Talent attraction in the digital age

You’ve got to innovate just to stand still

Be under no illusions, your competitors are out there looking at ways to engage the talent that will give them a competitive advantage over you. For as long as I can remember reading annual global CEO surveys recruitment and retention rank consistently as a top ten priority. In fact, in the most recent PwC annual global CEO survey, 72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of skills. The war for talent is still being waged and isn’t going away anytime soon.

Consider the pace of change in the recruitment world, not so long ago you’d place an advert in a paper, await replies in the form of covering letters and CVs and, with a bit of luck hire the best of those applicants. Then along came on-line job boards, company websites, Google PPC campaigns and of course LinkedIn. Problem solved. Everyone in one (or two) place(s) ready and waiting to be offered their next job. However, it didn’t quite stop there (that’d be far too easy). Others have also become a portal to recruitment – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, Stack Overflow, GitHub to mention just a few. Combine those with a growing list of niche recruitment websites. In a nutshell, in just 20 years, recruiting has gone from being similar to buying a local raffle ticket to entering the Euromillions. Yes, the prize has gone up but so have the odds of winning it. And when there are so many places your candidates are potentially hanging out in, how do you beat your competitors and how do you stay ahead?

At the same time, there has been a seismic shift in how potential employees look for their next role. ‘Look’ being the operative word. Many now don’t expect to ‘look’ and are waiting for the next role to come-a-knocking.

So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Well let’s look at what some others have done. From the 2015 winner of the Personnel Today innovation in recruitment award, Virgin Money for their brilliantly unique campaign, to the cryptic puzzles posted by GCHQ, to IKEA adding ‘career instructions’ into their flat packs. All started from the same position, they knew what they were looking for, where to find them and crucially how to engage them. Now, the majority of these award winning recruitment innovations in recent years seem to follow a trend: large, well-established organisations (with a healthy recruitment budget). Well what about the other 95% of businesses in the UK (i.e. SMEs) that perhaps have a more modest budget? How do you use innovative recruitment methods to benefit your organisation? What are the lessons you can learn?

Consider your own company, where are the skill shortages now and in the future? Do you understand your target audience, do you know where they hang out and crucially how to engage with them? How do you go about creating your own talent pool?

In my own career, I have recruited for a huge variety of roles (from CFOs to Librarians) and locations (from London to the Falkland Islands) in all sectors and can safely say that there is no ‘right way’ to attract the right candidates. But throughout this experience I have learned there are common themes you can apply to your approach.

  • Build a talent pool, identify your target audience and engage with them
  • Broaden your horizons, LinkedIn is not the only (and may be a totally inappropriate) place to look
  • Build your employer brand, what does it stand for and what are you selling?
  • Ensure key stakeholders in your company are on board and share the same message on their social media channels
  • Consistency is key. What are the chances your dream candidate just happens to be looking to change role in the window you are hiring?

Innovation for you doesn’t require you to be a holder of a multi-million pound budget or to totally re-invent the wheel. Innovation can be simply defined as a new idea, method or plan and so by simply improving the current recruitment practices in your organisation you can make a large impact on your company’s ability to attract the talent your business needs. So put those ‘bleeding edge’ ideas on the backburner and focus on what will make a difference to your business. Here are my suggestions to improve your recruitment strategy:

  • Make it ludicrously easy for candidates to apply, think social media profiles
  • The rise and rise of digital video – what insight can you give to the role / your company by way of video?
  • Internal referral networks – are you using them to their full capacity?
  • Enhance the candidate experience, Tripadvisor has a cousin called Glassdoor and you really don’t want poor ratings there
  • Don’t underestimate power of speed and agility in winning the candidate race

Given the pace of change and the opportunities it has thrown up to engage with your target audience I’m not going to make a great proclamation that ‘the CV is dead, long live the CV’. All I know is that in another 2, 5, 10 years from now the next latest and greatest thing will have come along and we’ll have to again innovate to – what sometimes feels like – stand still.


Sue Hill Recruitment and TFPL Limited are part of the Progility Group