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Recruitment Challenges

What recruitment marketing can learn from the days of newspaper ads

I’m old enough to remember the days when recruitment advertising filled the pages of the UK press, making up a quarter of their revenue in some cases. Then, last century, the job-boards came along (hands up who remembers that Monster was originally called “The Monster Board?”) and everything changed.

Previously, recruitment agencies had bought lineage adverts, while the public and private sectors bought classified display ads. The rec-cons, understandably, were trying to get the maximum bang for their buck: the rest of the world wanted to display a little more creativity (even if it was only the council crest) and try to woo prospective candidates by means of well-written copy and, if they could afford it, clever graphics/headlines.

Today, the job-boards are waning in importance in the minds of many rec-cons. Social media and a range of alternative options have diluted their importance. This is a pity, because a platform which brings together great advertising is always going to be attractive to job seekers. So why has no-one cracked this?

One of the reasons is that, compared to my formative years in the industry, there are hardly any agencies left that specialise in recruitment advertising, whether in Scotland or across the regions. If you need these skills, you usually have to go to London, and pay an arm and several legs for the privilege. And even if there were more such agencies, there is no platform for this kind of clever, imaginative and persuasive advert.

The problem is compounded by rec-tech and recruiters who have morphed into Talent Acquisition specialists and, by the inevitable application of Parkinson’s Law, created more, diverse tech-centred areas for them to become involved in and demonstrate their indispensability to senior management (none of whom understand all this stuff, but who don’t want to appear out of touch and left behind).

So much has changed. But the fundamentals haven't.

Yet the fundamentals of good recruitment have remained the same as they were in the days when The Guardian, The Telegraph and all the regional press had pages and pages of recruitment ads. Make people aware of your vacancy, ideally in a way that is more attractive and enticing than those other ads competing for the same candidates. Deal with the response quickly, politely and professionally. Identify and interview candidates who have clearly demonstrated they have done their homework and who fit in with your values and needs, paying attention to any of their requirements within reason but not to the detriment of your business. Handle the successful and unsuccessful candidates in exactly the same polite and professional manner and then ensure the successful candidate(s) are given a welcoming, professional induction programme that helps them – and you – realise that everyone has made the right decision. Technology helps, of course it does, but these basics are immutable.

Why then, when it comes to the first part of this process, are so many companies found wanting in terms of advertising copy and the creative shell that surrounds it? Job board adverts are simply lineage by another name. There is virtually no opportunity for bespoke creativity for an individual vacancy. Yes, you can click through to a company profile, but you can’t use visual elements and clever headlines – the algorithms don’t like them. And you can create campaign sites, videos and the like and direct candidates there, but these, the few RAD winners from huge companies with the biggest budgets, are a drop in the ocean of the job-sites’ arrays of bland, wall-to-wall job titles followed by lists of bullet points. This wallpaper advertising is all much the same and largely subservient to the needs of SEO rather than the desires of candidates to be able to seduced by a brilliantly crafted headline and accompanying visual, along with superbly written copy. In fact, as my headline recalls, there was once an advert for the former tech giant Digital, which actually had a headline that read, “The silent seduction of opportunity.” Useless nowadays, because the algorithm won’t understand it, yet at the time candidates did and applied in droves.

Is this where opportunity lies? Of course, AI is making it easier for people to whack together very readable copy in minutes, and also to create stunning visuals, but there is, at present (and correct me if I’m wrong), no platform where the two can be combined en masse and pored over by candidates. How to marry these two vital elements is a key step in making sure your vacancies appeal to your target candidates, if only for your own website’s recruitment pages. Even just getting the copy right would be a major step forward for many, so why do the majority not do it…?

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