5 ways companies can punch above their weight in talent acquisition

Companies cannot operate without people. That’s the long and short of it. The better the people, the better and more successful the company. It’s common sense, right? Well you’d be surprised how many companies are selling themselves short when it comes to recruiting and hiring. It’s so critical to get the messaging right if you want to attract the best people in the marketplace. It amazes me how companies spend millions on branding, communications and advertising, then let sub-standard job adverts slip through the net. Worse than that are companies that work with recruitment firms who have no appreciation of what the company is trying to achieve, thereby diluting the brand and driving good candidates away. So how can companies of all sizes punch above their weight and become deeply attractive to candidates? Here are 5 simple things that every company can implement.

Tell your story

There are so many companies competing for talent, it’s often the ones who shout loudest that get heard. There is, however, a smarter way to go about being heard above the cacophony. Tell your story. It sounds really simple and it is! Put yourself in the position of a candidate and see things from their point of view. Often, candidates are given an unexciting overview consisting of a couple of sentences about how the company is a market leader or something similar. That’s great, but how many job ads have that as an opener? Thousands is the answer. Incidentally, if you don’t have an overview of the company in your job ads, then you’re definitely missing out on candidates.

What we need here is storytelling. Why is your company a market leader? What is it about the company that excites you as an employee? You’re the number one in your market, but how do your people contribute to that? What is it that is going to attract the next top talent? What does the company want to achieve and where is it on its journey? Take a glance at Google’s careers home page. A fantastic picture of their office interior and one line of text, ‘Do cool things that matter.’ How brilliant is that? Google has distilled everything about the company, a multi-billion dollar company, into just one line and it really works. Is it any surprise that Google gets a million CVs a year? They are kings of communication, masters of messaging, wizards with words. You get the point.

Tell your story and people will come to you in droves. Fail to communicate what it is that excites your existing employees, and you’ll find it impossible to compete with the ‘Google’ in your industry.

It’s all about the culture

Wouldn’t it be great if you only had applications from people who fitted the culture of the organisation? I’m not being flippant because I know that cultural fit is probably the hardest piece of the jigsaw to get right. However, does the careers section of your website and your job ads reflect your company culture? If not, then you’re wading through CVs and interviewing people who are never going to fit. You can only get a proper sense of culture by actually working in a company and seeing the way things are done and how people are treated. You can though give a flavour of culture in your recruitment communications.

If you don’t take control and paint a picture of your company’s culture, then candidates will rely on review websites which can be hit and miss. There are some great company careers pages out there, with video interviews of employees, galleries showing the working environment and blogs that exude passion for what people are doing. These are useful to candidates because they are able to see and hear from real people. Candidates will also glean information from the LinkedIn profiles of employees, so a company-wide approach to social media is useful. Online networking should be encouraged, but only if employees are given guidance on how to ‘pitch’ the company message.

Some people will stay with a company because of the culture, and some will leave because of it. The challenge is to convey the culture accurately throughout the recruitment process, so you are attracting the right people who will stay long-term. If the working hours are 9am-5pm but most people stay until 6pm, then this needs to be said at some point. To some people this could be a deal breaker and it is better that those people don’t get through to a final stage interview, or worse get hired and then leave within a month because they can’t get home to see their children before they go to bed. Hiring mistakes are costly in time and money.

Job spec or job ad?

I believe there is a clear distinction between a job spec and a job ad. The job ad should pique the candidate’s interest and elicit a positive action; an application. A job spec is something that should be sent to the candidate after they have applied for the role and before the first interview. It seems that the art of the job ad has been lost along the way and there are now few credible examples out there. I always remember a great ad in the Appointments section of The Sunday Times for a role at MI6. The first line of the ad was, ‘Don’t just watch world events. Help shape them.’ Immediately that got my interest and I wanted to read more. Juxtapose that cracking introduction with this from an ad I read today on a job board, ‘This is a great position working for an established company.’ As a candidate, I’m not in any way excited by this and there is no further information about the company anywhere in the ad. In fact what follows is a job spec consisting entirely of bullet points; lots of them. One of the bullet points indicates that for this role, at manager level, the person should be computer literate. Who isn’t computer literate these days and what does that even mean? These are wasted words that only serve to pad out the ‘ad’ and dilute the key messages.

