During my discussion with an early stage entrepreneur, he talked about problems in hiring the right staff for his team. His concerns were that he was competing with big brand names and assurance of a stable career path. We discussed about these for a while but interestingly, I realized that these hiring issues are no different from marketing issues. A lot can be applied from marketing practices here. In fact, some of the best recruiters I know are great marketers. This is especially important in India that is home to companies with large workforces and recruiters recruit constantly.
Three principles to apply are:
Build a story
Marketers are experts in building stories and connecting it to customers’ stories. One important thing to realize is that you can’t connect with everyone so you need to choose your segment and your battlefield. Most job descriptions solve for least common denominator. “Great environment to work” implies great for everyone. I have yet to see a job ad that says- “Great environment for geeks, rest need not apply”. This ad might only receive 5% hits, but applicants are more aligned to your story. Top consulting companies (e.g., McKinsey, BCG) have built their stories around recruitment and rightly so- their only asset is people. “Are you a McKinsey material?” is not an uncommon question in an MBA campus. For startups, they don’t need to be defensive about their infrastructure. “Ready to work in coffee shops rather than sitting in a cubicle” might catch some attention. You need to fight the right battle so don’t compete with an MNC on their turf. Brand marketers do it all the time and follow the golden rule that if you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one.
Use the right channel
Channel mix is the key to a successful marketing strategy. If you know your prospective employees and their stories, you need to hit the right channel to reach out. Job boards are like TV, where you are least likely to find premium space. Marketers think about grabbing the mind share and similar exercises have to be done by recruiters as well. Don’t go for campus recruitment, organize an event and award jobs to the winners. Make an interesting job video ad (funny, emotional, patriotic) and use social media to spread the message. Nurture your prospects and tell stories about your company like you nurture your customers. Overall, understand the segment and identify specific channels to interact with them.
Discounting is mostly a short term tactic by marketers as this model isn’t sustainable. Not many can position themselves as “lowest price guaranteed” or “Best salary guaranteed” all the time. Still, most of the job ads say- best in industry, comparable, competitive compensation while talking about salaries. I have seen people switching jobs with a significant cut because they are excited by the company’s vision, team, growth option etc. If you need to provide discount all the time, you aren’t probably selling it to the right customers. It goes back again to segment and story.
Recruitment isn’t about posting jobs, calling a lot of people, negotiating with people etc, but it’s about selling an idea to the right person at a right place at a right price. Switching jobs is probably as easy as switching brands today so there is no merit in getting someone who in fact has plenty of other options.