Looking for Better Applicants? Focus on Candidate Education
Just as educated prospects become better customers, educated candidates become better team members.
By John Becker
You live and die by your hiring
Every business' success depends on finding and hiring the right people.
Unfortunately, businesses get this wrong every day — and the effects are damaging. In a famous study done in 2018, Jobvite found that a third of employees don’t even make it through an entire quarter.
That's right: 33% of new employees quit their job in the first 90 days.
Whenever someone leaves an organization, whether it’s after 90 days or 900 days, it leaves a gaping hole that drags down production and erodes morale.
However, when companies hire the right people and retain them, those teams are much stronger and more profitable.
To hire the right people, focus on education
When a candidate is applying for a job, the more information they have the better.
The company that can educate, build trust, and answer any questions up front is the company that will end up with happier, well-informed, and well-qualified employees.
When it comes to educating, building trust, and clearing up questions, you can apply the principles of good content marketing to your hiring and recruiting process.
Below, we’ll dive into the details:
- Why candidates are a lot like customers
- How to get started with content for job seekers
- Exactly what content your applicants are looking for
3 reasons candidates are like customers
The start of any relationship — whether we’re talking about a first date or initial job application — is full of evaluation by both sides.
Each side is looking for alignment (does this person or company believe what I believe?) and red flags (I’m seeing a lot of turnover/first dates without second dates — I wonder what that’s about?).
Just like a buyer making a purchase, job seekers are looking to do their research before they move forward.
When it comes to recruiting and hiring, you should treat candidates like you treat customers: Be honest; be trustworthy.
1. You need to vet each other
At the start of a sales process, each party vets the other. Buyers want to make sure a company is a good fit.
- Can they really deliver the service or product they offer?
- Is the quality as good as it appears?
At the same time, the company vets a prospect.
- Are they a serious buyer, or are they just looking?
- Can they afford us?
Candidates and businesses do the same thing. Businesses look at recommendation letters, resumes, and employment history. Candidates look at online reviews and LinkedIn profiles.
Trust and authenticity matter.
2. They move down a funnel
The “sales funnel” is a widely known representation of how customers buy from a company. It’s usually depicted like this:
Customers move from the awareness stage to the consideration stage to the evaluation stage to the decision stage, getting closer and closer to a purchase.
At each stage, some drop out and some move forward.
Recruitment and hiring has its own version of a funnel.
Many prospects will see the job posting, some of those will apply, some of those that apply will be interviewed, and one will get the job.
In marketing, we’re taught that getting more and more people into the “awareness” stage of the funnel means more customers will come out the other end.
For businesses looking to hire, there’s a similar belief: The more people who are aware of your listing, the more will apply.
The more who apply, the stronger the applicant pool — or so goes the conventional wisdom. The stronger the applicant pool, the better the employee you hire will be.
“Imagine if you were constantly getting people interested in working for you? You were always adding to a database of potential candidates? Imagine how much better prepared you’d be when you needed to fill a role?” - Chris Marr
If you keep the funnel full, better candidates come out the other end.
3. They’re asking the same questions
When we guide businesses to marketing success, we teach them to start their content marketing efforts by focusing on The Big 5 — five content topics that are guaranteed to drive traffic, leads, and sales.
These five topics are so powerful because they speak to core concerns that every buyer has regardless of product or industry.
The Big 5 topics, listed below, all speak to the pressing questions that are on buyers’ minds:
- First among those is price. Customers everywhere, no matter what they’re buying, want to know what it will cost — and they want to understand the factors that can make that cost go up or down.
- Buyers want to hear from other buyers about their experience with a product or service. So, they seek out reviews.
- Buyers will search for “best of” lists that allow them to compare several top solutions for their problem as they narrow the list of what they want.
- Just like with reviews, buyers want to know about the potential problems of whatever they’re considering so they know they won’t be making a purchase they regret.
- When making a final decision, it’s likely that a buyer will put several similar options side by side to compare relative strengths and weaknesses.
Marketing materials that address these topics help educate your audience and build trust.
With slight tweaks, these same topics apply just as well to the hiring process.
