The Future of Recruiting is Inbound

Successful recruiting is more complicated than most people realize (except for those who are actively recruiting on a daily basis).

  • Getting a ton of applicants is easy.
  • Hiring people is easy.

But successful recruiting isn’t.

Successful recruiting means a few things:

  1. Maximizing tight budgets to use money wisely in attracting people.
  2. Attracting the highest quality candidate possible, not the most candidates possible. This means shrinking the size of the top of your funnel so that conversion rates at each stage increase (job seeker / person -> applicant -> hire -> successful hire). If the top of the funnel is absolutely huge, chances are you’re bringing in too many unqualified candidates and wasting time.
  3. Understanding the changing needs of your employer in terms of who to hire, skill sets that are relevant, etc. And understanding the changing needs of employees as well. There has to be a match there.
  4. Maximizing busy schedules and time. This is going to be critical as we slowly plod our way out of the recession and recruiting picks up. Companies are less likely to bring on board more recruiters (since recruiters were some of the first people to go when things fell apart), but they will increase hiring. That means the recruiters that are still around will be busier than ever.
  5. Hiring higher quality people who stick around longer and contribute more. This is the real ROI measurement for recruitment. Cost per hire isn’t really a necessary focus; if you’re hiring kick ass talent they will ALWAYS return a million times more value than what it cost to acquire them.

Like I said, successful recruiting is hard. The companies that do it well win. It’s as simple as that. The companies that don’t do it well still have a chance of winning but the odds are stacked against them.

One of the key ways companies should be actively (as in right now!) looking to recruit is via a concept I blogged about recently called Inbound Marketing. The book referenced in that blog post is an excellent introduction to the concept of inbound marketing. And for recruiters, all you need to do is take out the word “Marketing” and replace it everywhere with “Recruiting”. Voila – Inbound Recruiting.

Inbound Recruiting is about being findable in as many useful places as possible – search engines, social networks, social media sites, etc. – for those times that people go looking for you. It’s not overly complicated, but it takes work and commitment. Blogging is a great way of building an Inbound Recruiting foundation. Susan Burns and I wrote a very detailed How-To guide for corporate HR blogging. Click here to download it.

Here’s what you need to remember about Inbound Recruiting as a primer:

  1. Inbound Recruiting is not just about “active candidates.” Some people might argue that people are only looking for you when they’re looking for a job (i.e. they’re “active candidates”) But that’s nonsense. People are on Google all the time doing searches for a bunch of things that are job-related — it might be out of curiosity, competitive analysis, knowledge gathering, research, they’re having a bad day at work, or some other reason. You need to be findable to everyone when they’re looking for you; even if they don’t quite realize they’re looking for you … yet.
  2. Inbound Recruiting is about building trust and relationships. The best candidates take a good hard look at the people working within an organization before accepting a job. The job itself is important, of course, but the people are equally (if not more) important. And the best candidates are looking for things like thought leadership, brand, market awareness and social reach. Those things are built through trust and relationships.
  3. Inbound Recruiting is about using Web technology intelligently. Technology is so easily misused and abused. You need to really understand how to use technology to your advantage – to automate things (where appropriate), track things, distribute content and more. It’s quite easy these days to very quickly tap into all the conversations going on about your brand, track sentiment, and respond quickly. This is a great customer service tactic. But it’s also perfect for recruitment. Chances are there are some great candidates talking about your brand right this second (either positively or negatively). Career sites need to be optimized to truly represent your employer brand and make you accessible. Landing pages need to be targeted with laser-focused advertising. And remember – all of this doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If you’re not comfortable with Web technology then hire someone to help you — but only if a key part of their goal is to train you how to do things for yourself. Don’t rely on others to run your Inbound Recruiting for you.
  4. Inbound Recruiting is about metrics. In the HR / Recruitment world there’s a constant debate and struggle around metrics. Too few companies track things accurately. Too few technology providers offer good, simple metrics measurements. And often, the entire recruitment (and hiring) funnel is serviced by multiple technology vendors that don’t talk to each other. So it’s hard to track metrics. At the end of the day you need a measurement for “quality of hire”. It’s as simple as that. Figure that out and then understand the source of each hire (and each non-hire too). The metrics fall into place from there.
  5. Inbound Recruiting is about commitment. You cannot build a strong Inbound Marketing system without commitment. You need people, training and money to make it work. But the investment in Inbound Recruiting in terms of dollars spent is well worth it, and it can be less than big budget recruitment advertising costs as well. Plus, there are ancillary benefits to Inbound Recruiting beyond just applicant flow, including increased brand awareness, positive brand association, and more business. It might be hard to measure those ancillary benefits, but they’re there (and it’s not impossible to measure them either!)
  6. Inbound Recruiting is about creativity. Out of the millions of job postings on the Web at this very moment, possibly 0.001% of them are interesting. Inbound Recruiting is about thinking and acting creatively. And that gives you, your recruiters, marketers and employees a chance to do something memorable and meaningful. It also means breaking out of “what everyone else is doing” — and that doesn’t necessarily have to be earth shattering. Something as simple as sponsoring local events can have an impact.
  7. Inbound Recruiting is not just about online. There are lots of offline strategies for Inbound Recruiting. It’s easy to get caught in the online world and all the whizbang technology and gadgetry, but being findable offline is critical too. After all, hiring people usually involves meeting people face-to-face, right? So why not get to that stage a bit earlier than the interview?
  8. Inbound Recruiting is about everyone. Everyone in your company is a recruiter. This is one of the most important things you need to understand about inbound recruiting. Everyone is a recruiter. They’re participation on the Web (social media, social networking, blogging, etc.) can be a positive representation of your organization, even if they’re not out there pimping your company. And they can also actively pimp your company without being “blatant, lying advertisers.” All of your company’s power is in its people. Use them. Empower them all to be honest, transparent recruiters. And if your employees don’t want to be advocates for your business, then you need to find out why as soon as possible. It might be you. It might be them. It might be both of you. But figure it out ASAP.
  9. Inbound Recruiting is about taking ownership. Employers should own their brands. Employers should own their communications with people (whether they’re job seekers, passersby, candidates, employees, customers, prospects, etc.) Inbound Recruiting is about taking ownership over your efforts, which may seem scary but is freeing and rewarding.
  10. Inbound Recruiting is about increasing the quality of hire. Again, that’s the key metric. And I can guarantee that Inbound Recruiting will increase the quality of hire. You’ll be more findable by the right type of person when that person is out looking for you (even if they don’t know it yet.) You’ll be able to point to your inbound recruiting efforts and match people culturally against them. You’ll be able to turn your organization into a recruiting magnet.

Inbound Recruiting isn’t going to replace all other recruiting efforts. There’s no silver bullet in recruiting. There can’t be. Employer’s requirements are too diverse, there are too many types of jobs, too many types of employees. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for recruitment. That’s what makes it hard but interesting at the same time! Companies will still need to source directly (sourcing + inbound recruiting may be the Holy Grail combination!), look at advertising, use 3rd party recruiters and always try new ways of attracting people.

But if you’re not pursuing an Inbound Recruiting strategy you will get left behind and lose out on great people you could have hired.

November 18, 2009 Posted in Recruiting by

Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at GoInstant (acq. by Salesforce).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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