The end of recruitment advertising?

The end of recruitment advertising?

Graeme Wright, work communications

At the turn of the century, the average cost of attraction was around £1,400 per job, based on a press advertisement and maybe a job board. Today a four-figure schedule would be regarded as extravagant and the cost of attraction is continuing to fall. The truth is that job-hunters can be targeted very effectively using a variety of online tools, an increasing number of which work on a cost-per-applicant basis.

Typically, a schedule will now target spend on an aggregator (eg JobRapido or Indeed), with some Google advertising and pay-for-performance activity on a relevant site. Multi-channel campaigns like this can cost just a few hundred pounds.  Further savings can be achieved by buying into annual packages such as CV databases or bulk listings on networking sites such as LinkedIn.

At the same time as the cost of attraction has been falling, the targeting inherent in online media has improved the quality of applicants. Not only do sites like LinkedIn carry detailed candidate information, but artificial intelligence systems such as Monster PCVS can boost the accuracy and sensitivity of search protocols.

So here's the thing: as people wake up to what is possible through these exciting new approaches, it's fair to assume that brand-based advertising will fall into decline. Employers will need to worry less about their brand in a notional and non-specific marketplace and concentrate instead on their ‘personal brand' - the point at which they engage with the individual candidate. From now on, a candidate's first contact with an employer could well be a job listing followed by a short trip to the careers site. This is where the important interaction and engagement will happen - through an internal candidate journey rather than an externally broadcast reputation.

It's possible to foresee a scenario where the majority of potential candidates can be reached swiftly through LinkedIn, a CV database or highly personalised (yet low-cost) marketing via an aggregator.  At this point the attraction process will have been entirely turned on its head compared with 2000.  Instead of focusing on building an external brand, organisations will identify individual candidates and tailor specific offers to attract them. The offer might be the promise of an interesting chat, or an invitation to explore the opportunity in-depth on the careers site.

So how does this fit within the context of the current conversations in the recruitment space focusing on the likes of ‘talent communities' (basically talent pooling in the social media space) and their ability to build up networks of potential candidates?  I would argue that while these types of community should play a part in recruitment strategies, they tend to underplay the importance of personal marketing and the fact that connecting with individuals rather than communities will always be a more effective form of marketing.

Of course there will always be a place for brand-based advertising - graduate marketing, diversity promotions, geographically specific promotions all come to mind as being relevant going forward.  However the future lies with a type of one-to-one marketing where the individual is king.

Thanks to Graeme for sharing these thoughts with the Ri5 audience.  Now let us know what you think via the comments feature below.  And to get things started, consider this from Simon Howard, Graeme's chairman at work: "If I go back to when I first came into all this, it was easier for the individual to look for highly varied work and careers... indeed the sits vac pages were genuinely 'temples of promise'", says Simon.  "Today it is more difficult for an individual to find the right employer and for the employer to find the right individual.  Technology has not created a more open market, but one which is more complex and more restricted."

Over to you!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

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Anonymous Date: Aug 25, 2010

And what of those who choose not to post there inanities every 2 seconds on facebook or myspace or linkedin and twitter? Will we be left out on the shelf to ponder why we have not been offered a position because we haven't been scrutinised on a 'social networking' level? The stories of the future and the so called 'G' list, that could be sold to companies, pin pointing exactly what we look at on the web to ascertain our character, before even offering someone an interview, terrifies me. Is this all not getting a bit much? If I want to work for a specific company I will look at job availability on their corporate website. If I just want a new job, I would look on a job board. So I guess I should just ask the question, exactly how many relevant candidates will clients be missing out on with all the ad agencies and forward thinkers pushing them to advertise on social networking sites or sites that are not traditionally recruitment led, when not every potential candidate chooses to occupy their time on them? I don't want to get down on initiative - but where will we draw the line?

Paul Roper Date: Aug 25, 2010

I totally agree anonymous. Although some of Graeme's thoughts and realities are why I've quit the recruitment industry after many years.

