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This was originally posted on Talent Culture in two parts: Talent Acquisition Has a Marketing Problem and The ATS Alone is Not Enough.

My previous post last week discussed the state of the talent acquisition marketplace and the current machinations of the ATS product category.  Justifiably, this asked: “Should we try and reinvent the ATS?” or “Should we look for another way forward?”

To me, the answer is clear: the ATS by itself is not enough. That doesn’t mean, however, that the ATS isn’t part of the solution. Rather, other systems are emerging that can help make the ATS better―ones purposely built for the coming realities our industry will be facing.


The Consumerization of the Candidate Experience

Five to 10 years ago, getting access to the right talent was much easier. Job boards reigned supreme, and the competitive noise was at acceptable levels. With these channels, you reached the audience you needed to reach. Fast-forward to today where nearly every organization uses job boards in some form or fashion, but the results vary (and in most cases have reduced in effectiveness).

It’s not that job boards can’t be a useful part of a successful strategy.―the real problem is that we have not evolved how we use these channels to communicate our organization’s value and differentiate our opportunities. We are still stuck in the Stone Age of job ads, still stuck with selling job positions vs. selling our employer brands, employee stories and true value as an organization. Talent acquisition is not faced with an HR problem; we are faced with a marketing problem.

Candidates, especially the top ones, are used to being consumers. They are used to being catered to by companies; consistently receiving personalized and useful content and messaging from brands; researching and comparing companies and products; and are increasingly more informed about making purchasing decisions.

Candidates fully expect a similar experience in their career search, and, more importantly, don’t differentiate between organizations’ marketing brand and employment brand. Candidates are wholeheartedly embracing their alter ego―the consumer―when they look for their next career opportunity. Talent acquisition organizations need to adjust by not just being recruiters, but by also being recruitment marketers.


Learning From the Marketing & Sales Technology Blueprint

With the influx of readily available information online, data aggregation to help consumers easily compare options and user-generated content providing context to inform purchasing decisions, the consumer has gained control of the sales process.

This consumer revolution has made companies rethink how they interact with prospects and customers, and in many cases, necessitated the development of new skills, processes and tools to effectively reach the right consumers. One such example is the use of specialized technology to enable marketing and sales organizations to better reach modern consumers.

As marketing and sales organizations have matured, they have focused on modernizing their respective areas of the sales funnel:

  • Marketing is focused on generating qualified leads for the organization in the top half of the funnel. To do this, they execute and evaluate a diverse strategy of content, campaigns and channels to get consumers to convert into qualified leads for the sales team. In the end, the main goal is generating the most Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).
  • Sales is focused on converting these qualified leads into customers in the bottom half of the funnel. It’s their job to convince prospects of the value proposition of the product or service and influence the selection process. In the end, the main goal is generating revenue through sales.

It’s taken years for marketing and sales to find the right balance with each other and, in turn, each has figured out the key responsibilities and technologies it needs to be successful in its own pursuits.

Sales CRM tools such as Salesforce rose up to provide order to the chaos of tracking sales contacts. It provided structure around the sales process, helped the sales team better stay in touch with prospects, and most importantly, allowed for reporting on the sales funnel and process to ensure the sales model and practices actually worked. These systems provided huge value at the time, and still do so today.

As marketing evolved, they began using the same system as sales, but realized the limitations in terms of functionality for their needs. They needed a system that was less about process and more about engagement―one that enabled better emailing capabilities, targeted landing pages for content and stronger metrics to track the multiple touchpoints that potential leads interacted with before converting through CTAs or the website. These needs led to the birth of Marketing Automation Systems.

As you look at the technology space today, Marketing Automation Systems and Sales CRMs work in concert with one another to provide an integrated experience and view into the full marketing and sales funnel. They’ve addressed the unique needs of the professionals for the two distinct disciplines they were built for―and both disciplines are better off for it.


The ATS Wasn’t Built for the Top of the Funnel

The traditional recruiting process exemplified by the ATS has been focused on the bottom half of the funnel, similar to sales, with the main goal of hiring qualified applicants.

Because of this goal, the ATS was built with process and compliance in mind and admirably serves this function. It enables recruiters to better understand open job requisitions, work with hiring managers and manage the hiring process for candidates. The ATS does exactly what it was asked to do when it was built 10 years ago for the part of the funnel it addresses. Most of this functionality is still very relevant and, in most cases, crucial to talent acquisition in today’s environment.

But the problem is that we want it to do more. We want it to be an engagement platform. We want it to help our recruiters market our jobs and employer brand better. We want it to measure the full funnel from view to hire for all our sources. And we don’t just want it to―we expect it to. In most cases, this is why we hate our ATS (although you may have other reasons as well).

The question, though, is: Where the fault should lie? Is the fault with the ATS for not adapting, or is the fault with us for unrealistic expectations?

With the shifts mentioned earlier, organizations are starting to understand the need for more robust recruitment marketing strategies on the front end of the recruiting process. It’s no longer about just posting jobs to the right channels, but how we use the budget and resources to create a strategy that consistently converts high quality leads to applicants in our ATS.

