slide image

Build Relationships But Add Synapses

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

Whether it’s done with job ads, recruitment marketing, the candidate experience, conversational AI, an applicant tracking system or CRM, the mantra these days is that attracting and recruiting talent is an exercise in building relationships. It was an effective strategy before the Covid pandemic and recession, so using it again (with some better technology added in) should work even better as those problems fade away. While this view is reassuring, the disappointing yields the strategy all too often achieves in the talent market make clear that something is missing.

Countless surveys and studies have confirmed that the Great Dropout (my term for the lack of active job seekers) and the Great Attrition are being driven by the same dynamic. Working men and women – especially those who were laid off and those who were overworked during the pandemic – no longer feel any sense of loyalty to their employers. Nor, do they believe a new employer will be any different. To them, any company’s efforts at building relationships – by itself – is a hollow enticement. There has to be something more in order to attract their attention and consideration.

But, what kind of “something more” can break through the cynicism of today’s workers? Not surprisingly, compensation add-ons still loom large in their calculus of employer value. Appcast has done a study of the impact of benefits in job ad content and found that including a “regular incremental bonus” in an opening’s value proposition increased apply rates by over 155 percent. It was the benefit that ranked second, however, which provides a clue to what can turbocharge relationship building and its impact on the propensity of candidates to consider an employer and its openings.

That benefit was pet insurance. It ranked ahead of stock options, 401(k) and even health insurance! Helping employees take care of their furry best friend created an emotional connection with prospects that actually increased their apply rates by 37 percent. For at least some job seekers, that connection was enough to validate an employer’s efforts at building a relationship and differentiate it from the uncaring herd. It painted those organizations as compassionate places where they were more likely to be treated compassionately themselves.

Making Emotional Connections With Candidates

Ironically, the core of every meaningful relationship is a connection, and with very few exceptions, that connection is emotional. Unfortunately, however, that’s not always been the case in online recruiting. Employers frequently say they’re building relationships, but what they’re actually doing is transmitting information – about open jobs or about the organization. They’re doing what appeals to the brain and overlooking what touches the heart.

So, how can that oversight be corrected?

Use messaging that focuses on what Appcast called benefits, but I think of as recruiting synapses. They are the advantages an employer offers over and above the table stakes of reasonable compensation. Recruiting synapses involve the things people love or in which they are emotionally invested. When an employer institutes and promotes a policy or program that helps or improves those things, they create an emotional connection between the organization and the candidate. Since those objects of affection vary by individual, however, the optimal relationship building strategy uses not one, but several synapses to touch as many candidates as possible.

These synapses include but are not limited to a candidate’s:
• Children (one synapsis might be the availability of on-site daycare);
• Hometown (one synapsis might be paid time off to mentor at a local school);
• Pets (in addition to insurance, one synapsis might be regular “bring your pet to work days”);
• Family (one synapsis might be death benefits for the surviving spouse or partner of a deceased employee)
• Career (one synapsis might be financial support for student loan repayment).

Then, instead of burying these synapses in a discussion of traditional benefits, lead with them. Set them apparat and emphasize them. Make them a part of your organization’s brand identity. Consciously frame them as proof that your employer actually does value the people who work for it. Define it as an organization that puts its benefits where its messaging is when forging a connection with employees and with candidates.

Relationship building is a powerful recruiting strategy, but when doing so with a population of jaded workers, it’s essential to include an additional component: recruiting synapses that create an emotional connection between the employer and the workers they’re trying to stimulate into applying.

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 book on