#SHRM21 Session: Candidates as Consumers: How to Optimize Your Recruiting Efforts to Attract Ideal Talent

In this interview, Thad Price, CEO of Talroo, discusses how to optimize your recruiting efforts to attract ideal talent by treating candidates as consumers. 

Hi Thad, for those of us who are not familiar with your work, can you please introduce yourself? 

I’ve spent my entire career in talent acquisition technology, and I genuinely believe there is no industry that plays a more integral role in the economy. Happiness, productivity, and ultimately, economic growth is driven by innovators, builders, educators, and essential workers. It’s been my goal to leverage data to help companies reach the right candidates at the right time and at the right place. The economic impact of filling a job faster with the right candidate has never been more apparent than today. 

I began my career at Job.com and joined Talroo to lead product development. Today, I support the Talroo Team to help companies across the US build their workforce using job matching and advertising technology. 

You’ll be talking about candidates as consumers. Can you please share more about how HR can optimize its recruiting efforts to attract ideal talent? 

If you were kicking off a marketing campaign, the first question your marketing team would ask is, “What persona are you looking to reach?” Of course, given persona targeting constraints, it’s a little different in recruiting. But starting a conversation like this with the hiring manager can be illuminating: “Where have they worked?”  “What skills are necessary to be successful in this position?” 

You do not want to hire the minimum qualifications; you want to hire the right qualifications to accomplish your company’s goal.  Like a good copywriter attracting a customer, your job ad should speak to your ideal candidate. 

Like consumers, candidates are researching you to form their own opinions on the job, pay, and company culture. Do not leave anything open for interpretation. Instead, be transparent. Our data shows that jobs that are transparent about pay and bonuses receive ~30% more views compared to jobs without data.   

I remember when writing essays in grade school, my teacher always said: “Remember, interest the reader – otherwise, they'll stop reading.”  With so many companies hiring, job titles are your way to “interest the reader.”  Job titles have always been important for job search engines, but today they are mission critical.  You need to strike the balance of being relevant and unique.  Uniqueness can be accomplished through your culture, so keep job titles short and relevant.    

Thanks for the insights. What are some of the new methods that candidates are using to look for work? Which methods are here to stay?  

Candidates are still using search engines, job boards, and also local and niche portals, so I wouldn’t say there are new methods candidates are using to look for work.  Instead, I would say candidates are reinventing their definition of work.  A recent report by MBO Partners found the number of independent workers jumped by 34% in 2021 (51.1M).   

In a survey conducted earlier this year, we found that flexibility was almost as important as pay.  There is no doubt the rise of on-demand app marketplaces like Instacart and Uber continue to provide an option for workers looking for flexibility.   

We are also seeing vertical talent “freelance” marketplaces develop that address specific and niche worker needs.  Workers using marketplaces like MarketerHire, Toptal, and HonorTech are controlling their schedules. In the hourly space, workers are using SnagAJob to schedule shifts at multiple companies.  Workers build their own schedule based on available schedules. 

Leaders should think strategically about how to leverage the ever-growing contingent workforce as a candidate pool.  Target buying delivery provider, Shipt, is a fitting example of this sort of strategic thinking.  Should you build your own “flex” workforce? 

Talent is tough to find in 2021. What are some of your recommendations on how a company can differentiate from competitors when it comes to recruiting? 

Too often we hear from our customers, “We’ve been doing it this way for years.”  The best time to try something new is when things are not working. In today’s environment, you need to be where your competitors are and where they are not. 

When we are kicking off job advertising campaigns for customers, our golden rule is to be the job seeker.  Go to Glassdoor, read about the competitor, and look for pain. Then go to the competitor’s career site and compare your experience.  Is it hard for job seekers to locate your jobs and apply? Can you make it easier?

One immediate action item is to re-write your job application autoresponder that shares why the job seeker should come work for you. Better yet, assume they are applying to your competitor as well and weave in what you learned from Glassdoor. If you offer flexibility, and your competitor is not based on Glassdoor, highlight that benefit. 

