Online Candidate Marketing - Beyond Mainstream Job Boards.

Written by Paul Quinn, Founder and Director of Quinntessential Marketing.
This article first appeared in Recruitment Extra Magazine, August 2009.

 

"Beyond SEEK.com.au, where else do candidates (the good ones!) visit online? And more importantly, how can I capture their interest?"

Over the last two years the frequency at which I have been asked this question has increased.

The fact is SEEK is a fantastic online avenue to attract great candidates. Yet to predominantly rely on SEEK advertising to attract candidates is a strategy fraught with danger; non-existent differentiation over your competition (who doesn't advertise on SEEK these days?) and the sheer volume of competing adverts are just two dangers of this approach.

Thankfully the opportunities to tap into additional talent pools online are many if you're prepared to give some new (and some old!) ideas a go.

Below are some practical tips and ideas to help steer a typical recruitment agency's online candidate attraction strategy in the right direction:


1. Your Website:

I recently met with the owner of a small recruiter (under 10 staff) and within the first 5 minutes he told me that he thought it was a total waste of money investing in any more than a 2-3 page brochureware website. In his opinion 'no one's ever going to bother to visit the website of a small agency anyway'. Such a defeatist attitude! To me that's akin to saying 'I won't wear deodorant because I don't think people can smell me'. That's fine if you don't care what people think of you. But in business if we don't service customers well we don't get paid so it's important to take some interest in what they think of us. Your customer's impression of you starts with the basics - which in today's business world includes your website.

Thankfully this attitude is becoming far less common and many recruitment agencies' websites have come a long way over the past few years. As the use of the Internet has become ingrained in our daily lives, recruiters have started to focus on delivering a richer visitor experience. While there are many components to a successful website, some of the 'Must Have' elements for any web savvy recruitment agency include:

a. Easy to find and apply for jobs - All available jobs should be listed and searchable by keyword at a minimum. Job listings should also be refreshed daily to ensure newly filled jobs are removed swiftly.

b. Search-engine friendly job listings - Preferably each job needs to be displayed on a unique page in a search engine friendly format (if unsure let the experts be the guide).

c. Offer Job Alerts to candidates - If you don't have a suitable job for candidates today, make sure job preferences are collected via a 'job alert' registration before they leave the website. That way you gain their permission to send them relevant jobs in the future.

d. Engaging content - interesting articles, expert 'rants', visitor polls, research results … add content that will engage candidates, educate them and inspire them to return. Don't be afraid to experiment with video either to add some personality to your site. Check out the homepage of this small NZ recruiter for an example: www.trn.org.nz.

e. Build an opt-in subscriber list - Once candidates are at your site, why let them quietly slip away unnoticed? Offer them an incentive to sign up to your mailing list. A good practical example I've seen that relates to e-mail-based candidate communications comes from the specialist PR arm of Randstad (formally known as TPA - The Publicity Agency). Over many years TPA built a large opt-in e-mail-based 'network' of candidates. Quite simply, when a new role comes in, they e-mail a 'Network Callout' to all registered candidates to ask them if they know of anyone interested in the listed roles and advising the referral fee payable for each role (normally around 10% of the recruitment fee). It works on three fronts - (a) the agency is in constant contact with their candidates, building strong 'Top of Mind' awareness for their brand. Secondly, it utilises the power of referrals. And finally, this unique sourcing channel provides any potential client with a tangible example of the value the agency delivers by utilising a sourcing strategy that reaches beyond the well worn 'job on Seek' path. Imagine the power of telling your client that 'we have an opt-in referral network of 15,000 executives that I'll send your job to tomorrow'.

2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):

  • Search engine marketing (SEM): Ever heard of Google Adwords? It's an advertising program that lets you place highly targeted text adverts next to relevant searches performed on Google, and only pay if someone clicks on your advert. While most recruiters aren't yet using services such as Google Adwords for candidate marketing, I believe that will slowly change. For example, some recruiters use Google Adwords very effectively to target passive job seekers with hard to find skills. If you know that anyone with experience in the software 'Cognos' is highly placeable, then use Google Adwords to display your advert/value proposition to anyone that visits Google Australia and searches for 'Cognos'. It's a simple, affordable and very cost effective form of targeted advertising.

