5 steps to a successful recruitment marketing strategy
In March of 2022, the number of unemployed individuals per job opening hit a 15-year low… and has stayed there. The recent spate of layoffs and hiring freezes may affect those numbers. Or the market could continue as it did in 2021, when Talent Ops teams posted more jobs and received fewer applicants despite higher unemployment levels.
That means a significant number of the hires you try to make will be folks who are employed when you reach out to them—perhaps in a stable job they’re not actively planning to leave. Any candidates who are searching for a different position are likely shopping around, waiting for an offer that meets their values and expectations.
Recruitment marketing is the best way to reach passive candidates, pique their interest in your company, and show them the ways your organization is ready to withstand market conditions while offering them a meaningful role in a thoughtful culture. Talent isn’t likely to be searching job boards these days, nor will they jump at just any opportunity that comes their way. You need to act like a marketer and sell them on your opportunities using tailored content, personalized nurture campaigns, and long-term, multi-channel engagement strategies.
A strong recruitment marketing strategy reduces time-to-hire, builds more diverse and more qualified pipelines, elevates the candidate experience, and boosts employee engagement and retention. Building a successful strategy is a tall order—but a hiring slowdown or pause is the best time to do this kind of work. Follow these steps to create a plan, and you’ll end up with access to an interested talent pool large enough to find the perfect hire for every role.
Step 1: define your recruitment marketing goals and approach
A successful recruitment marketing plan starts with an understanding of who you’re looking for and how you’ll appeal to them in this market. It’s not enough to say you want to “hire great candidates.” So does everyone. Only those who think about how to achieve their goals will find success.
Set your goals
Use the SMART goals framework to determine the steps you’ll take to meet your company’s hiring needs. This method helps you arrive at practical goals by requiring them to be:
Specific: “Increase career site visitors…”
Measurable: “…by 10%…”
Attainable: “…which is reasonable because our monthly visitor numbers are only around 200…”
Relevant: “…and which will be valuable because our career site highlights the benefits of working with our company, along with employee spotlights…”
Time-Bound: “…by the end of June.”
Your final goal statement doesn’t need to be that verbose; you can just write “10% increase in career site visitors by July.” But the thought process that goes into it should include all five points.
Most of your goals should have relatively short timelines—shoot for EOQ or a few months down the line. Your recruitment marketing strategy needs to be ready to shift with your org’s needs or labor market conditions.
Define your employee value proposition
Your employee value proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits employees receive, and it’s what you use to sell your company. An EVP should cover everything from personal development to company culture, diversity, collaboration, social responsibility, vacation time, remote work, the strength of the product, and more. What can your org offer employees that your competitors can’t?
Keep up on industry surveys about candidate expectations and priorities for ideas on how to differentiate your company. Employees today care about work-life balance above all. Does your company offer summer Fridays, volunteer time off (VTO), or a no after-hours email policy? Highlight these options to show your values match those of your ideal candidates. You can sit down with employees and ask them what they love about working for you for more ideas. Or work with the rest of your HR team to administer an employee engagement survey.
Make sure you’re honest when writing up the final version of your EVP. You’ll reference this resource for almost every tactic that’s part of your recruitment marketing strategy, so it’s critical to get it right.
Create candidate personas
Figure out what your ideal candidates will respond to by creating personas, which are semi-fictional representations of the people you’d like to hire. List the traits of your ideal candidate, including their current role, experience, skill sets, career goals, core values, motivations, and frustrations. Personas help you get in your target talents’ heads; they also support more personalized messaging on exactly the right channels.
You’ll need at least one persona per role at your company. Companies that want to diversify their pipelines may create variants that speak to individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds.
Step 2: spruce up your employer brand
Job searchers will likely find your company’s main website and social media pages—things you’ll link to in outreach to passive talent as well—but they’ll also want resources that speak to their needs. It’s your job to maintain your company’s online hiring presence. You won’t be able to control everything the internet says about your company, but you can take steps to communicate the right message.
Craft your employer brand story
A strong brand story helps you connect with your audience over a shared mission and/or values. If buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s makes you feel good for supporting a “family-owned business” with strong, justice-oriented values, it’s because you’ve bought into their brand story.
Your employer brand story should make your ideal candidates feel like your org is the best place for them to grow professionally. Look for themes that appear in both your EVP and candidate personas, or ask passive talent who responded to your outreach what it was about your messaging that resonated. Then figure out what connects these items and what that says about the experience you offer employees.
Optimize your careers site
A good careers site is attractive, easy to use, and informative. The landing page should show your open positions along with clear instructions about how to apply. Use clear calls to action and only ask for the information you really need for an application process that’s simple and seamless.
Passive candidates who respond to your outreach by researching your company should also be able to intuitively find all the information they need about your org: who you are, what you do, and why employees love working for you. Don’t bury this information behind multiple links; make it accessible from the landing page. And reference your brand story as you write the copy to keep it relevant.
