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A New Way to Think About Recruitment Advertising

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

Though it does occasionally encounter some pushback, the most common analogy used to describe the role of recruitment advertising is sales. According to this view, the job of a job posting is to convince a job seeker to buy an employer’s value proposition and opening. It’s a reasonable perspective that connects the genre to its roots in commercial advertising. An ad is an ad is an ad, right? Well, not exactly.

While it would seem perfectly logical to equate an online Apple ad with an employer’s job ad and a laptop consumer with a job seeker, the comparison quickly breaks down. While both Apple and every employer wants to sell every product or job they have, they treat their customers very differently. Apple doesn’t tell potential buyers that they must be able to program in Python or that only a select few of them will be permitted to purchase its products. It wants every person who responds to its ad to end up a customer and employers don’t.

Now, some might argue that what employers are doing with recruitment advertising is still sales, just a more finely-tuned version. Indeed, there’s a fair amount of discussion these days about the importance of targeting ads to the right sites and cohorts of the workforce. But that targeting doesn’t change the essential dynamic of recruitment advertising: employers will still subject even those more rigorously identified prospective applicants to pre-qualifying “requirements” that limit the customers they actually accept.

So, what’s a better analogy for recruitment advertising? If not sales, what other activity might be used to clarify or explain the role of a job posting? I think education offers the best fit.

Seeing Job Seekers As Students

Unlike the sales analogy, seeing recruitment advertising as an educational exercise accurately captures both the goals of recruiters and the experience of job seekers. Let’s look at each separately.

Recruiters want to accomplish several objectives with a job posting. They want to:
• engage job seekers and get them interested in the subject – in this case, the employer and its opening;
• inform job seekers with an accurate and instructive description of the subject; and
• identify the job seekers who have distinguished themselves by mastering the subject.

Those goals are essentially the goals of education. Indeed, you could replace the term “job seekers” with the term “students” in the list above and each goal would still make sense. Teachers want to interest and instruct their students and then evaluate and identify those who have best applied themselves and mastered the material. That’s what advanced placement and gifted and talented programs are all about.

The education analogy also holds true for what job seekers experience when interacting with a recruitment ad. They:
• read the ad to learn about the history and culture of an employer and the facts surrounding its opening;
• acquire that knowledge in different ways – some learn best through text, while others are visual learners and prefer video; and
• can grasp what’s presented about the employer but relate to it based on their own individual background and interests.

That experience is similar to the way a student interacts with their schoolwork. Their knowledge of a subject begins with their exposure to facts. They may learn those facts by reading a textbook or watching a film in class or by doing both. They then pass that information through a prism that relates it to their personal situation which determines their understanding of and appreciation for the subject.

No analogy is perfect, of course, and that’s certainly true when comparing recruitment advertising to education. Nevertheless, resetting the creation of job ads as an exercise in teaching opens that task to skills and an outlook that is much more in line with those of many recruiters than the skills and outlook required for sales. No less important, reconceiving of job seekers as students opens a more helpful and appealing kind of interaction between them and recruiters, which can only improve their experience as candidates and an employer’s yield of talent.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.