Bullet points can be very effective for pulling into focus the really key points you want to get across. However, when thirty bullet points are used, people will not read them all and the key points are lost. As a recruiter you want to grasp the salient points of someone’s CV quickly, similarly candidates need to be hooked in to your job ad quickly. Your ad responses will go up as a result.

Why you?

Why did you join your current employer? It may have been a number of things but you really need to make sure these things are reflected in every ad consistently. I read job ads every day, and the vast differences in their approach is amazing. Often these differences are apparent in ads from the same company. Some have a really good introduction that get my interest and make me want to read on, then the one below from the same company doesn’t have an introduction at all. Candidates notice this and it turns them off. The same goes for ads where the fonts are all different sizes from paragraph to paragraph. Maybe your ATS has done something unusual when you uploaded the text, but either way the ad needs to be checked after upload. In the candidate’s mind, a sloppy approach to recruitment ads may be indicative of a wider issue in the company. Consistent messaging across platforms is the cornerstone of marketing communications, and your careers pages and ads are part of the company’s communications. You may be getting a steady stream of candidates, but how many others are clicking away when they get inconsistent and confusing messages?

Interviewing current employees would yield some fantastic sound bites that could then be used in job ads and on the company careers pages. These are equivalent to word of mouth advertising which is hugely valuable as people do take cues from other people on brands and companies. This is why big brands spend millions on celebrity endorsements, such as the recent tie up between Haig whisky and David Beckham. Work out why people join and why they stay. Include these messages in your communications and similar people will want to join and stay as well.

Be sociable

Social media has transformed recruitment and will continue to do so. Some even think that the days of the recruitment agency are numbered. I disagree with this, as I feel there will always be a place for professional recruiters who can advise clients and provide unique insight on the market and the best candidates in that market. However, reaching candidates through social media has seen a huge shift in power back to companies and internal recruitment teams. This has been a positive change, but social media needs to be done properly to have the desired effect. Taking Twitter as an example, candidates do not want to see an endless stream of tweets about new jobs. They will only be interested in this type of approach if they are considering a move at the time they encounter your Twitter feed. It is better to engage potential candidates before they decide to move, so that you will be high up on their list when they start looking. Your tweets should be about the cool things you are doing as a company, interesting projects the company is working on, or announcements for your latest blog post. Intersperse these tweets with the odd mention that a new role has become available, or a prompt to people to look at your careers pages and you will strike the right balance.

LinkedIn has 300 million users and is a fantastic platform for professional social media. Many companies use LinkedIn to make scores of direct hires but others are missing a trick. The key to it is content. Your company page, your employees’ profiles and blogs. The more established bloggers on LinkedIn have upwards of 300,000 views for each post and hundreds of comments. Amazing. Use it. Blog about exciting projects, your industry viewpoint and anything thought leadership related. It takes time and a consistent effort but it will pay dividends when the top talent starts following you and becomes excited by the work your company is doing. Your fascinating posts will chip away and turn a passing interest into a positive action.

In summary

To attract the best candidates, you have to know who you are so you can tell your story and impart a sense of your company culture. Ditch the detailed job specs until later in the process. Come up with a killer introduction to the company and use it consistently in well-crafted recruitment ads that get to the point quickly and drive a positive action. Ask yourself and your colleagues why you joined and what makes you stay, then use this information in your communications. Be social, use the most effective channels to reach out to top talent with content that will make them read, follow you and then engage with you.

Thanks for reading and good luck. If you found this post useful please like it below, share it and use the comments box to air your views.

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