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Hiring a Marketing Team  |   Executives and Leaders  |   Advanced They Ask, You Answer

Why You Need To Start Thinking of Your Candidates Like Customers

Zach Basner

By Zach Basner

Sep 14, 2022

Why You Need To Start Thinking of Your Candidates Like Customers

“It’s getting harder and harder to find good people.”

Every company I work with has expressed some version of this same frustration. Yet, at the same time, they’re getting more applications than ever before.

So, how are both true? More candidates to choose from should mean you end up with better candidates, right? 

Not necessarily. 

The problem is that we’ve made it way too easy to apply to jobs today. Human resource (HR) teams are flooded with resumes of varying quality, making the situation harder, not easier. 

On top of that, a tight labor market and historically low unemployment means you might have to work to attract the best candidates.

The solution: Start thinking of your applicants like customers, and apply what you know about marketing to your hiring process. 

The result will be better-qualified candidates, a smoother hiring process, and an easier onboarding experience. 

We’ve made it way too easy to apply for jobs

I think this needs to be said: We’ve made it too easy to apply for jobs. 

I know, I get it. We want to remove barriers. We want to make it easy to work for us, but we’ve gone to an extreme that’s hurting businesses and applicants.

Today, it’s easier to apply for a job than it’s ever been in the past. 

No more classifieds, no more tri-folded resumes on bond paper. Today, you can apply for a job in a matter of seconds with a few clicks. If you wanted to, you could apply to 100 jobs today. Heck, you could even do that before lunchtime. 

To see the result of all this ease of access, look at this: A LinkedIn job posting from four hours ago with over 200 applicants already. (To be honest, they cap their counting at 200. It could be 400. Or 2,000.)

If you’re this HR director, how are you even going to sort through this stack of virtual resumes? Are you really going to be able to find the best employee? That hungry candidate with a huge upside? 

Or are you going to reach for the same old slapdash proxies for competence like alma mater or GPA?

Too many applicants, too many flameouts

In a famous study done in 2018, Jobvite found that one-third of all new employees quit within 90 days of starting their new job. And that was before the great resignation. 

We’re inundated with resumes, and more new hires are quitting than ever before. 

At the same time, job seekers are compiling an ever-longer list of what they're looking for: flexibility, perks, and culture match.

Recruiting and marketing are pretty much the same thing

The problem, it seems to me, is that companies are still approaching hiring the same way they did 10 years ago.

Instead, companies need to start thinking about hiring the way they think about marketing. 

(Note, it’s also a problem if companies are still approaching marketing the way they did 10 years ago — but for the sake of this example, let’s assume a thoroughly cutting-edge approach to marketing.)

Smart marketing today avoids the pushy sales pitch, focusing instead on buyer education and trust building. 

Smart marketers know that gaudy vanity metrics might boost your ego but keep your bottom line flat. 

Smart marketing today focuses on the buyer’s needs. 

Now, imagine those same principles applied to your recruitment and hiring practices. 

When you think about it, marketing and recruiting are closely related: Each seeks to build a positive impression of your brand, each seeks to fill a funnel with qualified individuals, and each seeks to help your business grow.

It makes sense to apply our expertise in one to the other

Lessons from marketing to apply to recruiting

So, what can we learn from marketing to improve our recruiting and hiring? 

1. Think about your funnel… but only so much

In marketing, you want to fill the top of your funnel so qualified leads come out the bottom. The danger with this approach, however, is that businesses focus too much on driving traffic, for example, without paying attention to whether that traffic has any intent to buy or not.

The same thing is true here. You want to attract from a wide talent pool, but just getting more applicants should not be your goal (more on that later). You want qualified applicants. 

Fill your application funnel, but remember that it’s better to have 50 promising candidates than 500 unqualified ones. 

2. Focus on education

Buyers today are wary of sales pitches and pushy tactics. They want to self-educate with on-demand content they find on the internet. When they’re ready, they’ll reach out to a salesperson.

In fact, according to a recent study from Gartner, 33% of all buyers would prefer an entirely “sales-free” sales experience — and that number’s even higher among millennials and Gen Z-ers.

I’m not saying that candidates want a touchless application experience; just that they want as much information as possible upfront to make an informed decision. 

Imagine radical transparency in your hiring process.

Be fully committed to educating your applicants about duties, compensation, and all other expectations. That way, they have a complete picture of the role before they decide to apply. 

3. Be honest 

You can’t focus on education without committing to honesty — whether in advertising or recruiting. Be as clear as you can about responsibilities, daily schedule, expected output, and company culture.

We advise our clients to commit to making 80% videos for use in the sales process. That is, a video that answers 80% of the questions most customers ask during the first sales meeting. That way, sales calls are more productive and personalized.

HR departments should do the same thing. Once a candidate reaches the second round, send an 80% video that covers most of what they want to know about the role and your company. Speaking of which…

4. Use video

According to Cisco, video content will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic this year. Chances are, you’re already working hard to incorporate video into your sales and marketing.

But what about hiring?

Today, email and portals have replaced resumes and mailboxes, but few businesses take full advantage of these digital platforms.

Video should play a major role in your communication with candidates. Beyond the 80% video mentioned above, have applicants submit video responses so you can really get to know them.

Hiring platforms like Workable can walk you through the setup process. 

5. Remember that you’re hiring future brand ambassadors

HubSpot’s Flywheel model reminds us that happy customers become advocates for our brand. Word of mouth is the strongest advertising there is, so a satisfied customer is a legitimately valuable asset.

The Flywheel Model

How valuable is a happy employee? Every single one spreads positivity to friends, family, and network connections. 

How about that frustrated employee who quit after six months? You can expect that person to gripe and complain to anyone who will listen for years to come.

We no longer think of our relationship with a customer as ending when the purchase is made. Our relationships with employees can last years. We should always keep that in mind.

Hiring your next future executive

If your company’s next all-star was just sitting down now to fill out her application, what would you want her experience to be? Imagine she makes it through, gets an offer, and accepts. What would you want her first day to be like?

When you apply marketing principles to hiring, you educate your candidates so they can seamlessly join your company, quickly onboard, and step into a job they’re fully prepped for.

And if you want to learn more about how we help businesses hire and develop great talent, talk to our team

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