Win The War for Talent: Revamp Recruitment With Strategies From Sales & Marketing

strategyWith Tom Brennan, Master Writer

Most recruiters know, in this hot talent market, that you need to woo candidates. Yet even that may fall short. To land those “A” players, you need a more aggressive approach than recruitment-as-usual. Look beyond the borders of human resources and you will see people in your company who are aggressive for a living: sales and marketing.

The sales process is tried and true, and it aligns nicely with recruitment. The first step is to treat candidates as customers — not only because it will help land talent, but also because every candidate is, in fact, also a potential customer. That means nurturing every candidate who sends a résumé. At minimum, you need to acknowledge receiving the résumé, and if you find someone with the skills you need, you need to pour it on. Nurturing candidates builds your employment brand as well as your company brand. If you don’t, it could hurt you. According to Tracey Parsons, Director of Recruitment Marketing Practice at SmashFly, “Lack of nurturing creates brand resentment.” Alienate a candidate and you’ll also alienate a potential customer.

Should Recruitment Move from HR to Sales?

To model talent acquisition after client acquisition, think Sales 101. The two functions are so similar that you wonder whether recruitment doesn’t belong in the Sales & Marketing department rather than HR. The steps:

  • Define the value proposition: why should a candidate leave their current position to take your open position?
  • Convert that proposition into a compelling message: distill it down to the hook that will engage the right candidates
  • Get the message out to targeted prospects: post and source, of course, but also leverage social media
  • Manage leads (applicants): qualify them and score them against the likelihood that the lead will be converted to a hire
  • If one lead says no, ask for referrals
  • Follow through until you close the deal

Like sales, you should use a customer relationship management (CRM) system. You may not have thought of it this way, but your applicant tracking system (ATS) is more than a bucket for archiving résumés. With it you can build and manage a pipeline, including measuring leads against pipeline stages, tracking conversion rates, and even creating the recruitment version of a sales forecast. This will provide you with tangible metrics to manage against, such as deliverables and targets.

This approach will take some effort, but it’s easier than culling through 100 résumés that simply aren’t a good fit. You’ll also need to commit resources, take some risks, and act with urgency — like your sales team does. A little flair for the dramatic also will help.

Who’s Making it Work

Some companies are doing this and it’s working. The Gap, Apple, and Google all leverage a sales/marketing/branding approach. Reportedly each corporation receives as many as 30,000 applications a month. You may not have the brand strength or resources of those companies, but you can adopt one of their key best practices: treat applications as leads, and treat those leads as potential candidates and potential customers. Most companies are not doing this, and that’s good news in terms of competition. If everyone were doing it, it would flatten the playing field. However, if you implement this approach, you will stand out.

Lots of companies have developed an employment brand, but that’s not the same as taking a sales approach. You may have a great employment portal on your website, but you still have to draw people to it. Miles Technologies is one company doing a great job with this. Check out their career portal at

Spotlight on Proactive Best Practices

Miles has branded itself not just as an employer of choice, but also as an environment of choice. There are a dozen pictures that help you feel like you’ve already visited the company. They also show employees enjoying fun activities together. The overview of the company just below the pictures is an example of best practices in marketing content. Why? Because the emphasis isn’t on what employees need to bring, but rather on what Miles is offering.

Further down they showcase Best Places to Work awards that they have earned, and they are confident enough to provide a link to GlassDoor. They describe the culture, work/life balance, community engagement, their benefits and more.

The kicker is that they are proactively driving traffic to the portal. They huddled with their marketing team and launched a yearlong campaign to promote their brand and increase candidate awareness. This included things you might expect, like email blasts, but they also had key staff members post in blogs and online forums frequented by the kinds of candidates they need.

They continue to maintain a strong social media presence (a Twitter feed is right there on the careers portal), but they don’t write about how great it is to work at Miles. Instead, they share ideas and insights in their practice areas: IT, business software, and web/marketing consulting. By establishing themselves as subject matter experts in the right circles, they raise the company’s profile among prospects/candidates.

Does it work? According to Luke Trovato, talent scout for Miles, “In the first six full months of 2014, we saw an almost 186% increase of applications from the six months prior.”

Our collective challenge

Let’s create a shared library of what works and what doesn’t with this approach. If you know of companies that are trying it — and especially if your company is trying it — share that information below. Together we can create a strong resource for everyone. It’s a new mindset, and every bit of insight can help.

Links to references:
Tracey Parsons:

Recruiting is Sales

Alan Joch

Kim Shepherd
Kim Shepherd
AS CEO of Decision Toolbox, Kim Shepherd leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships, alliances and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources community. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide including the Human Capital Institute, Kim is a regular speaker at national and regional events on various business models. Kim joined Decision Toolbox in 2000, and brought her unconventional approach to the company she had admired as a client. Today Decision Toolbox is 100% virtual, with more than 100 team members working remotely across the U.S. This company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. This unique business model has played a key role in the company being awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Decision Toolbox was also named one of the "Fastest Growing Private Companies" by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012. In addition, they have been named 3 years running to the INC 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and have been a 7-time recipient of the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen for Midmarket and Emerging Markets. Calling Kim unconventional is an understatement – her former endeavors include 10 years as a TV and Foreign Correspondent, a stint at Club Med and a near miss at a spot on the Olympic ski team. Kim is an active member of the Adaptive Business Leaders Executive Roundtable and the National Association for Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter). She served on the Executive Board of Trustees for Girls Incorporated of Orange County and is also the Board Chair for Working Wardrobes. She is also a former member of Impact Giving. Kim is the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award, the 2014 Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, and the 2015 Family Matters Award from WomanSage.

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