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Marketing is a practice that is both art and science. As we get more advanced in the discipline of Recruitment Marketing, it’s time to ask: Why do we continue to do the same things over and over again and expect a better result?

In my early Recruitment Marketing days (back in the 90s), when it was easy to take your spendy newspaper ads and put them online, we were rolling in the deep. It was so easy. It was so cheap (comparatively speaking), and we could get candidates from all over the place. Our footprint was so much bigger. Our megaphone increased in both size and scope. At the time, the need was more candidates, and that we could attract hundreds of applicants from one online ad was nothing short of miraculous. We wanted to see as many great people as we could, so, the online job posting thrived for many, many years.

And as good as it was then, the truth is, we developed a crutch. A crutch that ended up filling our ATS with people who we never communicated with or marketed to again – people that we had to pay to attract again. We had all these interested people that we never tried to source for new openings.

Now, we not only have an ATS full of people who were interested enough to make it through our convoluted apply process, but many of us also have a CRM and/or talent community – and we are filling that up with people, too. People who are already predisposed to our brand and that we’ve paid good money to attract. Yet, there they sit. Waiting. Interested. But waiting. Intrigued. But waiting. Wanting more. Wanting anything. A crumb of information about your brand and what it means to work there. Many of us have millions of people we’ve paid to attract at one point or another, and in far too many cases, they languish. While we ignore the people who already like us and are interested in us … we place another ad on another job board to attract more people. 

It’s been this way for more than, well … forever. I cannot remember a time when we didn’t have an “advertise first” mentality. It’s always been: place the ad and wait for talent to show up. Even when we needed to hire a blacksmith, we would put a “Help Wanted” sign in the window, and people would show up. And it was fine. It may not have been the best or most efficient strategy or fastest experience, but it was what we did and what we had. And even in those days, it wasn’t like we kept all the contacts or resumes for the other blacksmiths who showed up so we could get ahead of the next opportunity. It’s always been advertise, fill, advertise, fill.

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It is literally wash, rinse, repeat. Except it isn’t hair. And it isn’t working. This model doesn’t work for the precise reason that Recruitment Marketing is different from consumer marketing; we do not hire every single person we pay to attract. We cannot sell an unlimited inventory of jobs all at once. But we will have more jobs eventually. So despite our differences, we must become more like our consumer marketing counterparts. We have to not only generate leads, but continuously work them! We need to get them from the attraction state to the application state. And we can only do this if we work the leads first before we advertise. I call it the Advertise LAST model:

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With this model, you work the leads you’ve already paid to attract first. You reach out to your silver medalists. Then you expand the search to people who meet your qualifications AND are interested in you (if they’ve joined your talent network, interacted with an email campaign, applied before, etc.). If you can make a sound slate for the hiring manager from this first step … you’re winning. Plus, you’ve likely cut down the time to find, which will impact your overall time to fill.

If you didn’t find a good slate of candidates there, post the job req on your career site and send a job alert to a segmented audience of people who are good leads and would be interested in/qualified for that specific job (don’t send engineering jobs to sales candidates!). If you want this message to really convert, you’ll say nice things to the people you’re sending it to. You’ll personalize it and sound like a human, something like, “Hi, I saw your profile and was impressed with your qualifications. You look like you might be a good candidate for this engineering position we just opened up.” Then, check your net again. Did you get a nice slate? If not, then finally, you should advertise. You should only advertise after you have exhausted every one of the internal tools at your disposal. Reaching out to people you’ve already paid to attract respects them. It shows them you care about their career and future. It’s also a more efficient way to utilize your resources, time and budget!

So the questions remains: Why are we not here already? One reason: Some hiring managers just like to see their job advertised. But as much as they’d like to see that posting, I bet they would rather see a great slate of candidates within 24 hours. The other, and much more dominant, reason? It’s the curse of all bad business practices: “We’ve always done it this way.” And to that, I say: “How’s that working out for you?”

We are trending to higher costs per hire and longer times to fill as an industry, on top of low unemployment, a skills gap, drastic retirement rates and a major shift in how people view why the work and who they work with. The world, business and people are accelerating change, yet talent acquisition is hanging their hats on “we’ve always done it this way.” Don’t you think it’s time we try something new, rebellious, even crazy? Let’s.

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