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): It's said that up to 80% of all Internet sessions start at a search engine, so if you don't know what search engine optimisation is you should make it a priority to find out. Otherwise your website may be in danger from suffering from 'Billboard in your basement' syndrome (you build a great billboard but place it in your basement where no one can see it). The bottom line is you need to optimise your website and make it easy for people to find online.

    Once your own website is optimised, another very effective SEO strategy is to develop a number of separate 'Themed microsites'. Say you specialise in legal recruitment, and specifically want to attract legal temps to register with your business. A great strategy is to develop a keyword specific themed microsite - say legaltemps.com.au. For just a few thousand dollars you can create a 6-10 page mini site devoted to delivering useful articles, tips and ideas for anyone interested in temping in the legal profession. On each page include a subtle reference to your agency and your available temp roles. Focus on good content, optimise each page, link to it from your main website, and typically within a matter of weeks Google will have found the site and list it high up on search results for any 'legal temp' searches.

3. Trial Niche Job boards and Publications:

Whoever said that you could only advertise on one job board? That's crazy! There are some great generalist and niche job boards out there, and you need to find the mix and balance that's right for you. Don't get stuck in the rut of thinking you can only afford to advertise on one site - there are some excellent niche job boards that offer fantastic rates, and even some free job boards that are worthy of your attention (check out NowHiring.com.au for example). There's no harm in trialling them to measure your results relative to spend and establish what works for you.

If you use a multi job posting service such as JobAdder.com.au or Adlogic.com.au, then tapping into the range of specialist job boards available is easy. If you specialise in mining roles, why not try www.miningjobs.com.au? If you often fill SAP jobs, why not post to www.SAPcareers.com? While the volume of applicants you receive might be lower than the major job boards, you might be pleasantly surprised by the quality you find.

There are also some great industry-specific trade magazines that have strong website followings that recruiters could do a better job of tapping into. Do you recruit marketing professionals? Then why not check out the marketingmag.com.au website and job board? Or perhaps Engineering recruitment is your thing? Why not check out the job board at engineersaustralia.org.au? Irrespective of your specialty there are some great advertising deals to be had right now in trade-specific magazines and websites if you ask the right questions!

When trialling a new job board or trade publication bear in mind two things:

  • Make sure you're satisfied that they are marketing and sourcing candidates in areas that you are not! Don't be afraid to ask them about their marketing plan.

  • And measure your results! Statistics on the number of times your job was viewed and the number of applications you receive should all be readily available, so make an informed decision on the outcome of your trial for the sake of your business and in fairness to the job board you're trialling.


4. The Social Media Phenomenon:

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 18 months, you would have probably heard about the social media phenomenon: MySpace, Facebook, and more recently - Twitter - are the most commonly used sites. Whilst a whole article could be devoted to the topic of social media opportunities for recruiters I have space for one practical example. If you specialise in Marketing, set up a marketing careers profile on Twitter (it's free) and let your candidates know about it via your website, your e-mail signature and your job ad template. Then post a 'Marketing Job Of The Day' to your 'followers'. One new job gets posted each day. Offer an incentive for people to refer their friends and encourage fellow Twitter users to forward the job on (or 'ReTweet') to their own network of followers. Companies such as Dell are employing similar strategies to promote their special offers and are reporting a great ROI as a result. Did I mention this tactic is free?

5. Online Resume Search Engines:

Up until now online resume search engines have held much promise but delivered little to Australian recruiters. However that's slowly changing. A great example is LinkedIn.com - more and more recruiters are reporting excellent results from this business-focused networking site. On LinkedIn, all users have detailed professional profiles that clearly outline their career progression. You can elect to search profiles and pay a small fee to contact the user directly. Some recruiters elect to use Google first to search for candidates on LinkedIn with a specific job title or for candidates who may have worked for a specific company.

To test for yourself, let's assume you are looking to fill a Sydney-based 'Client Relationship Manager' role. Simply go to Google.com and type:

site:LinkedIn.com "Client Relationship Manager" Sydney -intitle:directory

In performing the search above you'll find nearly 500 freely available career profiles of LinkedIn members. Worth checking out if you're not already doing this.

