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These last two years have been a whirlwind. What started out as modest, organic growth during the first eight years of SmashFly’s history went full “hockey stick” this year. Since January 1, we’ve grown from 70 employees to now 125, with plans to end the year at 140.

Fast growth is super exciting, but with it comes a host of challenges, first and foremost being our ability attract and hire amazing people to join our company. I know: I sound just like our customers, facing the same challenges they face in talent acquisition. While some may see this as irony, I see this as an incredible opportunity. To walk in your customers’ shoes is a gift because of the learning experience it provides.

 

SmashFly’s Talent Acquisition Journey

At SmashFly, that learning experience in talent acquisition began in 2014 when we received our first round of funding. At the beginning of 2014, there were just 14 SmashFly employees (we call them Smashers). The funding we received helped us end the year with 49 employees – that’s a headcount growth rate of 230%!

What’s really remarkable about our employee growth in 2014 is that we hired people, for most of the year, without anyone in HR. It wasn’t until October that we hired our Director of HR, Ginay Tannenbaum. And from October 2014 to October 2015, Ginay was a team of one, albeit a mighty team of one!

How did we grow the team 230% in 2014? Mainly through employee referrals: 61% percent of all new hires that year came from the networks of every Smasher.

Sure, we had contract recruiters who were helping us with some key hires, and of course we had a career site (running on the SmashFly Total Recruitment Marketing Platform), but other than job postings, I can’t say we were doing a whole lot of recruitment marketing ourselves.

As we headed into 2015 with Ginay on board, I figured we’d be able to limit our use of contract recruiters, reduce our dependency on employee referrals and kick off our own recruitment marketing program.

I was wrong!

Ginay is a superwoman, but even she is limited by 24 hours in a day. We ended up needing more contract recruiters than we did in 2014. Plus, we still relied heavily on our employees to leverage their networks and upped the referral bonus to sweeten the deal.

In 2015, we added another 30 employees, ending the year with 70 Smashers – but getting there was painful. With a different contract recruiter for nearly every team, the management oversight needed by Ginay had grown too much to handle. Our hiring managers were complaining they didn’t have enough quality candidates coming fast enough to meet our hiring plans (and thus, our business growth plans). Sound familiar?

I could see where we were headed, and it just wasn’t scalable. Knowing the kind of growth we were planning in 2016 and beyond, I decided it was time to walk the talk and launch a recruitment marketing strategy at SmashFly as a separate discipline from recruiting.

 

From Solutions Provider to Practitioner

Enter Tracey Parsons, SmashFly’s Director of Recruitment Marketing. With experience in employer branding, social recruiting and digital marketing, Tracey brought new strategies to our talent acquisition approach. Tracey joined SmashFly in October 2015 (by the way, happy Smashiversary, Tracey!), and then in early 2016, she brought on a Recruitment Marketing Specialist (named George who calls himself Ted but we know him internally as “Modern” Ted) to her team.

Together, Tracey and Ted have turned SmashFly from a solutions provider of a Recruitment Marketing Platform into a leading-edge practitioner of modern recruitment marketing. As an HCM software company, it’s one thing to publish your mission statement; it’s entirely another thing (a.k.a. huge vulnerability!) to live it transparently and verify that it works in the real world.

In just 10 months, Tracey and Ted’s recruitment marketing strategies have grown our talent network by 120%! Even more importantly, we’re already seeing the impact of those strategies convert into new hires.

So far in 2016, we’ve more than tripled the number of hires coming from recruitment marketing! And as a percentage of source of hire, recruitment marketing is now one-third:

2014 2015 2016 YTD
Employee Referrals 61% 55% 43%
External Recruiters 26% 28% 23%
Recruitment Marketing 13% 17% 34%
100% 100% 100%

How are we achieving this? In practicing modern recruitment marketing, we confirmed that it’s not a list of boxes recruiters need to check; it’s a process that requires creativity, testing and making mistakes, just like marketing. Without fear of failure, we focused on trying new ideas and understanding what would stick and what wouldn’t.

 

Here are three things we’ve learned becoming practitioners of modern recruitment marketing:

Rewrite job descriptions to tell the candidate story, not your own.

Following our big announcement of Series B funding in January, we saw more than double the number of visitors to our career site. That’s the good news. But our data revealed that candidate leads were not engaging with our job descriptions ‒ so we redesigned them. We focused on the candidate and what they would get out of the job versus talking about ourselves and what we wanted. We interviewed our existing high performers to build descriptions that told a more authentic story of how to be successful at SmashFly. With this simple action, we saw a nearly 300% increase in applicants.

 

It’s OK to test and fail, but measure everything to know what works.

SmashFly needed a team of angular developers. We tested what we thought was a really cool concept allowing people to submit an entire team for hire, knowing that close-knit developers might not want to leave a cohesive team they built. We built a landing page, created a talent network form and let the tweets fly. But it didn’t work. We didn’t attract a single team member. Needless to say, Team for Hire did not stick.

On the flip side, an idea that blossomed was our Early Admittance job posts. Similar to early college admissions, we opened up jobs early, inviting candidates to get to know us (and vice versa) before we needed to actually fill the role. This program was an effort to shorten overall time to fill while remaining transparent that the job wasn’t open yet. It was incredibly successful. Potential talent responded well, and we’ve generated nearly 500 applicants from early admission since May.

Other tactics we’re testing:

  • Inviting leads to take personality assessments through Traitify
  • Changing the wording of CTAs
  • Seeing how color changes drive conversation rates
  • Leveraging 3rd party firms for name generation
  • Creation of custom “team pages” to better tell our stories

 

No organization is too small (or too big) to practice recruitment marketing.

SmashFly is living proof that a small team experiencing hyper growth mode can benefit from investing in a recruitment marketing strategy just as much as a Fortune 1000 company. But large enterprises aren’t too big to start practicing modern recruitment marketing either. Our customer GE started with a recruitment marketing budget of zero. It took the vision of a seasoned marketer (and a few other key factors) to convince not only corporate marketing at GE, but also the siloed recruiting practices, to accept that a transformation from an industrial company to a digital company required telling new stories about the experiences talent could have in this evolving organization. Recruitment marketing was the only way to do that across the enterprise.

 

Adapting With the Times – and Talent

Every CEO is challenged to grow in the new digital age where time is scarce, talent is both demanding and distracted, and business success is as much about the speed of execution as it is business strategy. Yet, 52% of the Fortune 500 on the list in 2000 have fallen off as a result of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies because they have failed to adapt.

Reflecting on this time to execute our own recruitment marketing strategy and truly leverage the power of our own platform has been a vivid exercise in what it feels like to adapt. As a practitioner, not just a solutions provider, we have the amazing opportunity to be a part of the new discipline of recruitment marketing, and to learn from and contribute to the growing community of recruitment marketers right alongside our customers. If you haven’t walked the walk yet, I highly recommend it.

 

Speaking of growth, SmashFly is hosting the industry’s first-ever Recruitment Marketing Conference, SmashFly Transform, Nov 2-4. Register to live stream the entire conference, from keynotes like Mel Robbins to speakers from companies like GE, Intel and PwC. 

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