Speaking - and speaking up! - can be tough. What are some tips you have for HR to think and then speak with greater ease, clarity, credibility and impact?  

HR now has a seat at the table. Every boardroom around the world is talking about recruiting talent. Even Jeff Bezos shared his goal as chairman was to “make Amazon [the] world’s best employer.”  HR is not a cost-center; it is a revenue center. Just like sales, HR needs to lead with data.   

The first step is to gather your business partners and determine your HR Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  These are the metrics you rally your team around. Create metric driven KPIs for each HR function, including your career site. The career site is one of the most important components as it’s the gateway to all things talent acquisition.  Your candidates are like customers – there is a journey before they buy. 

Switching things up - the entrepreneur in me has to ask a question about hiring. When operating a small business with less than 25 employees, an emphasis on “filling the role” sometimes takes precedence over “finding fit.” How can small businesses better gain an understanding of their ideal candidates and where to find them, especially when someone just put in their two-week notice and time is a ticking?  

Small businesses cannot afford to not find fit.  The cost is too large, especially for small businesses, since team members often wear a lot of hats. A bad hire is a costly one.  Due to lack of branding, small businesses need to cast a wider net to drive the applicants needed.  So my best advice is to get as many applicants as you can, build your talent community, and create a robust interview process centered around qualifications and culture fit.  And, don’t forget to start building your brand by applying to local “Best Places to Work” awards.

One quick way to create a set of culture questions is to hold a workshop and share life experiences with your team about incidents that you believe show character.  Analyze how your current team responded, and how you wanted them to respond. Creating a list of questions and including them in your interview process and seeing how candidates answer these questions will help you gauge culture fit.   

One of my favorite alignment questions is based on something that actually happened to me one evening. We ask: “You left your iPad on the dash of your car at a restaurant, and it was stolen.  Assign the percentage of blame to you, the thief, and the restaurant.”  There’s no right or wrong answer, but you can learn a lot from the candidate based on how they respond.  

People analytics are measuring just about everything these days. What are the best metrics to measure recruiting performance? 

Whether you are measuring recruiting performance, spending time with your family, or shipping software, three things always matter: Time, cost, and quality.  I use these themes to think about ROI when making a decision; they can help guide you to arrive at your key performance indicators. 

Challenge your team to improve metrics over time and leverage enablement tools that may help.  Don’t fall into the trap of comparing 2021 to 2020 or 2019.  The pandemic changed job seeker behavior forever.  It’s time to start fresh and benchmark. 

You should be asking yourself: 

How long does it take to hire? 
What is our target cost per hire?   
What are our applicant conversion rate from job boards and our career site after a job seeker views our job?   
What is the funnel progression; applicant, interview (a sign of quality), offer, and hire? 

Use these metrics to rally your team around recruiting process improvement goals.  At the end of the day, what is fast and cheap is not necessarily the outcome you need to drive quality hires. 

Alright, last question (thanks for hanging in there). For anyone who won’t be able to make it to your talk about Candidates as Consumers: How to Optimize Your Recruiting Efforts to Attract Ideal Talent in Las Vegas, what do you want them to know?  

2021 was a reflection point for recruiting. Aligning recruiting and talent acquisition teams around metrics, while thinking like a marketer, is the only way to win. Demand is at an all-time high, and supply is lower than before the pandemic.  Enhancing your brand, experimenting with recruitment marketing initiatives, and engaging your talent community is the only way to meet your recruitment objectives and grow your business.  Developing a marketer's mindset will transform the way you think about talent acquisition and the art and science of recruiting. 

Learn more about optimizing your recruiting efforts at Thad’s SHRM Session:

Candidates as Consumers: How to Optimize Your Recruiting Efforts to Attract Ideal Talent

In-Person Friday, September 10, 1:45 p.m. PT - 2:45 p.m. PT


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