Rally and Workable recently held a webinar, “The Rules of Talent Attraction: Appealing to Talent Without a Big Brand.” Our awesome panelists were: Ali Tankiewicz, HR Associate from Apex Clean Energy; Ben O’Mahony, Talent Director at Cytora and Kate Riney, Marketing Manager with Calendly. During the webinar, they shared creative recruiting ideas and examples for how to compete with the big employer brands to attract top talent.
We had so many great questions from attendees that our panelists couldn’t answer them all before the webinar ended. So with our panelists’ help, we’ve pulled together this Q&A. Ali, Ben and Kate answer 20 questions, from building talent pipelines to email marketing to recruiting events to sourcing strategies.
The Rules of Talent Attraction Webinar Q&A:
- What is the stock photography website that Ali recommend?
- How do you get these people’s email address and how do you determine who you will send the newsletter to?
Ali: I use MailChimp to create my newsletters. MailChimp provides a link for me to send out which allows people to subscribe to the newsletter. I’ve instructed my team to only send the link out to GREAT talent – former colleagues, great talent you meet for coffee, talent I personally source, former interns or former candidates who made it far in the process.
- At what stage do you invite candidates to the newsletter (i.e. who is invited to sign up)?
Ali: We really try to only invite GREAT talent. Our team knows what it takes to be great so we trust them with the newsletter invite link.
- Where are you pulling your list to send the email from MailChimp? Are you using an ATS database?
Ali: MailChimp maintains the list for us.
- How do you keep track of all the communication with candidates and the hiring stages, when you’re trying to move quickly to an offer?
Ben: We use Workable. It syncs up all our email communications with candidates and keeps it centralised. We also make sure we keep it simple – no “holding” emails, just next steps. We only have 3 stages in our process (Talent Screen, Tech Screen & Onsite (approx 3 hours)). We also keep a physical board of candidates at final stage so they are top of mind for everyone.
- How are you keeping track of those in your pipeline? What about legislation that prevents spam? Do you collect their ok to receiving these newsletters first?
Ali: Anyone we invite to join the newsletter has to “opt-in”. It’s entirely voluntary.
Ben: We ask everyone who applies to “opt-in” to GDPR. Workable has robust tools to help us with compliance
- What was the name of the tool that you use for text?
Ali:I don’t use a specific tool for the text of our newsletter. I generally use the first 1-2 sentences from our job descriptions to provide a quick synopsis of the job in the newsletter.
- How many people accept your invite for the newsletter? Have any of them applied to jobs in the future?
Ali: We’ve only been using this for about 10 months and have 78 subscribers. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how many people we’ve sent it to but it can’t be that many more as when we rolled the tool out to our team, we really stressed that we only want to invite GREAT talent. And YES! We’ve definitely had candidates apply due to subscribing to the newsletter. I use Rule #1 and link these people directly to the manager of this position to go grab coffee and have a more intimate and in-depth conversation.
- Any tips for attracting early career talent when your brand is not as well known?
Ali: All of the rules we covered in this webinar really are for employer brands that aren’t as well known. My rules are basically based on the premise of word-of-mouth marketing which is a great tool for lesser known brands. We’ve simply taken word-of-mouth marketing and spiced it up a bit with the early meetings (Rule #1) and invite-only newsletter (Rule #2).
- Have you received applicants that found you through your social posts that got high engagement? Have you hired any of them?
Ben: Yes, we’ve hired several candidates through this, though I found I had mis-attributed my success to other means! It’s very difficult to work out the exact origin of any application, I’d look into multi-touch marketing if this is of interest.
- Did the companies engage outside support to design their talent acquisition strategies or were they developed fully by the in-house team? If they used outside support, how did they find and select a consultant or partner to assist in that design process?
Ali: We have yet to use a consultant for talent acquisition strategies. That said, we do a lot of research and read about others who have paved the way in successful talent acquisition strategies. So, we aren’t necessarily coming up with these strategies entirely on our own – we are utilizing what has worked for other organizations and adapted them for our own uses.
Ben: No, our strategies were developed in-house. I’d suggest joining talent acquisition networks like Rally or DBR to discover best practices.
- Do you put employee testimonial quotes or videos in your job ads? How do candidates see these?