Alasdair Murray Date: Aug 25, 2010

The world population is just under 7 billion (that's seven million million in UK money). Linkedin has, at a generous estimate, a mere 70 million users worldwide, many of whom are in the US and many more who will have a page but not keep it updated. Facebook has 500 million users, again many more in the US and many with lapsed pages. Also, despite having 7 times as many members, the motive for going on Facebook is very different to that for going on Linkedin. Linkedin is a business networking site, we know that. No harm then in shoving your CV style details on there, though if you do the Maths, you'll see that percentage wise of the population, the figures aren't great. Facebook however is full of everyone from young teens to grannies, many of them discussing the minutiae of their lives, not looking for a job. What's more, many teenagers (tomorrow's jobseekers) have a low attention span and quickly become disenfranchised with Facebook. Chuck in Twitter with its estimated 93 million users (again, many people sign up but don't keep their account active, whilst many others don't look at Twitter as a recruitment vehicle at all, they simply use it to follow celebs or chat with their friends) and you have an overall picture that is at best shaky in terms of recruitment vehicles. Yes, there is an argument that says you can drill down and target geographical areas and industry sectors, but personally I find it odd that given we know that not every relevant potential candidate is using Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, or if they are that they are using it for recruitment purposes, that as an industry we would trust social media as being, for now, the way forward. Sure, there will be success stories through social recruiting but it remains a very uncharted water for the majority or hiring companies and for job seekers too. Try and find more than the tiniest handfuls of testimonials/success stories and you'll struggle. It is where job boards were maybe 15 years ago, i.e. shove an IT role on Twitter and you might get a result. Sadly what is slowly killing the recruitment advertising industry is the job board. Don't get me wrong, I still think that a well crafted job post can attract a few decent candidates. The problem lies in the fact that the price was driven down early doors in order to get share prices up and once recruiters went down that route realising they could fire their ads out for a fraction of the cost of a press ad, they were never going to come back. £18,000 for a Sunday Times ad or tuppence halfpenny for a job board post? It's a no brainer. It isn't necessarily the best solution, but in the eyes of the vast majority of HR people there is very little choice these days. The bed has been made. We are all now lying in it. I still, however, remain convinced that social recruiting is as far along the road as some suggest it to be. You hear Facebook shout about how they can expose you to an audience of half a billion people. But how many of those people are actually relevant to a specific vacancy? I'd be interested to see an ABC style readership type breakdown of Linkedin's users, both in the UK and worldwide. I think it would make very interesting but not overly convincing reading.

Tomothy Turnip Date: Aug 26, 2010

Ahh, this takes me back! I can clearly remember my young junior, Samothy Sandwich, bursting into my sacred writing tabernacle, clutching the evening edition of the Hoxton Gazette. It seems like only yesterday, but it was over a century ago now, if my crumbling memory serves. Panting with exhaustion, the poor mite could barely speak. Instead, he hurriedly thumbed to the last few pages of the paper and there, between the adverts for the naughty telephone lines and the sports section, I saw something that made my heart skip a half-beat. I SAW RECRUITMENT ADVERTS. Up until that point, my agency had simply specialised in job postcards you see stuck up in newsagent's windows. We were kings of the game. Thick card. Thin card. Lined paper. Plain paper. Biro. Marker pen. Day-glo highlighter - you name it, so long as there was a good supply of blu-tac available, we could make the magic happen. And some of the headlines! Oh, now THEY were something! I remember scooping a clutch of gongs at the 1878 Rad Awards for a particularly effective headline I'd written to recruit a Mud Lark - I think it was along the lines of "Mud Lark Wanted". Anyway, I digress. I looked up at Samothy, and he looked down at me (he was 9ft tall, after all) with the fire of steely determination burning bright in his tiny eyes. We both knew it was time, that the game was up, that the days of advertising jobs in newsagent's windows were numbered. So we just started advertising in the back of the paper instead. I think it is called evolving your service offering or something, as opposed to pooping your pants at progress. Pip pip!

Marcus Body Date: Aug 26, 2010

I find it interesting that someone above sees the root of the "problem" as the low cost of online advertising. Wasn't the "problem" rather the ridiculously high cost (as someone who used to sell it) of print advertising? But more importantly, why is this a "problem" at all? It's a problem for agencies who have built their financial model on media commission, but that's hardly the clients' fault or anyone else's fault. The fact is instead of the postulated £18k print ad above, you could spend £8k online doing a massive range of activity and achieve more. The choice doesn't have to be £18k on print, or £100 on a job listing.

Matt Boland Date: Aug 26, 2010

I think Alasdair is missing the point slightly. A small percentage of the world's population is on Linkedin, but a high percentage of relevant, hireable people are. I'm sure there's 50 million Chinese peasant farmers who are a crack hand at paddy fields but would make a terrible Marketing Manager. If someone doesn't realise that Linkedin is a good vehicle for recruitment then they've had their head buried in the sand and aren't really paying attention. As Mr Turnip pointed out, it's progress. There's two ways the industry can go - fight it and go bust (as some have), or find ways to embrace it and make it work.

