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Inbound Recruitment: The Complete Guide

Candidate experience featured

Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising – Milton Hershey

By now, I'm sure you've been told that content is king, queen, or at least some other member of the royal family!

The expression might be a little tired, but companies can find real business value in engaging with their audience and sharing information and ideas.

We’ve even seen some startups double down on content and hire editors – note Intercom’s recent decision to bring a full time editor onboard!

Hubspot can take the credit as the first to land on business blogging as a successful marketing strategy, coining the term inbound marketing in 2oo6.

Inbound marketing has fundamentally changed the way companies approach customer acquisition. With inbound, companies earn consumer attention with great content and move leads through the customer lifecycle towards a purchase. (See Hubspot's visualisation of this process further down).

At this point you might be wondering why I'm telling you all of this - why is it relevant?

Well, what if the rabbit hole goes a little deeper? What if we can replicate this formula to attract and convert potential job applicants.

Enter inbound recruitment. We've created a 5 step framework to help you get started.

Want to dive in and learn more about how to leverage marketing ideas to transform your recruiting?

We've built an insanely actionable 10 lesson email course to get you going: Take a look

Before we begin: A quick definition of recruiting content

If you're not a writer don't worry! Content can be any piece of information that a candidate can easily consume.

Here are a few ideas:

Types of Recruiting Content

Like recruiting, these resources can be created either in-house, by a third-party agency or, optimally, some combination of both.

No budget? No problem.

You don’t have to necessarily create content to add value; In fact, curating targeted career content is equally effective at building trust, engaging candidates and showcasing employer subject matter expertise.

1. Mapping candidate personas

Inbound marketing begins with defining an ideal customer persona.

This is essential – an understanding your target audience lets you work out what content they will find most valuable.

Selling marketing software? Write material that would appeal to top marketers... Simple right?

Next you need to think about where to find them. Are they lurking in LinkedIn groups or frolicking on Facebook? This is where you share all your awesome content and participate in conversations.

Ok, back to hiring! Think about your ideal candidate. The process is pretty similar - We need to create a candidate persona:

1. Define your company culture. What traits help people succeed in your team?

2. Create an ideal ‘candidate persona’

3. Create awesome content that persona will relate to

4. Find the best forum to connect with that persona

5. Get sharing. Start talking to people that suit your company's needs and provide them with great content that they find valuable

Here's an example of what this persona could look like:

Marketing Mary (Example persona)

Ultimately content can bring these people to your site and introduce them to your brand – the first step to getting them to apply.

2. Making a connection

It's easy to hire with a short-term mindset. We often reduce it to a simple transaction:

Send out a job advert, screen applicants, make a decision.

Hmm... Sounds a lot like the way companies used to compete for the attention of potential customers.

Traditional marketing relies on 'interrupting' your flow of activity to grab your attention. Think website pop-ups and banner ads.

Put simply, these tactics don't work too well anymore. Consumers have a serious case of 'banner blindness' - they'reblind to the website advertising banners that companies spend tens of thousands on every year. They're so used to seeing them in the background that they’ve grown immune!

Most marketers have changed tack now and they're reaping the rewards of an inbound strategy - this has a number of key differences (as our pretty picture makes clear).

Inbound vs Interruption-Marketing

Taking this (more indirect) approach to marketing has helped companies avoid frustrating potential customers with banners and promotions.

It requires a different focus - you’re trying to build relationships not make a quick buck.

How does this translate to recruiting?

Create relationships not ads

Like customer acquisition, recruiting is about relationships.

In modern talent acquisition, candidates care about where they're applying - they're interested in a relationship with your brand.

People would avoid companies with bad employer brand[image-caption]Source: [image-caption-end]

Here are 2 reasons why inbound recruiting is a great framework to start this brand relationship.

i) It's non invasive

Ads are deliberately designed to get in the way, and people don't really like that (no wonder 'AdBlock' is one of the most installed extensions around).

Content gives people a choice. They can choose what they want to look at - no wonder it's responsible for over 90% of the clicks on the internet.

In an age where anyone viewing your content could be a candidate, this approach ensures your brand makes a positive impact.

ii) It's inexpensive

Advertising is budget dependent. It's easy for the biggest companies to dominate the market.

Content levels the playing field. If you take the time to produce something fantastic that your resonates with your target audience then you have a chance of taking on the big boys!

Here's a nice little chart from Hubspot that shows you exactly how cost effective this system is:

Cost of inbound

Case Study: Hootsuite

Hootsuite (social media management software) have killer content.

They've created dedicated an entire blog (and Twitter account) to providing unique insights into company life. Interested onlookers get to see behind the kimono, and are introduced to the talented individuals driving the company forward.

hootsuite office

They also connect with prospects via Twitter, holding weekly #HootChats to share learnings and advice about a range of topics.

It's a fantastic example of a company getting content right and writing about things that their 'target candidate' finds helpful.

You may not have the resources to tackle this on the same scale as Hootsuite, but what you should focus on is their style. What kind of content do they produce? How do they share it? How do they connect with potential candidates?

3. Creating and converting more hiring leads

Marketers are always testing and tweaking, looking for the clever tricks that will increase conversion and win new business. Whether it’s landing pages, copy, or images, there’s always something that can be improved!

It’s always surprised me that this mentality doesn’t extend to recruitment.

We forget that careers pages are still landing pages - they're whole point is to convert top talent! Want to know what else we’ve forgotten? The typical bounce rate from your careers page. It’s as high as 98%!

