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If You Want Better Candidates, Avoid the Hard Sell

Recruiters don’t need to shout about how great their firm is, they need to help candidates understand if the firm is right for them by sharing the skills needed for success.

Interview in Progress Sign on Door

And although they may want to fill a large number of roles quickly, it’s important to find the right people with the right skills, because most of the jobs will involve direct contact with customers.

These positions attract thousands of applicants but CEB data show that 72% are of average quality at best. This is because today’s candidates are far less choosy in the early stages of a job search. A quarter of them apply, often online, to at least 10 companies and many hedge their bets by going for jobs they have little chance of getting because they do not have the necessary skills.

And recruiters then have limited time to reduce a long list of applicants to a chosen few to interview. So it’s no surprise that 1-in-5 new hires are considered bad or “regretted” or that 65% of hiring managers aren’t satisfied with their recruiter’s service.

You Can Shout, But They Won’t Listen

What’s worse is that many recruitment and HR teams (75% according to CEB data) think promoting the firm as a “great place to work” will help, even though only a third of them actually measure its effect on the quality of the hired employees they end up with.

In fact all that this kind of promotion (what CEB dubs “branding for appeal” in its research) does is attract more mediocre candidates for overworked recruitment teams to discard from the process. On top of that, many candidates – and especially the ones most firms want to attract – won’t be listening anyway.

This is because hiring companies are not applicants’ only source of information. Fully 80% use sources outside a recruiting firm’s control – social media or sites like glassdoor – to decide whether to apply. A search for “working at Coca Cola” on Google returns over 48 million results, with only a minority linking to the firm’s own websites. And non-corporate information will almost certainly carry more weight with candidates – nearly two-thirds of them say they are skeptical about what employers say about themselves.

Instead of branding for appeal, recruiters need to help candidates decide whether the organization is right for them, and if they have the qualities the company is looking for. Recruiters should shift their approach to “branding for influence.”

Data show that branding for influence results in a 54% increase in the quality of applicant pools, 5% more high-performing new hires, and a 23% fall in new hire turnover.

Three Steps to Branding for Influence

Three steps will improve the quality of candidate pools:

  1. Focus branding on your most critical talent: Instead of “scattergun” branding across a wide range of talent segments, focus on the talent that will answer your current and future needs.

    Make sure you understand what is important to these people and tailor your messages accordingly.

  2. Don’t sell, offer advice (think dialog, not monologue): Instead of telling candidates about your outstanding job opportunities or collaborative culture, think of yourself as a consultant.

    Challenge applicants’ ideas about your organization and the kind of role they think you offer. Help them understand what it is like to work in your organisation by offering online realistic previews of the role or the firm’s culture.

  3. Build a network of brand influencers: Rather than focusing on what channels you use to reach candidates, improve the way you manage relationships with people that can influence candidates, whether these influencers are within or outside the company.

    Encouraging “brand ambassadors” can have a significantly greater impact on the quality of the applicant pool.

Done properly, this branding for influence approach means better people are hired at lower cost. And that has a big impact on the bottom line. CEB data show that the reduced turnover and profitability translates to a $4.1m gain for a typical firm can come from an estimated 3% increase in branding costs.

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