Companies Target Job Seekers Early with ‘Omnichannel’ Marketing Approach

By Dave Zielinski Dec 20, 2016
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Recruiters operating in today's ultra-competitive talent markets can no longer focus on single recruiting channels. Those who are finding the talent they need increasingly reach across multiple recruiting avenues in attempts to sway candidates much earlier in the recruitment life cycle.

That's the notion behind an "omnichannel" approach to recruitment marketing that employ the full breadth of recruiting methods in interconnected fashion—be it social media, job boards, pay-per-click advertising, careers websites, talent communities and more—to source and engage a wide yet targeted group of candidates in the preapplication phase.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

Proponents of this strategy believe that with so many organizations seeking the same candidates, it's essential to employ the latest marketing techniques and technologies to reach them with meaningful messages at many stages.

An End-to-End Approach

As changes buffet the recruiting industry, talent acquisition professionals often find that channels that once delivered a steady stream of quality candidates are no longer as productive. Attracting talent requires creative marketing approaches on multiple pathways.

"Today more than ever, candidate perceptions are shaped by multiple touch points across multiple recruiting channels and devices," said Chris Brablc, director of product marketing for SmashFly Technologies, a recruitment marketing company in Concord, Mass. "We're seeing more organizations thinking through every touch point to ensure the right message and right employer value proposition is communicated to help move those candidates to the next step in the process."

Those recruiting in talent-scarce job categories have to influence candidates further upstream, Brablc said. "Organizations that build relationships much earlier in the candidate life cycle are the ones that are winning," he said. "The days of posting jobs to careers pages or job boards and waiting for candidates to come to you with little additional recruitment marketing are essentially over."

An omnichannel approach has paid dividends for Craig Fisher, marketing and communications director in the talent acquisition function at CA Technologies in Plano, Texas.

"Job seekers are consumers, which means they're now accustomed to getting real-time, interactive and personalized information on their terms wherever they spend time online," Fisher said. "For employers, that requires developing an authentic employer brand that can be deployed in an omnichannel approach. The payoff is talent that is a better fit because they already understand your culture and are likely to be retained longer. Each of our unique channel approaches feeds, builds on and enhances the others. They should not exist in a vacuum."

Another practitioner of the omnichannel approach is Symphony Talent, a recruitment marketing company in New York City. Roopesh Nair, the company's president and CEO, says it's important to use consumer-marketing strategies to target candidates across multiple online channels and at all stages on their path toward application. That includes the stages of candidate awareness, interest, consideration, evaluation and conversion.

Being able to access the right data to influence candidates during so-called micro-engagements along this funnel—for example, when a potential candidate interacts with a recruiter through a chat function on a careers site or "likes" a recruiter's Facebook post—can make or break the relationship, Nair said.

"If you're not using technology to collect data at important touch points in this process, you won't know what matters to candidates at a particular stage or how you can refine your marketing strategy if needed to influence them to move further down the funnel," he added.

Nair cited the example of a passive candidate who starts her journey on Facebook by reading a post from a friend exhorting the virtues of working for a particular employer, then follows up by doing some quick research on the company. Later, when the candidate is on her favorite YouTube channel, she is pushed an advertisement related to that company.

The candidate is intrigued and moves from awareness to interest, conducting a Google search on the company that takes her to a job board with openings at that organization. "Once your data shows candidates have seen an ad, an online post or social media chatter, you can retarget them to help move them into the discovery phase," Nair said. That retargeting might include personalized outreach like e-mail or content that highlights company culture.

Now deep in the evaluation stage, the candidate clicks on a job board ad that takes her to a careers site, where she follows up by conducting more research on the company through Glassdoor and her LinkedIn connections.

"The candidate is now on the company's job landing pages, which can be personalized based on what you've learned about her persona to date or if she's making a return visit," Nair said. "Here is a great opportunity to use employer branding techniques because earlier interactions give you a better understanding of what the candidate cares most about." Those branding efforts might include, for example, tactics like embedding short employee videos in job descriptions.

Reallocating Recruiting Resources

How recruiters are using the "PESO" model—paid, earned, shared and owned recruiting approaches—also is shifting, experts say. Paid includes job board or pay-per-click advertising; earned refers to candidates responding to articles in the media or other publicity; shared is candidates responding to social media shares by current employees or recruiters; and owned refers to candidates responding to an organization's careers site, blog or its talent communities.

Fisher is among the recruiting professionals placing less emphasis—and money—on paid channels and more on earned and shared approaches. "We are doing more today in terms of employee advocacy on behalf of our talent brand and social engagement with candidates to help feed our owned channels," he said.

Nair said earned, shared and owned strategies will receive more attention from recruiters in the future. "If you do well in those categories, you don't need to put as much into paid because you are driving more of the right candidates to your careers site and talent communities," he said.

Measuring Channel Success

An omnichannel approach requires precise measurement to determine how well marketing efforts in various channels are paying off.

"We're seeing more organizations focus not just on time-to-fill or cost-to-fill metrics but on measuring their performance throughout the end-to-end candidate journey," Brablc said. "There might be a dozen or more touch points with candidates before they apply for a job, and you need to measure to determine your impact at those crucial steps along the path."

Dave Zielinski is a business journalist in Minneapolis.

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