Kate: At this time, we don’t include testimonials or quotes in job postings. We do have them on our careers page of the website, however given that every job ad board has different formatting and capabilities. We try to keep our job ads to compelling copy in plain text. Going off my gut, I think employee profiles are better kept higher in the “funnel” before the point of consideration that a candidate is at when viewing a job ad. Social proof in short-form content isn’t as convincing as it used to be. Candidates know you’re trying to sell them, so giving them a video, long-form interview, or face-to-face experience with your employees is more convincing and feels authentic. At the end of the day, trust your gut and experiment!
- Any pointers for virtual recruiters event wise?
Kate: I hate to answer a question with a question, but I have potentially two different answers… Are you recruiting for one or two physical locations? Or are you recruiting remote employees and/or several multiple locations? In Case 1, you have the option of relying on your connections who are located at HQ to facilitate and host events that you coordinate. More likely, you’re faced with Case 2, and in that scenario, I would say, host a virtual event! It’s a great way to connect with each other in real-time. Or you can host an online summit or webinar that’s targeting candidates instead of customers. Do some research to find out what candidates are asking about your industry. Then line up a speaker who can give 15-30 minutes of advice (preferably from your company) on that topic. You can even align it with your current hiring needs. Topic examples: How to become a people manager in manufacturing; Transitioning to a career in tech; Landing your first job in consulting; Presenting your design ideas in a convincing way.
- Another question: how to source virtually when you feel like you have contacted EVERYONE already?
Ali: I work remotely so recruit/source virtually and can appreciate how you feel. My advice would be to start over from the top. Reconnect with people you’ve already connected with but change up your message to be more about them. Dole out some compliments, ask about their goals, ask what they might be looking for, explain what you have to offer. And, always ask for referrals! If you like what you see from their resume – ask them if they know more people like them! What a compliment to receive!
Ben: Depending upon the size of the market this is likely to be impossible, however there are two things I’d think about. Firstly, I’d say this relates more to motivation, a change is as good as a break. Spend a decent amount of time away from the role and come back with fresh ideas. There is nothing worse than banging your head against a brick wall – I encourage my team to switch jobs if they are getting frustrated. The second option, assuming you have captured EVERYONE, is to keep marketing to them (directly & indirectly). It’s likely that you got the right people at the wrong time.
Kate: Yeah, Ben is spot on. In account-based marketing, we have a phrase, “land and expand.” Which basically means use the connections you have to reach more. When you know a candidate is a good fit for your organization, chances are they know a handful of people who are similar. AND, when you give them a chance to help their friend find their dream job, they get to be a hero so they usually don’t mind making a quick introduction for you.
- How have people found HackerX? We’ve heard really mixed reviews.
Kate: We’ve only hosted once so far, but I’ve heard mixed reviews too. We did just hire a software engineer from that event. I think it has value, especially considering the total cost to host was less than our employee referral bonus (acquisition cost is still relatively low). Events also have tangential benefits, like increasing your brand awareness, giving you direct access to candidates that your competitors are after and learning what your competitors are doing to win talent in a competitive market. My rule is try it once. If it flops, you don’t have to do it again, but no one can make you a promise about the ROI you will see from an event. Things like time of year, weather, parking, etc. can make all the difference, so just think ahead and give it a go.
- Have you noticed that brand enhancement and employee recruitment can go hand in hand?
Ali: Yes. And, I think you can successfully recruit without a big brand.
Ben: I see a lot of people run into issues focusing only on employer brand as if that will solve all their issues. Brand helps at every stage of the process, however, it is useless without people actually doing the hard work of recruitment.
Kate: Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding the question, but in my mind, they absolutely go together and can’t be separated. With every recruiting action, you are building your employer brand. And, if you take whatever resources you do have to invest in amplifying your brand, then you can see huge returns in the number of applicants. When it comes to your organization’s overall brand, that will definitely have an affect on whether candidates want to work for you (and what kind of candidates), that’s why recruiting needs to keep close friends with marketing.
- In regards to the employee testimonials/ profiles, what does Kate mean by conversion rate?
Kate: In the webinar, I was specifically referring to conversions from candidates watching the employee profile video to our jobs page (we have a CTA – call to action – at the end of the video for the jobs page and we use Wistia to host, which measures CTR – click through rate). If you have a recruitment marketing platform, you may even be able to track to the point of application, interview, offer, etc. Or if you use a careers site management platform and can create landing pages, you can use tools like Heap or Google Analytics to track conversion from your recruitment marketing content and events.
- We only have 1 full-time recruiter at the company so we’re really strapped for resources (and budget). These tips were great but what should we do first to start?
