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Recruiter 3.0 - From Startup Recruiter to Startup Recruitment Marketeer

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

My name is Eva and currently I work as a Recruitment & Employer Brand Consultant for two great startups. I’m a Slovakian living in Amsterdam and I’ve been working in talent acquisition for over 9 years now. Honestly speaking, I only got my first introduction toRecruitment Marketing and Employer Branding inthe last 2-3 years, where they became around 50% of my job.

As a startup recruiter, you are typically a one-man (or one-woman) department, or in better cases you’ll have an HR/office admin and your direct report COO or CEO. And, your job is literally HR-everything. Office management, secretary, recruitment, employer branding, talent development, performance management, culture building, event management …. Whatever needs to be done you will do. And don't get me wrong: I love it. Many things to learn. Steep growth, because most of the time you have to figure out things by yourself by just doing. It’s fast-paced organized chaos in which you can have a real impact. That’s what gets me excited. Again honestly speaking here, it can also frustrate me, stress me out and sometimes bring me to tears. But that’s true of any work for just about everyone and everywhere. You chose your own workplace battlefield.

Two of the key things I had to learn were recruitment marketing and employer branding. Actually as a recruiter you are already familiar with it, it actually was always a part of our job. But I’ve never felt that there were any learning opportunities for recruiter to do it correctly and effectively. I like to call myself a nerd, I’m proud of it. I like to know, I love researching and finding answers. As I wanted to do my job correctly and ideally with good results, I started to read marketing books, talk with marketing people and went through several employer branding and marketing courses. Tried and failed. Tried and failed. Tried and succeeded.

But why did I need to learn recruitment marketing and employer branding in the first place?

As a recruiter...my job was always about job posting, sourcing, pre-screening, interview coordination, offer, pre-onboarding and onboarding. At heart, I’ve always been a sourcer. I’ve always enjoyed finding people. The harder it was the more exciting it was. But at one point I realized that for most of the roles assigned to me it was not hard to find people anymore. Candidates became more and more social, more and more present in online realms. What I also realized was that the easier a candidate was to find, the harder they were to engage. Harder to get their answer on my email or any message. And you would hear them complain more and more about annoying emails they receive, about bad job descriptions they read, about a lack of good information they could find etc. And I don’t want to shame anybody here. I believe we have not been taught enough to do it better, we have not received enough attention or resources from management. But times change fast, and now we cannot ignore those complaints anymore.

I listened to those complaints, applied and experimented with my marketing and employer branding learnings. It worked.

First experiment:

(role: Senior Automation Engineer)

Applied special copywriting techniques to a job description and the average reading time for candidates skyrocketed from 40 seconds to around 4 minutes. With that and improved SEO we got 45 applicants, 80% qualified and 3 offers out within 2 weeks >>> I did a survey after I closed the role and asked 20 automation engineers from my network about applied copywriting techniques. They needed to highlight the parts which would be appealing, helpful and would make them apply. Here are some of the results.

Second Experiment:

Applied special copywriting techniques to the job description and optimized SEO, applied new learnings about influential methods, more visuals. Within 9 months, 26 hires, 20 applicants. Time to hire < 30 days. The feedback we got from candidates and applicants was highly positive. F.e:

We also got higher quality applicants, who were more engaged and motivated to work for our startup. For some positions (incl. tech) we didn’t have to source at all. And the average reading time?

We had slowly but surely seen results from these efforts, including an overall increase in applications and more candidates reaching out directly to our Talent Acquisition Specialist about opportunities at the company. The numbers were up, and that’s a great way to show impact! It’s a pretty nice and rewarding feeling. I could spend that time I saved on other things like learning how to get even better results next time around.

It was not easy to learn all those things on my own while having a full-time recruitment job. But I knew I had to go through it, a recruiter without digital and marketing skills does not have a future in this faced paced age.

But do startups need employer branding and recruitment marketing?

Most startups are relatively unheard of, most startups cannot pay competitive salaries, they can’t provide a lot of great perks, their product might be buggy and or not developed yet. Working for startups is hectic and chaotic, you have no security if the startup will make it, not mature processes or structure which can provide guidelines, mostly less experienced leadership. So why the hell would someone join your startup in your hyper growth moment?