Most importantly, recruitment marketing is fundamentally different than traditional recruiting―complimenting what the ATS is meant to solve while providing the attraction capabilities many recruiting organizations are eager for.


Technology for the Front End of Recruiting

The ATS is just like the Sales CRM. It’s meant to be the system of record for converting qualified applicants into hires, or in the Sales CRM example, for converting qualified leads into customers.

Attracting and converting prospects into qualified leads requires a different system of record. Recruitment marketing uses different strategies and tactics and therefore requires different technology to be successful. It’s about engagement, multiple sources, promoting your employment brand, content outside of jobs, measuring every step of the funnel, providing candidates multiple calls to action and most importantly, creating and nurturing lasting relationships with the right skilled candidates.

And that means technology built with a recruitment marketing focus.

The technology marketplace has been flooded with products that are focused on one aspect of the pre-applicant recruiting process, such as social, mobile, job distribution, CRM or SEO. And these products have helped organizations make progress in attracting and engaging better with candidates, but not without limitations.

As organizations have evolved their recruitment marketing capabilities, these siloed products have exposed the need for integration between them not only from a usability standpoint (i.e., logging into four to five systems), but also from a data analytics perspective (i.e., pulling and trusting reports and data from multiple sources).

Recruitment marketing is channel-agnostic. It doesn’t matter what initiative or channel generates the most qualified candidate leads, whether it’s a job board, email campaign, career site, social media or employee referral program, as long as it generates qualified leads within budget and time constraints. Underperforming sources should be eliminated, and good performing initiatives replicated.

At the end of the day, we need to execute and evaluate all of these initiatives side by side. Recruiters must understand what works in the aggregate, not just in the silo. A complete view of every data point from every source will help talent acquisition leaders better understand and use their resources and budget for candidate attraction globally across all possible channels.

But this is impossible to do with today’s ATS or point products.


An Integrated Recruitment Marketing Software Solution

We’ve been here before. Just like the ATS and the HRIS before it, we are seeing a technology category emerge to address this opportunity. There’s always talk about the large HCM systems building these capabilities into their products, but the reality is it usually doesn’t happen early enough to capitalize on the opportunity or is so lightweight that the overall impact is not felt.

So what’s the future in technology for recruitment marketing?

The name of the product category is Recruitment Marketing Platforms. Some consider Recruitment Marketing Platforms a next-generation CRM because recruitment marketing strategy is more than just a database.

A Recruitment Marketing Platform offers a holistic solution to manage, automate and measure your entire recruitment marketing strategy and will include the following in a single system:

  • Job Marketing: Execute all job marketing on job boards, niche sites, banner ads, retargeting, pay per click and one-off channels.
  • Social Media: Manage social media publishing, including marketing your jobs and other thought leadership content, as well as measure the influence of your social channels on a candidate’s decision to apply; create and measure social career pages on channels like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Facebook.
  • Recruitment CRM: House your candidate contacts in a full CRM database and attract, engage and nurture them through multiple initiatives, including:
    • Landing pages CTAs and sourcing campaigns.
    • Targeted and automated email and SMS.
    • Pipeline tracking for key skills and disciplines to determine candidate readiness and interest.
    • Social and video interview integration for richer candidate profiles.
    • Marketing automation to help recruiters and sourcers more effectively build, nurture and engage with targeted talent pipelines.
  • Career Site/SEO: Host, manage and measure the candidate-facing career site through a content management solution that ensures SEO optimization and mobile-responsiveness and provides full brand and content creation control for a better candidate search experience on both desktop and mobile channels.
  • Employee Referrals: Integrate an employee referral program that enables effective communication with both sponsors and referral candidates to encourage better and more timely referrals to jobs and general skills.
  • ATS Integration: Integrate multiple touch points with the ATS from a data and candidate contact perspective, offering seamless interaction between the two systems and a holistic picture of your candidate’s journey from first attraction touch point all the way through apply and hire.
  • Complete Analytics: Pull trustworthy data and analytics from all the above initiatives and channels in a single view and dashboard, including:
    • Full Pipeline Insight: All interactions from click to view to applicant to hire in the recruitment funnel by source.
    • Job Level: Actionable, real-time performance data on a single job level across all channels.
    • Aggregate Level: Actionable, real-time performance data on an enterprise strategy level across all channels, skills and categories.
    • Source of Hire: Universally track the final source that converted a candidate to submit a job application.
    • Source of Influence: Universally track ALL sources and channels that influence a candidate’s decision to apply, not just the last source of application. This is incredibly important to give credit to all channels that influence a candidate’s decision to apply, especially when you look to assign budget and resources.

A dedicated recruitment marketing software solution will include all of the above AND integrate with your existing ATS solution. It will provide the foundation to begin to build and grow recruitment marketing at your organization. And if done right, it will be where your talent pipelines live ready to be tapped into the next time a job requisition opens up.

Let’s not focus on what the ATS can’t do, but focus on what other technology can do in order to take advantage of the emerging discipline of recruitment marketing.

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