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According to recruitment managers and industry analysts, recruitment marketing can be a valuable strategy for connecting with top talent. But success doesn't happen without some heavy lifting. "I put a lot of effort into marketing and employer branding --these activities represent a good chunk of my day," said Oliver Horvath, corporate recruiter/HR generalist for the Gourmet Food and Gift Brands (GFGB) division of 1800Flowers.com, based in Westbury, N.Y.
Horvath's efforts appear to be paying off. Over the last eight months, the company hasn't had to use an outside recruiting agency to fill a permanent position, which is saving on the recruiting fees -- typically 20% of first-year salaries -- the company would typically pay for each new hire.
But committing hours to recruitment marketing isn't all it takes to succeed: Hiring managers must use their time wisely. "Recruitment marketing should target professionals who can be linked to future business strategies and who can move the business forward versus entry and mid-level hires," said Maria Rosploch, vice president of global solutions for Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group, which is based in Troy, Mich. "The messaging you want to send should get them to respond to an ad, pick up the phone when you call them, or engage with you from a networking standpoint."
To do that and see other returns from recruitment marketing, experts advise focusing on these six key steps.
1. Hone brand messaging
Employer branding encapsulates the attributes of an organization for existing and potential employees. Marketing-savvy hiring professionals can crystalize this message by considering their company's uniqueness in its marketplace and its overall values, a process that may involve peers from other departments -- including sales and marketing, the executive suite, and product and services groups. The benefits of this exercise can ripple beyond the HR department.
"When you think about your brand and what you need to do to attract more quality hires, you're ultimately going to improve organizational performance," said Madeline Laurano, vice president and principal analyst at the Brandon Hall Group based in Delray Beach, Fla. "It will help you put the right people in place; those who will perform better in their roles and stay longer with the organization."
2. Ply social networks
Twitter offers a valuable platform for promoting employer brands. For example, in addition to announcing new openings, Horvath promotes GFGB's employer brand via Twitter posts that offer tips for successful interviewing techniques and creating resumes that resonate with hiring managers. He also retweets relevant posts by career coaches.
He also uses LinkedIn for branding by publishing essays in the site's Pulse section, including one recent post that gave advice to job seekers frustrated by the application process. It's all part of a larger strategy. "I'm constantly trying to find qualified people on LinkedIn who would refer to themselves as passive candidates," he said.
Rosploch said a marketing-oriented social media campaign by a client in the auto industry boosted the strategic-hire success rate for internal recruitment activities from 2% to more than 50% over 18 months. "A lot of that is credited to the fact that people don't always want to talk to you when you have an open job, but they want to hear from leaders in the organization about what the future may be like," she said. "People want information about your company that they can't find by searching online. If you provide it, you are engaging them in your business before they even become a candidate."
What's the best way to do this? Enlist senior leaders to communicate their visions for the future or provide general roadmaps about new products or services. Another resource is sending key employees to colleges and universities to talk about their experiences with the organization. "The strategy isn't so much to target one role as it is to generate excitement around the business and help students see themselves as being a part of that organization," Rosploch explained.
3. Forge closer ties with the marketing department
Employer branding and product or services branding should be complementary. Otherwise, brand confusion may result, which can harm HR and marketing efforts. To sync branding with marketing, HR professionals should proactively share their recruitment goals and find ways to dovetail with marketing's efforts. "When you bring those ideas to the table, say, 'Here's how we would benefit from a partnership and here's what I'm thinking in terms of doing that,'" Rosploch said.
4. Consider adding a recruitment marketing platform to the technology mix
These standalone modules, which are designed to integrate into existing human capital management suites, bring together tools for customer relationship management, social recruiting, search engine optimization and related areas within a single application. When shopping for one of these platforms, look for offerings with strong mobile capabilities, built-in analytics, and tools for smoothly integrating them with larger HR systems, Laurano said.
5. Look for help from an application tracking system (ATS)
Some ATSes include tools that support recruitment marketing. For example, Horvath considers the ability to automatically post messages to social networks a must-have when evaluating an ATS. "I wouldn't consider an applicant tracking system if it didn't contain single-click posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages," he said. "That just saves so much time."
In addition, "Having a program that's easy to use means there won't be a need for much training or support," he said.
6. Connect with college students well before graduation
For a leg up on competing for future talent, some companies are marketing themselves to juniors and sophomores. "When they graduate isn't the time to start building a relationship," Rosploch said. "By reaching them earlier, you want them to say, 'I already have connections at this company; I'm going to focus there first before I look at the competition."
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