First on every applicant’s mind? Salary (Cost in The Big 5). They want to know what they can expect to make — as well as what could make that number go up or down (like years of experience, degrees, certifications, etc.). Reviews? Well, reviews of past or current employees.
In fact, it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to transpose all of The Big 5 into recruitment resources, which we’ll dive into below.
Where to get started with content recruiting
Just like content for marketing, content for hiring requires you to do two things at once:
- Write broad, search-optimized content to get found by potential applicants.
- Write specific, question-based content to use in the hiring process.
Which you do first will depend on your circumstances. If you’re growing rapidly and need to build awareness around your company and your open positions, you might focus more on number 1.
If you’re flooded with candidates and need to weed out the bad fits, number 2 is probably more important.
But both are critical.
The Big 5 for hiring
Start with The Big 5. Think about the questions your applicants (and potential applicants) might want to know.
Below I've listed some sample content topics that could help you recruit and select the right candidate.
Cost (think: salary and benefits)
- How much does an insurance agent make per year?
- How does a salesperson’s bonus structure work?
- How quickly will an MBA pay for itself in the manufacturing industry?
- What’s a good starting salary for a preschool teacher?
Reviews (think: an honest look from the inside)
- An honest look at being a market researcher
- Company culture checklist: What to look for to know a company is a good fit
- What it’s really like to be a copywriter
‘Best of’ lists (think: how people rank their choices)
- Best office perks that help productivity and culture
- Top companies to work for in the Orlando area
- 10 signs your company runs great meetings
Problems (think: job seekers don’t want to be in the 33% that quits)
- Reasons why being an investment banker is harder than it looks
- The biggest drawback to a career in software design
- 3 problems with working from home as a service manager
Comparisons (think: putting different options head to head)
- A day in the life: Comparing daily responsibilities of a sales rep and a sales manager
- 401(k) vs. 403(b): Which employer-sponsored retirement account is better for you?
- Should you choose a salary or commission pay structure?
These are just ideas, but you see where I’m going. You could use AI to generate dozens more.
Some of these articles would be great search plays. Someone Googles “How much does an insurance agent make per year?” and they end up on your site.
They’re clearly interested in starting a new career. They read your content, get to know your company, and see that you’ve got job postings. They become an applicant in just the same way that an inbound lead becomes a customer.
But once they enter the applicant pool, you have another opportunity to educate them. That's the 80% video.
Remember the statistic from the beginning about how many employees quit within 90 days? An 80% video sent out to the final pool of candidates is a great way to address this problem.
In the sales process, an 80% video covers the basic questions that every prospect asks. If these questions are cleared up ahead of time, you can have a more productive discussion tailored to an individual prospect’s needs.
In the hiring process, you can use the same tactic. Imagine if everyone in your applicant pool received a video that shared:
- The structure of the team they’d be joining
- What their day-to-day would look like
- How their work would be evaluated
- Compensation details (including salary range, benefits, and bonus structure)
- Potential future advancement opportunities
- Company health and upcoming initiatives
If all candidates had every question above out of the way, they’d know a lot more about what to expect if they get the job.
Furthermore, subsequent interviews could be more productive because the hiring manager wouldn’t have to spend as much time fielding the same questions.
Be the company that values education
Embracing education brings with it a culture shift for most organizations. When you put your buyers first, the way you go about marketing and selling changes.
When you apply that same principle to your hiring process, you’re saying the same thing: An educated applicant is a better applicant — and more likely to become a happy employee, too.
Who should own your content recruiting initiative?
Hiring content should be folded into your overall content marketing strategy.
Companies that are looking to recruit and grow should start to write content specifically for this process — much like we've outlined above.
Going forward, about 80% of your new content should be aimed at attracting new customers and 20% should be aimed at attracting new employees.
Both marketing and hiring content should be the responsibility of your marketing team.
Hiring content at your company
If you commit to answering applicant questions with transparency and candor, you’re letting them know more about your company than any “about us” page ever could. You’re showing that honesty and education matter.
As a result, you’ll bring in more people who value the same things that you do.
Using content in the recruiting and hiring process allows you to build trust with your applicants just as you do with your visitors and customers.
If you’re looking to grow — or you find attracting and retaining top talent is a real challenge — divert some of your content marketing efforts accordingly.
Wondering where to begin?