Let’s say you’re a fast-growing company. Maybe you’ve just gotten a new round of funding and you’re hiring for a few newly-opened positions. You put the word out that you’re looking for top talent, and the applications start to pour in droves—perfect! That’s exactly what you want, right? Well, not so fast…
One of the most common questions we’ve heard being asked in HR departments about unfilled positions is: “how many applications did we get?” The assumption here is that the more applications you received, the better. After all, the more candidates you have to choose from, the more likely you are to find someone who will make a great addition to your existing team. At the same time, not all candidates are created equal. It doesn’t matter how many job applications you received if none of the applicants are high-quality.
We probably won’t go so far as to say that your total number of applicants is completely irrelevant—the law of averages does work in your favor if you have a large influx of candidates—but it’s not nearly as important as many people think. Why? Because a job is not a fast-moving consumer good.
Jobs Don’t Fly Off the Shelves
Say you’re walking down a street in your city or town’s downtown area. You notice that the grocery store is advertising a sale on your favorite cereal brand. This is a no-brainer: you go in and grab a few boxes, knowing that you’ll save a little bit of money in the long run. Later on in your walk you see a sign for an open house. The place has been on the market for months, so they’ve lowered the house’s asking price by a huge percentage. This is another moment where you could save a lot of money in the long run—but how many of you are going to walk into the open house and put down an offer, just because you notice that it’s a good deal? I’m guessing not very many of you, and with good reason. Buying a house is a huge commitment, and it’s not the kind of decision to take lightly. You need to take a careful look at your finances, your long-term goals, and a host of other factors before making a decision.
When you think about it, it should be pretty obvious that taking a new job at a new company is a lot more like buying a house than buying a few boxes of cereal. While it’s true that most passive job seekers (a group that comprises 80% of the talent market at any given time) would be willing to change jobs for a position at the right company, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to do so lightly. Quite the opposite: they’re going to treat the decision to change jobs like the decision to buy a house—because both of them potentially concern huge sums of money and a big change in day-to-day life. Thus, when recruiters expect people to make snap decisions about their place of employment (i.e. when they treat jobs like FMCGs), they’re simply not being realistic.
Attracting the Right Applicants
Because changing jobs is more like buying a house than a box of cereal, it stands to reason that recruiters should care much more about quality than volume when it comes to applicants. This is one of the reasons (though certainly not the only one) that job boards are becoming less effective for talent acquisition in modern hiring processes. You might catch the attention of a lot of active job seekers, but since they’re not guaranteed to have any familiarity with your brand, there’s reason to believe that many or even most of them would be poor fits. For this reason, I’d rather have 100 applications directly to my careers page than 1,000 applications from a job board or even 500 from a recruitment agency.
This might seem a little extreme, but think about it: a job board or recruitment agency candidate doesn’t have to know or care very much about your business—maybe they’d never even heard of you before they applied. Someone who applies directly on your careers page, on the other hand, has done her research. Taking a new job is a big decision, and odds are that each of the 100 applicants in this pool have undertaken real consideration, have familiarized themselves with your business, and are excited to go through the process and assess a mutual fit. Many of the less qualified or less interested candidates will have weeded themselves out, and the remaining handful will not only be more qualified, but better informed—meaning that you can move through the entire interview process more quickly and easily.
How to Build Employer Brand Gravity
Now, some of you might be thinking: “that’s all well and good, but how do I get all of these applicants to come straight to my career page?” The short is answer is this: employer brand gravity. Employer brand gravity refers to your company’s ability to attract job candidates to your website, and it’s the natural result of smart, successful employer branding elsewhere on the web. This is partly a matter of crafting a strong visual brand that emphasizes your EVP, but it’s also a matter of what you do with that brand. From our perspective, there are two things you should be doing to build employer brand gravity.
Outbound recruitment marketing: posting on social media channels and other platforms on the web in order to familiarize passive candidates with your employer brand narrative. This has the effect of moving candidates into your sales funnel while you establish yourself as the employer of choice in your field.
Inbound recruitment marketing: publishing value-added content on a corporate blog or other channel that answers the questions and speaks to the needs of your target personas. This will help passive job seekers who are simply doing research on matters related to your business to find you. From there, they will develop a sense of trust and potentially a real interest in working with your company.
By making use of these two tactics, you can begin to rely less on quantity-over-quality approaches like posting on job boards. You can put yourself in a position where high-quality applicants are coming to you, rather than the other way around. Obviously, your applicants will still come from a variety of sources, but the ones generated natively on your career page have the potential to have a disproportionate impact. After all, it’s not about attracting the most candidates—it’s about attracting the right candidates.