Job boards are becoming increasingly crowded, newspaper careers lift-outs are growing ever thicker, and employers are fighting tooth and nail to attract top candidates to their businesses. In a market characterised by such ferocious competition, how can employers ensure that their opportunity stands out from the pack and reaches the right candidates?

Too often, organisations plan their candidate attraction strategies behind closed boardroom doors, based on the opinions of the management team and without adequate consideration of the needs of the individuals the organisation wishes to attract.

The result is an investment in candidate attraction which tells the market all the things the management team would like them to know about the organisation – with insufficient regard for the attractiveness of these messages to potential employees, or how these messages reconcile with the actual employment experience. Understanding your target candidate market and communicating the right messages to them is an essential platform for a successful candidate attraction strategy.

just who are your target candidates

It seems obvious, but having a clear view of who your target candidates are, what they are looking for in a new role or company, what they like and dislike about their current job and where they find career information is a critical starting point. This means thinking beyond the set of skills and experience required for a successful candidate to do the job, and understanding the demographic and social profile of the potential employees you wish to bring into your business.

[Employers should be] thinking beyond the set of skills and experience required for a successful candidate to do the job, and understanding the demographic and social profile of the potential employees you wish to bring into your business…

While it may seem resource intensive to undertake this research (especially for small to medium businesses without a dedicated HR department), there is a wealth of readily available information to assist in creating a target candidate profile. A plethora of articles and surveys are published in HR and industry magazines, business and news publications and on the Internet, which provide an insight into the demographic profile of people working in specific types of roles, where they are located, the hours they typically work, their average salary, gender and age profile, and importantly, the criteria they use in considering a new employment opportunity.

Some useful resources include the Australian Jobsearch Job Outlook portal, the Kiwi Careers site developed by the New Zealand Government Careers Services department, Chandler Macleod and MyCareer Salary Surveys, and the annual Employee Satisfaction and Motivation Reports released by Seek in Australia and New Zealand.

Good questions to ask when researching the potential candidate market are:

identifying the right messages

One of the most useful sources of information on the best messages to use to attract new employees is also the most under-utilised, i.e. your existing employees. What do they like about working for you, and just as importantly, what don’t they like? How would they rate your organisation as an employer, compared to others in your industry? When asked to describe your corporate culture, what would they say? What aspects of a competing employment offering would potentially entice them away from their jobs? How would they describe their job and the company to their friends? What do they think is unique or different about your company as compared to other jobs or employers they have had?

Asking these questions of your existing workforce can do two important things – provide you with an understanding of the characteristics of your employment experience that are marketable externally, and provide you with an insight into your current employees’ understanding and opinion of your employment offering and its benefits. It is recommended that internal research of this nature is conducted with the opportunity for staff to respond anonymously, therefore encouraging their honesty and candour.

Comparing the information acquired from employee research with the attributes identified by target candidates as desirable, allows your company to develop a list of characteristics of your company and employment opportunity that are most likely to appeal to the candidates you seek, and that represent the realities of the employment experience. The latter is an essential consideration – according to research from the United States, approximately 47 per cent of staff turnover occurs within the first 6 months of employment, often because the employment experience did not match their expectations.

While there are no hard and fast rules concerning the correct messages to communicate to the candidate market, research reports highlight a number of consistent trends:

Empty statements about working for your organisation that are not supported by fact or additional detail, will be treated with suspicion. Simply saying you are an employer of choice or a market leader is not enough – these statements must be substantiated.

commincating your candidate attraction message

Like the messages, the mediums used to communicate your opportunity and particularly those unique aspects of it that resonate with target candidate criteria, will vary depending on the profile of your target market.

While Internet job boards consistently rate as the highest medium through which active and passive candidates receive job information, the 2006 Seek Employee Satisfaction and Motivation report found that approximately half of all respondents expected to find out about their next employment opportunity through recruitment agencies, with newspaper advertising, word of mouth (professional and social networks, employee referrals programmes) and direct approaches to organisations also listed as common job information sources.

.. partnering with a recruitment agency who has access to media research and can provide a recruitment marketing strategy can save you a lot of money and provide a more targeted, and therefore more qualified result…

The relative importance of each of these mediums varies when industry background, age and geography are considered. In addition, less common communication strategies such as careers fairs, radio advertising, careers newsletters and magazine advertising can be factored into the mix. At the risk of sounding self-serving, partnering with a recruitment agency who has access to media research and can provide a recruitment marketing strategy encompassing the media used by your candidate target market, can save you a lot of money and provide a more targeted, and therefore more qualified result.

bringing it all together

The end result of all this research and analysis should be a precise and well-targeted view of how your employment offering fulfils the needs of your target candidate, and the most appropriate mediums to leverage in communicating these messages. It may seem a laborious and time consuming process – but when compared to the alternative (wasting time and money on failed candidate attraction strategies), it is an investment worth making.

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