Moz head honcho Rand Fishkin argues that it’s crazy that we’re not addressing this properly. Fortunately, we have a way you can get started...

Stay in touch

Candidates leave your careers page because they're not ready to apply. Pure and simple.

As we'll explain later, it takes time to turn someone from a visitor into an applicant. Applying for a job is a pretty big personal investment.

To counter this, companies need to make it easier for candidates to become leads. Here are few great examples:

i) Start a community

Lockheed Martin are the gold standard here. The reason for their success? Specialization.

They've focused on one persona. Veterans.

Their 'military' community provides veterans with enormous value and helps them re-integrate themselves into civilian life.

Lockheed Martin Case Study

What do Lockheed get out of this? Well, they get to tap into a huge pool of talent that is grateful for the positive impact that the company has had on their life.

You may not have Lockheed's resources, but the key thing to learn here is focus. Communities based around a specific skillset or persona, will have a better chance of success than 'generalized' ones.

ii) Events

This could involve hosting an event yourself, or just sponsoring one. For example, Spotify recently sponsored the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Tech.

What does it offer a company like Spotify? Access to a pool of highly talented engineers (again note the singular focus), and the chance to make a positive statement in the ongoing 'Women in Tech' debate.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Recruiting

You don't need to do anything on this scale to have success with events. Try sponsoring a local Meetup to gauge value. Select your Meetup based on the position you're finding hardest to fill.

Here's a great resource to find Meetups near you.

_The beauty of both of these examples? _

They're focused on generating high quality hiring leads by incentivizing candidates to start a relationship with their brand. The next step is nurturing these leads...

4. Focusing on the funnel

The sales and marketing process is becoming more and more defined. We all know the importance of topping up our sales funnel, of having a constant stream of leads that we gradually convert into paying customers.

Hubspot break this process down into 4 distinct stages (diagram below), with tips to help you convert every stranger into a delighted customer.

It’s by no means an instantaneous process, the company’s sales reps will only contact a lead after they have shown significant interest and have been qualified by the marketing department.

Inbound Marketing (Hubspot)

The aim is not to rush things. Think about the last sales cold call you got – how receptive were you? Inbound sales lets a company establish a relationship and a certain level of trust with a lead before asking if they want to buy.

In the same way, top talent nowadays want you to put a little effort in. It's not enough to use content to connect. You have to nurture and build relationships.

Why is this important?

i) Inbound takes time

Not every candidate is wandering around the internet in a 'ready-to-apply state' - the inbound model can change this, but it takes time to come to fruition.

Companies need to work on moving new hiring leads through the candidate lifecycle (image below) with different types of content.The Candidate Lifecycle

It might be a blog post that initially brought a candidate to your site, but it could be an email or a carefully crafted job description (both forms of content) that gets someone to hit 'apply'.

According to Forrester research, it can take as many as 8 brand touchpoints to influence a decision. Content is a long term investment - you have to persevere with it to convince candidates to apply.

It takes 8 brand touchpoints to influence a decision!

You might not end up hiring everyone you make an effort with, but this isn’t important – you're building a hiring funnel. Maybe 6 months down the line a great salesperson will have read another one of your ebooks and changed his mind. Maybe a top engineer has been following your email updates and wants to get involved.

You never know when these relationships will start to pay off – invest the time in building them now to reap future rewards.

If you want to get the best value for your time investment and build a world class pipeline, I'd recommend checking out a demo of Beamery, and seeing if it's a fit!

ii) Get better quality applicants

Inbound may not have an immediate impact, but it can help you tackle one of the principal recruiting pain points - applicant quality.

We've all read about the perks that companies offer to lure in high flyers. This can be effective, who doesn’t like free lunch and an open bar, but it's not sustainable (and not available to everyone).

You also don’t really want someone who only wants to work at your company for the free coconut water, you need people who are inspired by your business vision.

Content is the way to achieve this. The longer a candidate spends in the 'decision making cycle', the more time they spend engaging with your content, the higher the likelihood that they'll be a standout applicant and make a great new hire!

The Candidate Decision Making Cycle

Why does this happen?

The candidate has had time to self-qualify. They actually understand your company, the role, and what you're looking for!

In other words, inbound recruiting helps you attract better quality talent and, at a time when recruiters admit that they wouldn't re-hire 39% of their recent hires, this makes a huge difference!

5. Capitalise on what’s working

How do we know what to prioritise if we don’t test what approaches work the best?

Answer: We don't.

This is why some form of analytics are a the final piece of the puzzle for every inbound recruiting strategy.

This doesn't need to get too complicated, you can use Google Analytics (free) to track how people are finding your content.

Here are a few things you should start measuring:

Inbound Recruiting Analytics

The key to inbound optimisation is finding the content that helps you connect with talented people and producing more of it! It could be anything from ebooks, videos or emails – make the most of whatever works for you.

Interested in digging deeper into recruiting analytics? We put together a pretty comprehensive breakdown here.


Great people are the lifeblood of our organisations, but we’re not doing enough to make sure we attract them.

Inbound recruiting is a simple way to step up our game. Building relationships with awesome candidates (even when we’re not hiring), investing in our recruitment pages and analysing what works best, are all tactics that can have a huge effect on how we hire.

Beg, steal and borrow from the inbound marketing toolbox to make your recruitment strategy the envy of your competitors!