Should we stop advertising jobs to everyone and instead zoom in on the people who are our followers, fans and advocates? We speak to Steve Ward who has pioneered a new approach to talent attraction.
Listen to the interview with Steve below, keep reading for a summary and make sure you subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
For 10 years, I ran a recruitment agency called Cloud Nine, which was kind of noted for the fact that we were probably one of the first to use social media as our key form of recruiting. Since walking away from that 18 months ago, and its parent company, I now work with companies as a talent attraction strategist, I call it, to help companies attract and be a magnet to the right talent that they want through growth. So I work with businesses at different levels on being smart about how we engage and find the right candidates, and hopefully hire them.
What do you mean by “recruit fans, not candidates”?
So what I started to work out, and I suppose it’s something that I’d already worked out over a number of years without necessarily really kind of giving it a succinct feel is the phrase “recruit fans, not candidates.” The idea really is that we have so much intelligence available to us now, it makes me scratch my head as to why we still do job board advertising, even why we do advertising on the whole, when through acute, smart content marketing, prospect identification, etc., we can build channels. Bring natural channels, not necessarily tech channels, but natural channels that identify the people who are already engaged with the organization you’re hiring for and people who seem to have a degree of fanhood with the company concerned. And that surprises people, because sometimes…okay, we all expect somebody like Nike or Adidas or Facebook to have what you would term “fans.” But smaller companies, the majority of companies, people haven’t heard of on the whole and don’t have a big brand, and so you often surprise people to find that they actually, generally do have fans. What it helps do is it narrows down the target audience of candidates towards people who’d be quite excited about picking up the phone and being offered the opportunity to work with them.
So that’s kind of the essence of it, is trying to find the people who genuinely believe in your company and what you do and target those as potential employees, because it would seem to be the most logical way of building a business.
What’s the step-by-step approach to recruiting fans?
Let’s use Velocity as a really good example, because Velocity Partners, which is a B2B concept marketing agency. So inside the doors, they have table tennis tables, they have pizza Mondays, they have great people, they have a lovely culture, three office dogs, all those things that are inside the building but don’t actually make a difference as to why somebody would join a company or not.
And so, I started the journey of kind of thinking, “Well, okay. What are the drawing factors? What is the employer brand? What is the thing that sets them apart compared to other such agencies, etc.?” Because particularly what we had to think about is one, this is not an agency that are inside the dead centre of London. They’re in Richmond, so to draw people to come and work for Velocity, you needed people who genuinely were excited by the prospect of working there, to be able to draw them away from the obvious kind of big London agencies and the like. So there were factors like that that I had to consider in order to attract talent.
The common response, as I referred to Velocity Partners, on a handful of occasions, was, “Oh, Doug’s company.” “Oh, what do you mean? Doug Kessler?” Doug Kessler being the cofounder of Velocity Partners and kind of B2B content veteran. And it became quite apparent that Velocity, the company, is one thing, but actually, one of the primary draws of Velocity was Doug Kessler, as a human being, as a professional, as an individual. You know, he speaks around the world, he’s regarded as one of the godfathers in this kind of area. And actually, people wanted to work with him.
So he wrote a piece, and I packaged it and put it out there as the front of the recruitment campaign, that talked about B2B, it was very specific to the market and what they thought. And it was just a blog. And it went out on LinkedIn, and it had the footnote at the bottom. Apart from a couple of guidelines through the content, you had a footnote at the bottom that said, “Hey, look. Do you agree with Doug? If you do, you may want to come and work with Velocity, because we’re hiring, we’re growing, and we need more kind of like-minded Doug types.”
And we started to get the response from that. Now, what we got from that was great traction, great sharing, and obviously, clearly, the audience attached Doug’s name to something. That very specific audience shared it and distributed it across their networks. But we got a cluster of applications from it. Not many, which is perfect. We didn’t want many. We just wanted a very targeted cluster, and that targeted cluster were all fantastic.
And we were able to interview 6 of those people, and as we stand, I think 4 of them have now been hired. Not for one role, but for four completely different roles within the organization. Head of copy and content, a copywriter, an account manager and I think a B2B planner guy in there somewhere as well. And one blog, and it focused on the fact that Doug was more of an attractive brand proposition to the talent audience out there than the agency was itself. He was the one drawing the fans.
So and that was exciting, and then so from there onwards, we started to then build our content around the people in the organization and the things that made the agency individual to other agencies. Again, this goes back to voice. Voice is a very, very big important part of it. Something I learned a lot from Doug. When there’s a million marketing agencies out there or a million technology companies or a million banks, how do you separate yourself? So voice is a big part of it, the tone that you carry.