Finally, make sure your site is mobile-friendly and GDPR compliant. Test your site for usability, but don’t rely on internal opinions. Set up analytics to see how your visitors interact with the page (your marketing team may be able to help with this). Be ready to make changes if you spot signs of friction, like high bounce rates or partial form fills.
Claim and manage online profiles
Savvy job searchers and interested passive candidates will look beyond your website, so you need to curate your profiles across the web so they send the same message. Find (and claim, if necessary) your company’s pages on:
Job boards (like Indeed or Monster)
Industry-related sites (like Built In or AngelList)
Double-check that the basic information about your company (location, size, industry) is correct, then update your profile so it reflects your employer brand story. Respond and engage with reviewers if they leave comments. Handle any negative reviews with understanding and kindness.
Check non-career-related profiles like those hosted by Google Business or Yelp, too. Managing these sites probably falls to your marketing team, so they can help if any information that candidates might need (like your company address) is missing or incorrect.
Make recruitment-specific social accounts
The vast majority of your prospective candidates are on social. Take advantage of that captive audience rather than expecting them to find you—and encourage passive talent to learn more by connecting on these sites. Your company needs to have a presence wherever your target talent hangs out, whether that’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, or niche industry platforms.
Don’t treat these accounts as interchangeable. Test different content types and posting patterns to see which works best on each platform. If you don’t know how professionals use a certain platform, ask colleagues who frequent it for tips.
Encourage your employees to contribute to your efforts by amplifying employer branding and recruitment content to their networks. And don’t be afraid to interact with others in the space. Using social media to connect with your target audience builds more trust than blasting information at a hypothetical audience.
Create recruitment marketing content
Keep your socials and your site active with a steady stream of posts that tie into your brand story while being relevant to your target candidates. Use the buyer’s journey as a guide to help you reach audiences who have never heard of you, along with those who know you well. Just as potential customers must be won over before they’ll purchase a product, potential employees need to be sold on your company’s mission and future before they’ll think about leaving a secure position.
Convince candidates to engage with you further by understanding and answering their questions at each stage:
Awareness: Candidates need to learn about your company and its relevance to their career goals. Focus on providing value to them where they are now as a way to build trust, rather than trying to sell them on a new job.
Consideration: Candidates need to know what you could offer them as an employer. Build trust and make the case for why working at your org could be a step up from their current position.
Interest: Candidates need to know specifics so they can envision themselves in the job. At this point, you’ll be creating content to supplement the interview process.
Decision: Candidates need to be reassured that starting a new job with your company is the right choice. Share your company’s vision for its employees alongside tangibles like perks, benefits, and details about the strength of your company’s outlook.
Good content comes in many forms, including newsletters, blog posts, videos, webinars, infographics, employee testimonials, podcasts, and events. Your marketing team’s archive may have materials you can draw from. Others you’ll have to create yourself.
Ask employees to contribute blog posts about projects, social posts about their experience at your company, or video testimonials sharing why they love their jobs. And don’t forget to refer back to your candidate personas as you plan content—you’ll want to have something for everyone.
Step 3: attract like-minded workers with inbound marketing
Inbound marketing saves time by bringing potential candidates to you. The individuals who respond to your inbound efforts are identifying themselves as people who want to learn more about your company. You’ll need to nurture them like any other lead, but having initial buy-in will help that process.
Host exceptional recruitment events
Build your company’s reputation with events that invite professionals to learn and/or network with their peers. Consider meetups, classes, workshops, or competitions; AMA (ask-me-anything) sessions with your CEO or thought leaders at your company; VIP dinners; and other get-togethers geared toward career growth. You can also sponsor or co-host events with organizations you want to be associated with.
Gear each event toward providing valuable information or connections that will boost attendees’ careers. Don’t start advocating for your company until you’ve built trust by providing a great experience. With Gem’s events module, RSVPs and attendees are automatically added to a project for easy nurturing down the road. Our full-funnel analytics even show you which events lead to which hires,so you can get an idea of what works. It’s a much better understanding of ROI than attendee count!
Create lead magnets to gather emails
Gated content that addresses your target candidates’ professional needs (not your hiring needs) can help you build your contact list. People from any industry or role love general career advice, like salary guides or tips on LinkedIn profile optimization. You can also partner with subject matter experts within your company to make role-specific content, like courses or webinars, to address specific personas.
Need ideas on what to make? Look at the career goals and frustrations you listed when making candidate personas. Then create content to address them.
Appoint employee brand ambassadors
Add a human element to your recruitment marketing efforts by working with employees to increase brand awareness. The ideal brand ambassador is already active on social media or within professional networks. If you have anyone like this at your org, reach out to enlist them in your efforts. Let the employee know how to align with your employer brand story and loop them into your content plans so they can be ready to reshare posts.
