How to use recruitment marketing to attract top talent

From the end of World War II to the 1970s, organizations filled approximately 90 percent of job openings internally — either by promoting employees or by giving them the ability to make lateral moves within the company. Today, that number is only 33 percent at most, says Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School.

Because external candidates fill the remaining positions, attracting engaged, qualified candidates is more important than ever.

Recruitment marketing is a powerful way for companies to attract better candidates. By focusing on what the company offers as an employer, recruitment marketing gets applicants excited about applying, interviewing, and working for the organization.

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Recruitment marketing 101

The phrase “recruitment marketing” may sound like just another HR buzzword. In fact, recruitment marketing is a process that seeks to attract better job candidates.

“Just like potential customers need to know who you are, so do potential employees,” says Jenna Hinrichsen, manager of sourcing and talent strategy at Advanced RPO. Recruitment marketing is how a company shares its mission, values, and culture with a wide audience, encouraging audience members to become job candidates.

Like traditional marketing, recruitment marketing sits at the top of the marketing funnel, generating leads in the form of interested candidates. Its focus is on building awareness of the employer brand.

Recruitment marketing focuses on getting the attention of professionals with skill sets that could benefit the company and turning them into applicants.

Using recruitment marketing to build a talent pool

One role of human resources is to build a pool of candidates for current and anticipated job openings. Traditionally, HR recruitment efforts have focused on specific needs and positions.

Recruitment marketing takes a more holistic approach. It establishes and promotes an employer brand. It communicates what working with the organization is like, attracting candidates who see their ideal job and employer reflected in that brand.

Recruitment marketing can be a powerful way to connect with passive candidates, or “all those currently employed people who aren’t really looking for a job but could be convinced your grass is greener,” writes Jennifer Fietz, client strategist at marketing and communications firm Imaginasium.

Building a talent pool may be the key to winning the fight for qualified employees. About 70 percent of companies said they faced a talent shortage in 2019, according to one Manpower Group report. In February 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that the country had about 670,000 more open jobs than it had unemployed workers.

To kick-start recruitment marketing, start with employer branding

Recruitment marketing sells your employer brand to potential employees. To make it work, the organization needs an employer brand to sell.

“Employer branding is about developing the external reputation of a company broadly so that it’s viewed as a great place to build one’s career,” says Justin Lowe, director of marketing and sales at The McQuaig Institute, a Toronto-based talent platform. Recruitment marketing shares this employer brand with the world in order to attract candidates.

Collaborate to build employer branding

An employer brand is different from a recruitment marketing strategy in that companies don’t always control every element of their employer brand. How candidates and employees talk about their experiences with the company also forms an element of that brand.

While companies don’t control these conversations, many are nevertheless leveraging them by encouraging candidates to post examples of their positive interactions with the companies on social media sites like Glassdoor, says Chiradeep BasuMallick at HR Technologist. A company can also build better awareness of its work culture by giving employees a place to share positive stories, such as a company blog or YouTube channel.

By actively participating in conversations that affect the employer brand, a company can help guide them. It can also build a reputation as a company that listens to its employees and customers by demonstrating this skill in real time.

Recruitment marketing: A team effort

Although many HR departments understand the benefits of recruitment marketing, not all know how to start leveraging recruitment marketing themselves. According to’s research report, The State of Recruitment Marketing 2019, only about 36 percent of human resources professionals rate their department’s understanding of recruitment marketing as “high” or “very high.” About 23 percent ranked their department’s knowledge as somewhere below “moderate.”

Human resources departments are experts on which jobs they need to fill and the type of people who tend to thrive with the company. Marketing teams are experts at brand development and collateral creation. Recruitment marketing often benefits when both teams work together, says Lowe.

The days of a “help wanted” newspaper section reaching everyone in a community are long gone. Today’s job boards tend to be specialized. Although social media sites may boast billions of users, no one social media post reaches them all.

Today, candidates look for information about jobs and companies. This level of active search means that potential applicants are already engaged in the process. Recruitment marketing focuses on giving those applicants specific content to engage with.

That’s why social media and content marketing play key roles in building an employer brand and sharing it via recruitment marketing efforts, writes Sushman Biswas at Recruiting Daily. Since marketing teams tend to know their way around social media and content marketing already, they can lend powerful expertise to an organization’s recruitment marketing efforts by using these tools to attract better candidates.

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