6. User Generated Content:

In the online World people have short attention spans - you need to quickly gain and maintain their interest for long enough to open a dialogue with them. One great way of doing this is to attract candidates to a website owned by your firm that delivers visitors clear benefits in return for their active involvement and participation. Below are two practical examples:

  • Candidate-driven Salary Portal: Early this year regional recruitment firm - Forsythes Recruitment - engaged Quinntessential (sorry - shameless plug) to roll out a region-specific salary portal. Quinntessential utilised its LiveSalary.com.au product to create a re-brandable salary portal for Forsythes that utilises salary data provided by candidates themselves to help them benchmark their salary against their peers and establish their true market worth. Data is continually updated by candidates all throughout the year, with minimal ongoing involvement required from Forsythes. And the results? Over 1500 salaries entered and over 17,800 page views since March 09. Recent media coverage after releasing the most recent results included a TV appearance on Channel 9 affiliate NBN, six radio interviews, four newspaper and journal articles and a number of website articles. Check out the site yourself at: www.forsythessalaries.com.au ... and contact us if you'd like to set up something similar.

  • Candidate Competitions: Marketing and Design recruitment specialist Aquent used to run an "interactive online talent competition" in the USA called 'Studio Smackdown'. The competition had its own website and let peers judge and vote on their favourite graphic designers. Designed as a weekly elimination contest, five graphic designers competed for creative supremacy in an online public forum by responding to different design challenges. Candidates could view each designer's solution and mark up samples of the contestant's work, post and read comments, as well as cast elimination votes (reality TV style). This is a fantastic example of a marketing tactic that aims to attract and engage quality candidates and help entrench the Aquent brand amongst the graphic design community.


7. Online Reward And Recognition Programs:

Aside from a great job and being paid on time, what do your contractors and temps want from an agency? Like any employee (or child for that matter!) they want to be recognised for their efforts and rewarded from time to time. The Internet has made the task of running reward and recognition programs a far easier process to set up and manage. Online point-based reward programs can be an effective way to complement your existing reward and recognition initiatives. A well run program can help you to (a) improve contract renewal rates, (b) attract new contractors and temps to register with your business, and (c) encourage new business via the referrals generated from the program. Often your clients will also value your efforts to look after your contractors and temps too.

So what behaviours should you reward? A rewards program that encourages any profit generating behaviours can't help but pay for itself many times over. For example, offer an incentive for role commencement, for learning a new hard to find skill, for re-signing a new contract or temp assignment, for successfully referring a friend. Melbourne-based recruiter Regent Recruitment, for example, has used the Cloud 9 Rewards online platform for the last 4 years to recognise their temp base and reward them with bonuses for referrals and 'Temp of the Month' awards. This is a great way to differentiate your offer and maintain regular lines of communication with your candidate base.

8. Measure Your Results:

The old adage that 'you can't manage what you don't measure' definitely holds true when it comes to analysing your online marketing spend. One of the many great things about the Internet is that almost everything can be measured. If you need convincing add the 'Google Analytics' tracking code to your website (it's free) to see how much data and insight can be gained from one visitor to your site.

If you are upset about the latest price increase from your favoured job board then the only way to test if there's a better option for you is to trial some alternative advertising channels and measure the results. You should all know, for example, your average cost per candidate and your average cost per placement for each advertising medium you utilise.

Conclusion:

Effective marketing is less about 'who spends the most money' and more about who's being smart and investing their marketing spend wisely on those activities proven to yield the best possible return for their business.

The bottom line is that a well thought out and well executed online marketing strategy will deliver a steady stream of quality candidate (and client) traffic for many years to come for minimal cost when compared to most other marketing options.


[ACKNOWLEDGEMENT]

Paul Quinn is Managing Director of employment marketing firm Quinntessential. For the last 11 years Paul has specialised in helping Australian recruitment firms with their marketing efforts. Today Paul's main focus lies in two online products: PeoplePulse (online survey software), and LiveSalary (an online salary comparison portal that recruiters can re-brand for use on their own website). You can contact Paul on ph +61 2 9232 0172 or by using the contact form on this website.

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