The best way to mobilize employee brand ambassadors is with a proper program. Can you help interested employees learn how to make the most of social media? Can you offer rewards to participants, like swag or gift cards? Even small benefits can increase employees’ sentiment toward your company and make them more likely to advocate for you.
Step 4: use outbound marketing to reach potential hires
Outbound marketing can supplement your sourcing operations to bring more candidates into your pipeline. You can reach prospective employees at scale using employee networks and online advertising. The results may not be quite as precise as they are with traditional sourcing, but the expanded reach will give you a bigger talent pool to consider.
Implement an employee referral program
Referrals are a top source for hires because candidates come to you pre-vetted and with an accurate understanding of your company’s culture and the role. You may get recommendations even if you don’t ask for them, but if you have a referral system—and incentives for referrals that result in hires—you'll get more suggestions.
A good applicant tracking system can help you manage your referral program. Our customers use Gem Forms for referrals. Submissions are immediately placed in a Gem project, so the team can tee up outreach.
Launch SEO and PPC campaigns
Marketers know how to use Google and social media to reach potential customers; you can reach potential candidates the same way. Pay-per-click (PPC) ads and search engine optimization (SEO) put your company in front of professionals who might want to work with you.
SEO requires patience, but it can help you appear higher on search result pages without paying for the privilege. Strategies involve keyword research, link building, and creating optimized content, so your site comes up when candidates search relevant terms. Your marketing team may be able to give you access to tools to help your SEO efforts.
PPC campaigns are just what they sound like: you place ads on search result pages or social media platforms and only pay when a user clicks through to your site. Targeting ads based on keyword searches (“full-stack developer jobs”) is the easiest way to reach active candidates. Passive candidates are a bit harder to find. You can target certain audiences—“full-stack developers with at least 5 years of experience”—to reach people on LinkedIn. Other social media networks won’t have career-based audiences but allow you to target ads based on interests.
After your campaigns have launched, consider a retargeting strategy, which shows ads to previous visitors to your careers site. The point is to get the most relevant content in front of precisely the talent who will be interested in it.
Step 5: nurture prospects to keep them interested
The goal of a nurturing process is to move talent further along in their candidate journey. Set up a system of regular outreach to keep your company top-of-mind and increase prospective applicants’ interest in working for your organization. This is the part of your recruitment marketing strategy where personalization matters most: you have to show your company “gets” readers’ needs and aligns with their values to win them over.
Keep track of your talent community
A talent community is a network of people who’ve expressed interest in working for your org, though current circumstances prevent them from entering the hiring process. Keep an up-to-date list of:
Anyone who has opted in (via an event, your careers page, etc.)
Gem helps you build your talent community with a customized form on your careers page and allows you to add candidates manually or via a job board sync.
Having everyone’s names and contact information in one place makes it easy to stay in touch and build relationships. Don’t spam them: one or two emails a month is sufficient to keep communications open and nurture a relationship. When the right role for these individuals comes up, you’ll be more likely to get a response if you’ve taken the time to build trust.
Use segmentation to provide personalized experiences
Split your talent community into segments so you can craft messaging that makes everyone feel seen and understood. Most teams will find it easier to group prospects using existing candidate personas. Other criteria you may use to segment your audience include:
Where in the buyer’s journey they are
How qualified they are for the role
Where you got their contact information
Then, write separate emails for each segment. Consider your personas’ interests, motivations, and needs as you create each sequence. You’ll want to address these points in your messages to help the reader envision themselves as part of your company. Gem makes it easy to further personalize each message with tokens for candidates’ names, current roles, and more.
Offer a best-in-class candidate experience (CX)
Be responsive, engaged, and receptive during every communication so candidates feel their time is respected and well-spent. A simplified application process isn’t the only goal; your entire hiring funnel, from first contact to offer-accept, must be efficient and pleasant. A good CX entails frequent and personalized communication, equitable processes, and minimal time-in-stage.
With Gem, you can analyze conversion rates to identify the weakest points of your pipeline and understand how to fix them. Slice by hiring manager, recruiter, job, gender, race/ethnicity, and more to spot biases and hangups that cause candidates to drop out of the process. Then tweak your processes accordingly until the data shows you’re providing a better overall candidate experience.
It’s okay to change your recruitment marketing strategy if it’s not working
The most effective marketers track consumer responses and feedback for each campaign. Compare your advertising metrics and the pipeline/hiring data, from your CRM to hiring benchmarks, so you can see what’s working and what’s not getting the response you were hoping for.
Even the most successful marketing tactics will need to evolve over time as platforms and individual preferences change. Get comfortable running small experiments and iterating on your recruitment marketing strategy in response to data. By implementing the steps we covered in this article, you’ll be ready to make effective moves in any hiring market.
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