September 24 , 2017

Marketing for Recruiters — ‘What Is It Going to Take to Get You In This Car?’

Few in recruiting understand the importance of identifying a candidate’s job acceptance criteria

Data, Technology, and Marketing are the three foundation pillars that are currently and dramatically transforming the recruiting function. I call these the new recruiting triad. Of these three pillars, shifting to a marketing approach is the easiest one to implement in recruiting. So many of the components of recruiting directly mirror the functions of marketing.

Recruiting can learn a lot from product marketing. The marketing function is an excellent role model for recruiting because both functions share branding, advertising, and some form of selling. Clearly, marketing is also better funded and receives more executive support than corporate recruiting does. In fact, I have said for years that recruiting is simply sales & marketing with a crummy budget.

The Importance of Market Segmentation and Understanding Every Customer

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from marketing is that it excels because it focuses on fully understanding the customer. Not just the overall customer, but the unique needs and expectations of the customers in each segment. And, unfortunately, I have found in the corporate world that recruiters simply assume that they know what candidates want, but in most cases, they are simply wrong. That would never happen in product sales like car sales because salespeople always start with research that lists the generic reasons why people buy cars. But then they go further and find out what an individual prospect needs before they will make a purchase. In sales the selling factors are known as “buying or purchase criteria” and in recruiting, they are known as a candidate’s “job acceptance criteria.”

A Marketing Approach Requires You to Know Every Candidate’s Buying Criteria

These job acceptance criteria are part of a “candidate-centric” approach to recruiting. Knowing these job acceptance criteria provide value because they help you improve recruiting messages and successfully sell the candidate.

There may literally be nothing more important in recruiting than learning and using the unique job acceptance criteria of each candidate.

And that is the foundation of the problem. Even though in car sales they routinely directly ask the prospect, “What is it going to take to get you into this car?” I have never found a single large corporation that has a systematic process for gathering the job acceptance criteria for all interviewees.

An Example Showing What Job Acceptance Criteria Look Like

If you’re not familiar with job acceptance criteria, here is an example for a diverse software engineer. Acceptance criteria are categorized into the standard three categories (must have, would be nice, and deal breaker).

Must have factors” in order to accept (in descending order)

  1. This level of pay ____
  2. A reasonable commute
  3. Evidence that my manager provides freedom
  4. The latest technology and tools
  5. Great coworkers
  6. Great health insurance with low deductibles

These factors would be a nice addition (in descending order)

  1. A high probability for promotional opportunities
  2. Frequent training and certification opportunities
  3. An opportunity to make an impact 

Deal breaker factors (in descending order)

  1. They didn’t treat me like I was a customer during the hiring process
  2. I did not see indications of diversity and inclusion during the hiring process

The Many Benefits From Identifying an Individual Interviewee’s Job Acceptance Criteria

There are many actions that recruiters and the recruiting function can take once they know the job acceptance criteria of those on the candidate slate. The top seven benefits include:

  1. They aid in further screening — if the acceptance criteria of an individual include things that your job/firm can’t or won’t offer (e.g. the option to work at home), you can then screen out the candidates who you have no realistic probability of landing. And incidentally, if they don’t know their job acceptance criteria, you should be concerned that they don’t make decisions using criteria. And also be aware that the candidate, if offered, may take more time to make their acceptance decision.
  2. These criteria help you craft your sales approach for this individual— obviously, the primary benefit of knowing these criteria is that they allow you to craft your selling approach. These criteria will also help you narrow and focus the information that you provide to the candidate. Periodically check with the candidate throughout the hiring process so that you know what factors you have successfully met and what factors you still need to sell. If you make a final offer, that offer should cover each of their major acceptance criteria for that individual.
  3. Knowing the common criteria will allow you to create convincing arguments/stories covering each major acceptance criteria — if you take the time to gather the frequency of the appearance of each unique acceptance criteria, you can over time put together an accurate list of the most common “attraction factors” for each job family. You can then work with your recruiters, managers, and employees to develop convincing arguments for each factor. You can also identify stories that support each criteria for use by recruiters and hiring managers. Employees can also use these stories when they are trying to create a referral.
  4. Knowing the criteria can help you improve your recruitment advertising— once you know the most common acceptance criteria, highlight the most common attraction and job acceptance factors in your job posts, on your corporate web and social media sites, and your recruitment/employer brand advertising.
  5. It can serve as ammunition for getting managers to change the value proposition — if candidates in a job family frequently drop out because their job acceptance criteria don’t routinely match the actual job opportunity. Reduce that disconnect by working with managers and HR to literally re-sculpt the job so that it better meets more of the top criteria.
  6. The criteria can be used to focus your recruiters — as part of an overall goal of becoming “candidate-centric.” The need for gathering and using job acceptance criteria must be added to recruiter training. Recruiters also need to become the champion for a candidate. And they can do that by assuming the role of searching for information that demonstrates that the job and the company actually meet the candidate’s job acceptance criteria.
  7. Build a side-by-side sell sheet — if you are bold, ask your recruiters to go an extra step and ask top candidates which of their job acceptance criteria are met at other firms where they are interviewing. With this information, you can put together a “side-by-side” sell sheet, which compares what your firm has to offer directly with the offerings of other firms on each of the major criteria.

Implementation Tips for Capturing Job Acceptance Criteria

The best approach for gathering the job acceptance criteria is to simply and directly ask candidates for their criteria either before or during the interview. But add some guidance to make it easier for them to come up with an answer. At very least verbally give them the three categories (must have, would be nice, and deal breakers), or consider giving them a blank form with the categories listed. If they hesitate for a long time before answering, stimulate their thinking by providing them with a long list of common criteria that others have put into each of the three categories.

If time and resources are limited, you don’t need to capture the job acceptance criteria for everyone. Instead, limit your criteria-gathering to those who are invited in for an interview or to those that are on the final interview slate. And, finally, if you want to further ensure that recruiters comply or develop a job acceptance database; simply require each recruiter to submit a list of each candidate’s job acceptance criteria at the end of their hiring process.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, corporate recruiting results suffer because a firm doesn’t execute its existing recruiting process well. But in the case of identifying job acceptance criteria, it’s an omission of a critical component of successful selling that causes the weak results. In fact, compared to marketing, recruiting lacks many elements of marketing research and segmentation. That is, obviously, problematic because you simply can’t successfully attract and sell individual candidates, unless you know and meet the unique things that they care about.

As seen on ERE Media (August 21, 2017).

If you found this article was helpful and that it stimulated your thinking, connect with me on LinkedIn

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.