So let’s say you want to scale from 0-20 in the first year, from 20 to 50 in the second, 50-100 in the third. If you don’t have a recruiter at all, I guess, you expect candidates to come to you by themselves. That's like waiting to win lottery. I mean, it might happen, right?

If you have a recruiter, you obviously want a recruiter to deliver the best service.

But with:

  • No input on employer branding, or branding resources

  • No budget

  • No tools

  • No training …

… we can probably add “NO xyz ” to it.

I don’t know, but what kind of service can you deliver as a recruiter with this many “NO”s?

I have been there myself, and yes many times you can somehow pull it off. But not in the long run. It impacts recruiter experience which impacts candidate experience straight away and that goes even deeper to impacting employee experience. People come and people leave. It’s a Roller Coaster.

There is a war of employers for attention. Attention of candidates. Candidates are consumers of your employer brand. Candidates want to know about your company. What you look like and how you recruit defines your company.

Without employer branding and recruitment marketing a candidate can think, if they find you in the first place:

  • you are not tech savvy, otherwise why don't you follow current recruiting trends?

  • you have nothing interesting and exciting to share, therefore you don't have anything

  • you might hide something that should be not seen.

I don't think you want them to think this. OR…

With employer branding and recruitment marketing:

  • The right candidates can find you and see what is in it for them (apply if there’s an attractive branding message)

  • You can save enormous amounts of money for agencies fees, RPOs or other external consultancy service

  • You will hire better talent, faster and at lower cost. And Happy Recruiter = Happy life.

And I understand you might think that “fake it ’til you make it” is a better approach for startups. And to some extent it makes sense that you might think that. But I believe sustaining a false front for the long term isn't in your best interest. More importantly, you are skipping the real learning here. You will be a “fake”. Because “fake it ’til you make it” implies that one day you won’t need to fake it anymore. However, the truth is, you’re never going to know all the things you missed in the first place.

The other expression I heard a lot as a recruiter is “quick and dirty”. Nobody is talking about being 100% perfect, that's not even possible, but this expression refers to completing a task rapidly rather than making it high quality. But if you don't infuse quality into your hiring, what kind of quality will those hires potentially bring to your startup in the long run?

As Michal Jordan said: “I don't do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results. I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying.” And that “half-hearted effort” is in my opinion the reason why many startups cannot survive in the long run. Because short term focus will never bring long term results. And therefore I would not recommend approaches such as “fake it ’til you make it” or “quick and dirty” when you’re building a company.

So if you can make hiring easier would you? If I told you there is a way, would you hear me out?

I’m convinced that companies of all sizes can benefit massively from employer branding and recruitment marketing. Because all companies feel the same pains of the competitive tech talent market. Unemployment rates are low and most tech talent is in our markets. The other challenge for startups is that if they want to face their customer demands or client needs quickly, they need to hire as quickly as possible but in order to do that you need a big pool of candidates.

With that in mind a startup needs to get their name out there as fast as possible in order to compete with global, corporate companies, or more visible startups. Recruitment Marketing and employer branding therefore should be a bigger part of a hiring strategy from the beginning. And It actually can be built on lower cost without spending a lot of money on an external agency.

The good news is that most companies would have that one recruiter doing everything already. A recruiter who is wearing many hats. But one of them should be recruitment marketing and employer branding >>> Why?

Recruiting background + Marketing and digital skills + Savvy for social media

= are the traits of a new age recruiter = Recruiter 3.0

Final Thoughts:

During my 9 years recruitment career, I was searching for courses I could take but I didn't find that many of them. Or many times I couldn’t afford them, or my company didn't support me either. But it didn’t stop me. I went through several great courses and certifications and I’ve learnt the best fundamentals I could get.

All of the courses I went through were great, highly professional, but if only everything wasn't tailored for a global corporation setup. The startup, scaleup setup was not considered at all. And that's when I decided to change that! Thinking about my hard learning path to gaining knowledge, to be a better recruiter, I have decided that the other startup recruiters can have it easier through a tailored knowledge sharing workshop. So they can begin with recruitment marketing, so they can build a startup employer brand with almost no budget, with almost no resources.

If you would like to hear more about my experience or you would like to know about the workshops coming up, feel free to connect with me on Linkedin and I look forward to sharing my journey with you, or check this website > wearebridge.io

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