Opinion: Candidates are customers

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Top performers aren’t just applying for just the first thing they see on Seek, oh no. It’s no surprise that job boards have become significantly less effective in recent years. It’s a buyers market out there; the best candidates have options. And they know it.
 
Candidates are the customers of your recruitment department; the market your recruiters need to target, engage, and inspire to action.
 
To achieve better quantity and quality of hires, we need to start wooing them, shifting away from the traditional recruitment model (which was never designed with candidate’s needs in mind) in favour of one that borrows tried-and-true tactics from sales and marketing.
 
Today, candidates are going to evaluate you as much as you evaluate them. They’re choosy. And the best ones – including those passive candidates – they aren’t going to desperately pounce like the grateful unwashed on the first vacancy that pops up.
 
Instead, they’re proactively researching your company, even before you have an advertised role. They’re being turned off by Careers websites that haven’t been updated in years, are stuffed with management speak, or that can’t be viewed from a smartphone. They’re getting excited by organisations that share their authentic company culture and employee benefits through videos and social media.
 
And just like the modern consumer, not all candidates are seduced simply by a ‘great deal’. While studies show remuneration is still important, it is becoming less and less so, as candidates base their decision on a host of other factors. Just like consumers, candidates want to engage with brands that reflect their own personality and values, brands that feel like ‘their tribe’. They favour products (roles) that offer added lifestyle benefits beyond just a great financial deal.
 
Progressive companies and HR professionals have always known that quality hires are a competitive advantage. So, as the job boards lose their bang-for-buck, the industry is beginning to invest in ‘marketing the workplace’.
 
They’re investing in truly engaging (and mobile-optimised) Careers content. They’re finally listening to the statistics and getting around to creating Employee Referral Programmes. They’re taking advantage of the laser-targeting power of Facebook, online display ads and other tactics to advertise current vacancies. They’re leveraging the power of social media (including involving staff in the activity). And they’re putting better processes in place for applicant rejection, knowing that people are 12 times more likely to voice a bad experience on social media than a good one.
 
But a word of caution: it’s not all about style, it’s also about substance. For your marketing messages to work, they need to be true. The best quality candidates can spot a fake or a try-hard from 50 paces.
 
Just as with a powerful consumer brand, marketing your workplace begins with knowing who you are – what makes your workplace special, what makes it desirable – and what your unique proposition is. It’s about getting clear on your culture, your values, what you can offer, so you can shout it from the rooftops. So you can go and woo those candidates, as if they were consumers.
 
About the author
 
Jason Marra is the managing director at Fuel Agency, a company specialising in workplace marketing.

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