Recruitment is Sales (not Marketing)

Corporate recruiters are the sales persons of the HRM department. They are the eyes and ears of the organisation due to their frequent contact with the outside world. However they are often act more like marketers (aimed at generating CVs), buyers (focusing on selection), or administrators (doing logistics).

A lot of people will tell you that Recruitment is Marketing. But you can as well throw away your Employer Branding budget if recruiters are not willing to provide service to people making contact with your company. Also, the type of HR Professional / Recruiter who’s using mostly recruitment agencies is not an ideal situation too. The process that often is followed is that of an administrative function, where work is performed in the easiest and at lowest cost possible, even if that approach is not the most effective.

How to improve recruitment effectiveness?

In many organisations recruiters spend little time on (proactive) recruitment and / or selection of candidates. They are forced to spend time on various activities that add little value to the recruitment process. This is often not the fault of an individual recruiter but due to poor recruitment processes. Too much time is spent on administrative matters, meetings and troubleshooting. In the meantime, there are a growing number of candidates and interviews needed to achieve results.

So what if the underlying processes malfunction? What if applicants wait too long for a response from a hiring manager? Or what if the costs rise because there is a high dependency on external agencies? It is not only the businesses that get affected but also their quality.

The good news is that there are sufficient opportunities to increase effectiveness of the recruitment process. Faster, better and cheaper with the same number of Recruiters and HR staff. How? Use a professional sales strategy in the recruitment process as described in the following steps:

– Information gathering (in the job branding stage)

Internally focused:

Learn the business inside and out, from the company’s culture to its products, by talking to colleagues and studying the website and brochures. Next, have an extensive discussion with the hiring manager about the details of the vacancy including the team’s background (vision, strategy, composition), typical projects, challenges, top performers, career paths, potential candidates or competitors.

Externally focused:

Analyse your target audience(s) on demographics, search behaviour, motivation, competition, perception of your brand in the market, etcetera. You can never know too much about why ‘customers’ want or do not want to buy your product. Bytheway, Social platforms can be a great tool for that competitive intelligence gathering.

Next step is to make a thorough plan and real authentic proposition. Use all information to create a compelling message about both the position and the company. And no worries, there can be many important distinctions even in boring positions. Think of good salary / fees, employee benefits, job location, education and training, easy to reach by public transport or access by car, career growth opportunities, flexible / part time / work from home possibilities, good work / life balance, and many more.

1. Identify

Let’s identify potential candidates with two (or three) scenarios.

Strategy 1: Finding or identifying potential talent.
This strategy is becoming increasingly important due to increased competition among top-talent. Internet is an ideal tool to quickly identify potential candidates and with all the current resources available it is easier than you think. But relatively few competitors (corporate organisations) actively utilise them, so here is a lot to gain. First get experienced in your Internet search methods to find talents and specialists. The more your method is precise and specific, the easier it will be to select the right persons that’ll make a difference in your organisation.

This does require different skills of the recruiter. Many organisations outsource this task and may provide major benefits due to the considerable time that must be invested into it. But in the long term this strategy will save costs and provide greater benefits due to better quality hires and lower retention rates. This strategy is especially effective because you’re proactively building relationships with potential strong candidates.

Do not forget to involve everyone in your organisation, including employees and hiring managers, because people are still the best search engine! An Employee Referral Program can and must play an important source of high quality candidates. It is a reliable, cheap, fast source that arguably distinguishes the best candidates.

Strategy 2: Be found (job marketing).
Advertising is the most common strategy and still effective for bulk recruitment, graduates, interim professionals, or less qualified personnel. In order to get the best results, you must invest in a strong employer brand and in your marketing campaigns aimed at specific target groups, preferably with cross-media campaigns.

Note: both strategies can be used perfectly together. Make this a conscious choice. Not advertising is sometimes more powerful!

2. Qualify

Many professional information of candidates is up for grabs through social networking sites and search engines like Google and 123people. Naturally, resume databases from job boards are also an excellent source of information because they include information about what kind of job someone is looking for. Headhunters collect this information through their relationships and learn about candidates’ motivations, strengths or weaknesses. Learn from these experts and use their approach!

Whatever you do, it is important to learn and identify the candidates’ motivations at an early stage. Using this information, you can filter out unsuitable candidates or plan a constructive conversation that goes beyond the question “are you interested in this job?”.

3. Proposal

The goal of an effective job description is to attract the interested and the best possible candidates. Do not use a boring job description, pay attention to a promotional text, make it visually appealing with a good layout and put the information in context. Focus on opportunities and challenges and less on the demands of the job.

To avoid loosing candidates this is supported by a compelling and user-friendly recruitment site that includes testimonials, videos, employee benefits, information about selection procedure, directions, contact information, etc. Please note that 98% of the applicants the recruitment site will visit to find further information in order to make decision.

4. Contact

Active job seekers, passive candidates, and all variations thereof each have a different approach. The hard-to-find professional who started an active search, will soon receive an offer from your competition so speed is critical.

Consider involving the hiring manager, a director or subject matter expert when it comes to cold contacts or selected candidates. A top candidate would rather exchange professional information or negotiate with someone of their own or higher level.

5. Dealing with objections

Ask which criteria someone uses for accepting an offer. With this information you can filter out candidates, close the deal or even the change the job requirements. The sooner you ask this question in the process the better. If the distinction is clear to competing employers, the criteria that are important for the candidate and the contact has been made, it comes to convincing that this is the best moment to respond. Your attention to detail will make a difference here.

Generation Y asks, “why should I work for you?” so you must be prepared to answer that question. Ask yourself, why do I work for this organisation?

It is important to build a long-term relationship with the candidate, who, for the time being, is satisfied with his current employer, but who may possibly consider moving to a new position in the future. Plan how you will maintain contact with this person and give the feeling that this is important. So you reinforce the image and hold your door open for future opportunities. Do not overdo it; too much attention is seldom appreciated.

More sales tips: Be more honest and sincere. Ask the right questions, listen carefully and do not talk too much.

6. Negotation / Closing the deal

Do not try to sell ice to the Eskimos. In that case, you sell just to sell, and not in order to provide a permanent solution. You achieve absolutely nothing because the real purpose is lacking.

Focus on the benefit of the candidate and make each negotiation a win-win situation. The goal is to help them to move forward. A good understanding of the interests and the needs of the candidate in this phase are crucial, as is quickly offering the position.
And if you in the job-marketing stage positioned your employer as an organisation that provides an “extremely competitive salary” and “a lot of training” then this is the moment to prove it!

7. Aftercare

A good accompaniment to the first working days is a joint responsibility of HR / Recruitment and leadership. This will ensure not faster and more productive employees that will stay longer with your organisation. Give the new employee, in a timely matter, more information before and after the first working days. Let the manager congratulate him/her with the new job after acceptance, give some more information about your company before the start and plan a lunch meeting with the team. In short, make the candidate feel unique and reaffirm what you had promised.

With this professional sales approach you’ll be able to get and retain the best talent. Faster, cheaper and better! Moreover this sales approach not only weakens the competition but it also makes your organization stronger. And this works like a magnet for other talent! In my opinion, Recruiters should be obliged to follow a sales training before they spend a dollar on advertising.

©2012 Jacco Valkenburg

About Jacco Valkenburg

Jacco Valkenburg is an international recruitment expert, trainer and author (5 books). He has more than 20 years experience in global recruitment strategies and execution spanning numerous countries for leading companies. As founder of Recruiter University and Recruit2 he provides companies with recruitment training and consultancy. His mission is helping companies ‘from good to great staffing’.

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