Alasdair Murray Date: Aug 26, 2010

I agree Matt that Linkedin is a vehicle and has a lot of hireable people within its walls (I was reading only this morning how some candidates are approaching employers on Linkedin, rather than the other way round) but how many eminently hireable people in a particular area of the country AREN'T on Linkedin? That would be the question to me. Do Linkedin publish a breakdown of members by job title, geographical area etc. etc.?

Steve Szita Date: Aug 26, 2010

I think the real crux of this issue that hasn't been addressed yet is how long has Graeme been wearing those Mickey Mouse ears? And why has he chosen to colour one yellow and the other blue instead of sticking with the traditional black? We need to be told.

Tricia Murray Date: Aug 26, 2010

For me the crux of the matter is this - is social media more effective or more efficient than alternative means of recruiting. Are there any case studies that show ROI is any better than other methods?

John Langford Date: Aug 26, 2010

Employers and employees have been getting together for over 10,000 years. Only in the last 20 or so have we thought employer marketing is important to ensure a successful outcome. The dull truth is that the expensive promotion of jobs as though they were branded products, rather than just their notification, is a product of the relaxed evolutionary climate of the last two decades when there was too much money and not enough things for HR to spend it on. The employer brand may indeed be a real thing. However, down in the real world neither branding or hype is necessary for successful recruitment outcomes. Ask any headhunter. If it was, then most companies would never be able to recruit anyone decent without great difficulty. The matching of candidate to job is largely obvious to both parties. Good vacancy to candidate matches are rarer than we might think, so the strong motivation of both sides to recruit and be recruited when a good match occurs is the dominant force at work. Once two people have met, personal judgement and a tendency to want to resolve the ‘need’ easily displaces any prior opinion or reputational issues. Marketing hype doesn’t change plainly obvious facts. And in nearly every case, recruitment is very much a process of the plainly obvious. So having had a bit of a dizzy spell, the process of recruitment is reverting to something closer to its norm in realising that the only thing that is really important is getting enough round pegs close enough to the round hole so that one of them can fall into it. Graeme is right, in the end it all comes down to personal marketing which happens at the point of actual contact. And how you get to this point is almost irrelevant to the outcome. Simon Howard is also right (a phrase that has rarely left my lips these past 30 years) in that the fragmentation of the recruitment marketplace into so many niche methods is just confusing and is a barrier to the two sides knowing where to look for each other. A simpler environment with greater concentration on fewer widely recognised ‘meeting places’ would work so much better for everyone.

Alasdair Murray Date: Aug 26, 2010

"The choice doesn't have to be £18k on print, or £100 on a job listing" You;re right Marcus, it doesn't, but so often i hear from agencies that whereas the client used to go press and online, now they just shove it on a couple of job boards for next to nothing. I should imagine trying to persuade a run of the mill client with a modest budget to spend the savings they have achieved by not going in the press on social media etc. would be quite a challenging sell for a lot of account handlers. After all, in a lot of instances, it was the same account handlers who not that long ago steered clients away from the press and onto the web. I am thinking Monster as a prime example from a few years ago.

Paul Roper Date: Aug 26, 2010

I was wondering how long it would be 'til someone had a dig at Monster. Change the record.

Anonymous Date: Aug 27, 2010

'In British English, a billion used to be equivalent to a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000), while in American English it has always equated to a thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000). British English has now adopted the American figure, though, so that a billion equals a thousand million in both varieties of English'. Hope you're not in finance Alasdair. This was changed about 35 years ago. Sorry for being a pedant, but if you pontificate that much on a forum you must expect to be shot at.

Chris Skinner Date: Aug 27, 2010

Nice PR, Mr. Wright.

Richard Rizzo Hills Date: Aug 27, 2010

Not sure that the employer/employee dynamic was particularly evident 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic (or Middle Stone Age) period. Anyway, I occupy a fair amount of time on social media marketing projects now I've escaped (sorry, did I say 'escaped', I meant to say 'left with regret') the recruitment communications industry and it's clear that it's an important element within an integrated campaign, but not a total solution in itself. It's a great way to form medium to long term engagement with your target audience therefore good for employer branding. Really we're talking online PR. However, putting a job on a Facebook page if there's only 80 fans isn't going to work. I suspect that even a PPC campaign on Facebook in which you can very well target by interest and demographics would have fairly limited success. If I wanted to work in recruitment communications then I'd look on RI5, not keep an eye open on Facebook. It's all a bit of a red herring actually - the thing that's finishing off press advertising with a healthy media commission is Conservative Party public sector spending policy, the recession and the rise and establishment of online job boards and advertising. Social media is only one nail in the coffin.

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