resources managers are finding it increasingly difficult to get the top talent’s attention. The challenge is where to place your bets and how long you can keep going before the chips run out. What worked in the past will not suffice in the future. The way people consume media has changed. Media traditionally used to engage certain types of talent is becoming less effective. Human Resources (HR) managers need to find new ways of reaching candidates.

This is echoed by statistics covered in Maverick magazine recently. In 1978, 80% of US adults could be reached by three sixty-second advertisements, Simon Waterfall, creative director of UK digital agency Poke, said during a recent trip to South Africa. In 2002, to achieve the same impact, an advertiser would have to book 117 prime-time commercials.

Many companies search for candidates in the wrong environments. This equates to looking for a baracuda in your swimming pool. Some fish also move around a lot, making them even more elusive. Unless you know where to throw in the line, you can spend as much money on advertising as you like with little success.

My advice to HR managers is to look at the experience of traditional advertising agencies, which have been open to the shifts in audience attention. An IBM study, “The end of advertising as we know it”, predicts a third of broadcast advertising spend will shift online by 2012. This does not mean the need for bigger budgets, but rather a more discerning approach to media allocation. Active and passive job seekers also live in different waters. For active job seekers, who are plentiful in middle-tier management (the sardines), newspaper advertising makes sense. The challenge is recruiting senior and specialist skills (the blue marlin). Passive candidates do not read job supplements as they are mostly happily employed. They may also register their CVs with only one or two employers directly. To get these candidates’ attention takes a special approach. So, how can you successfully engage them? HR managers need to think about how they put strategies, media plans and campaigns together to attract the special skills candidates.

Relevant media, targeting the right audience, often enough, is the basis of a successful recruitment advertising campaign. A lot of HRs don’t understand this space yet and don’t like to take risks. As their suppliers are often similarly unfamiliar with such strategies, many opportunities pass by unnoticed. I suggest developing a generic plan for middle-tier candidates, which can be fine-tuned according to a specific audience. Tactics could include anything from traditional print advertising and online job boards to social networking, sponsorships, blogs, search engine marketing, and pay-per-click campaigns. Insight into the audience’s psychographic profile will reveal additional opportunities. Using media cleverly, HR managers can engage candidates through communities they belong to, which may have nothing to do with recruitment, but instead are based on personal interest.

A great example of an offline campaign is Google’s recruitment drive for software developers. This consisted of a billboard next to a prominent road in Silicon Valley, featuring a mathematical equation. Candidates able to solve it were directed to a specific website where they were asked to crack another equation. Using the answer as a password they were able to gain access to Google’s campaign-specific career website. Aimed at top-level coders, this campaign successfully tapped into their love of problem solving, eliminating job seekers lacking the right skills from the application process and providing Google with a targeted list of top talent. Companies are also increasingly leveraging online platforms.

The Vancouver police department has successfully used the virtual reality world, Second Life, to recruit candidates. Online opportunities consist of much more than job boards, although these are a valuable part of the recruitment media mix. For example, applicant-tracking can support media placement by pushing positions to job boards and other online platforms to drive candidates back to a company’s own website. A new breed of HR manager is required that can drive change.

Successful recruitment advertising at the lowest cost per head requires understanding of media planning, as well as a comfort level with the Internet. HR needs to empower themselves with this knowledge. Supper depends on it. Mark Gray is the head of Graylink.

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