Effective Online Hiring Starts with Effective Marketing -- Tips for Recruiting the Best

Published: May 21, 2008

By Wendy Lalli -- Recruiting the right candidates for your company can be thought of as a marketing project with your “product” being the job you want to fill. If selling your company’s products and services depends on executing a winning advertising strategy, so does finding the best people to provide those products and services. Both are crucial to the success of any business. As you know, a productive staff is a company’s greatest asset, so it stands to reason that filling positions with workers who are less than adequate in their jobs can cost a business a staggering amount.

According to a 2006 survey conducted by Right Management, an integrated consulting company, every bad hire costs a company from one to five times the amount of the jobholder’s annual salary. Along with pay and benefits, this includes expenses incurred for advertising, time and effort devoted to the hiring process, and new hire training. But that’s only part of the picture, because the company’s overall productivity and the morale of co-workers is also adversely affected. And the higher up the food chain a bad hire is, the more damage he or she can do.

Clearly developing postings that will attract the right candidates can make a significant difference to your company’s productivity as well as its bottom line. Online postings offer you several advantages over classified print ads in this regard. First, just by having an online presence, your company is immediately accessible to literally a world of potential candidates. Second, online postings offer you far more scope to describe your job for a reasonable fee than a print ad ever could. And because your notices can include a link to your Web site, prospective candidates have an excellent and immediately accessible overview of your company. Here are some guidelines based on proven marketing principles to help you take full advantage of these benefits.

Know your product.
Providing an accurate and intriguing description of a product is vital to marketing it. And a clear, detailed job description is the key to attracting the right candidates for your opening. The best person to provide this overview is whoever will be managing the new hire. Make sure they include not only what the employee will be expected to do, but whom they’ll report to, work with and, if appropriate, supervise.

The description should also list all of the software and/or lab procedures a candidate will be expected to perform. Make sure to mention if there are any physical challenges involved, like standing for long hours or lifting heavy objects. Be just as specific when you list the soft skills required. For example, if you’re looking for someone who frequently has to explain highly technical procedures to audiences of financial investors, say so! Don’t just ask for “good communications skills,” which could cover anything from writing a three-line e-mail to giving a five-hour seminar.

Target your audience.
Finding the best candidate, like finding the best customers, comes down to market segmentation. Start by building a profile of your ideal candidate beginning with their interpersonal skills, formal education, and level of experience. Decide which degrees the position demands and how much experience is needed. State the experience as a range instead of a number. For example, “5 to 10 years experience is required for this position.” This should limit responses from under- or over-qualified candidates.

Now describe the perfect personality to fit your company culture and the department he or she will be working in. Would a strong team player with a great sense of humor, willing to follow as well as lead, be best? Or are you looking for an entrepreneurial project manager who loves turning lemons into lemonade? Use this description to help candidates determine for themselves whether this position sounds right for them. Hopefully it will limit the number of inappropriate resumes you receive. Even more, it should attract people who are as good a fit for your culture as they are for the job.

Tell them what they want to hear.
Now that you’ve defined who you’re trying to reach, tell them, (to use a classic marketing phrase) “what’s in it for them.” This may begin with a competitive salary and benefits package, but it doesn’t end there.

According to an article in the New York Times by Alan B. Krueger, “Job Satisfaction is Not Just a Matter of Dollars,” “worker satisfaction…depends at least as much on having a sense of meaning and interest in work, as it does on material rewards.” So if you’re looking for an entrepreneurial middle manager to boost group productivity, you might describe the job as “an intriguing and rewarding challenge for an innovative goal-oriented team leader.” Or if you’re seeking an up and coming recent grad, perhaps you could mention the educational programs (and funding) available to employees willing to learn while they earn.

Other attractions that the could help your company “cut through the clutter” when it comes to attracting prime candidates are an in-house day care center, flexible work schedules, corporate sponsorship of employee volunteers for non-profit groups, or even the company’s softball league.

Remember, a good ad starts with a strong, benefit-oriented headline. Apply this marketing principle by suggesting a benefit in the job title. For example, if you’re looking for someone who would be a good fit for an international team of PhDs, expand the message bar line from just stating the job title - “Laboratory Operations Director” to “Join our expert team as Laboratory Operations Director.”

Provide several ways for candidates to respond.
Give candidates the option of filling out a set resume form or submitting an already formatted resume as a Word document or PDF.

Cull down the number of responses from unqualified candidates and prompt a more meaningful correspondence from the other, by requesting a cover letter which answers a specific question. For example, ask responders for a few paragraphs describing their most important professional achievement. Or what they want to accomplish in the future if they join your company. What they say and how they say it may reveal as much - or more - than their resumes do.

One more thing.
Many candidates search for employment opportunities by using key words. So make sure you include an appropriate list in your posting such as alternative job titles, required skills and preferred talents. This can help job searchers find your ad even if they’re not looking under the exact job title.

Follow up by conducting a “focus group of winners.”
When you finally start interviewing your top candidates from submitted resumes, ask them what attracted them to your posting. Find out what got their initial attention and what made them submit a resume. If the majority of these candidates give the same answer you have an excellent start on your next recruiting effort. The answers may surprise you but they’ll confirm your intuitive choices or give you a more effective direction to pursue during your next search. In either case, they’ll help you make better hires by marketing opportunities with your company more effectively.

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