Ali: Great question. I’m the sole recruiter as well so can feel your pain! 1. I’d start by cleaning up and perfecting what you currently do. For example, I ensured that all of our messages sent via our ATS were simple, clean, grateful towards the candidate, on brand, had a link to our LinkedIn page, and included some sort of timeline to set candidate expectations. I also ensured I communicated weekly with candidates. You may hate that idea but I send out pre-crafted emails I’ve drafted that are simple (2 sentences) just saying something like, “thank you for your continued interest. We will be reviewing materials in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy this article our CEO wrote…”. Candidates are SO appreciative, so it creates a great experience for them whether they get the job or not. 2. Use Word-of-Mouth strategies: get your team on board that THEY are just as involved in the hiring process as you are! They know what it takes to be great so if they’ve got any referrals, former colleagues, contacts, etc., send them your way. You can use the “invite only” newsletter idea or some other simple way to communicate with referrals. You could also post weekly on LinkedIn requesting people to send you a resume/cover letter if interested in working for your company. Easy way to build a pipeline of interested candidates.
Ben: I would work on ruthless prioritisation and alignment within the rest of the company. Too often the sole recruiter has to fully define roles, create the process, chase the interviewers, collect feedback, prepare offer letters and contracts, etc. Then priorities change and all that effort is wasted! Speak with the recruiter about what elements of their role could be done by someone else, what admin can be outsourced? What part of the process could be automated? Which roles are nice to have and which ones are essential? The second part is more tricky: speak to the recruiter about which hiring managers they like working with and who they don’t. It’s likely that the recruiter will be getting very mixed messages from the company. The question before should help you identify those who waste your only recruiter’s time. This is probably the biggest inefficiency. Speak with them to better define what they want and make sure it is realistic. I’d even consider not allowing them to speak to the recruiter until they have written a plan that they can commit to.
Kate: First of all, full-cycle recruiting is very tough so kudos! Beyond spending a healthy chunk of time sourcing and jumping on intro calls with candidates, which I’m sure you already do, I would recommend creating a quick form or even email with 5-10 questions to send to some of your employees in different roles/departments to develop the type of employee profiles I mentioned. If you have anyone in marketing, they can help you turn this into stylized content and distribute it on whatever channels you have (newsletter, social, blog, etc.), but you can also pop this into a pdf or design it in Canva and send that doc in your InMails to interested candidates. You don’t have to spend hours developing content to put it to work for you. Marketing can also help you create candidate newsletters and optimize copy on job descriptions, sourcing emails, etc. Lean on your whole team – you’re never a team of one!
- For employers with seasonal opportunities.. Such as only hiring after the weather warms up for a spring opportunity.. How do you obtain prospects/ keep them excited so they would be willing to wait until the actual hiring moment?
Ben: It depends. I would say a newsletter-like approach like Ali suggests is likely to be ideal. My question would be: Why are you delaying hiring them? If people are looking for seasonal work I imagine they would prefer to have it confirmed further in advance so they can plan it better? Why not hire them earlier and then send them a newsletter/invite them to events to keep them engaged?
- We are a small company that focuses on building decks and developing outdoor living spaces in MN to extend the enjoyment of our seasons. We need employees as everyone does in this industry. Does it make sense to set up a recruiting event based on job fair interest? Also, should we make our job fair booth very exciting and interactive as possible, as our audience will be finishing tech school students?
Ali: I’m always up for trying new tools to see if it works! What works for you may be different than what works for me in my industry. I’d say go for it but definitely track the wins/challenges of the event and also take note of what other companies do that works.
Ben: Definitely look into events but make sure you focus on the follow-up. 99% of time people create an event and think the work is done! Use the goodwill created by the event to bring candidates in to interview, and actually hire them. Events are a tool not a result.
Kate: If your top candidates are tech school students about to graduate, then a job fair sounds like a great idea! Students typically have no idea how to find a job and turn to job fairs first. I’ve been to my fair share and I think the more engaging you can be, the better! Also, bring a rep with you if at all possible. Even though your job is pitching the company as a recruiter, it’s more compelling to hear about the ins and outs of the day to day, the perks and thrills from someone who is doing the job you’re recruiting for. Don’t get stuck behind your table in your booth. Stay in high-trafficked areas and as candidates walk near you, compliment them, offer them swag, ask them a question. Don’t wait for them to approach you. Young students especially are shy and they don’t know what to ask.
Thank you to Ali, Ben and Kate for answering all the webinar questions!
Workable is a sponsor of Rally. Their sponsorship fee helps us to provide educational resources on Recruitment Marketing.