Bonus Content

Recruiting Looks a Lot Like Marketing

By Jan Niehaus

The competition among electrical distributors for capable, enthusiastic employees is intense and growing more so. In the warehousing industry in 2015, vacant positions remained so, on average, 29.5 days—almost six weeks.

Recruiting professionals are getting downright aggressive, tossing around phrases like “employment brand” and “prospect engagement”—language typically associated with marketing and sales. The more progressive recruiters have, in fact, taken a page from marketing’s playbook, starting with social media. According to CareerBuilder, 94% of recruiters in search firms use social media, while 39% of employers have integrated social media into their recruiting processes.

Social media is the primary search tool for 29% of all job-seekers, Jobvite reported in their 2015 “Job Seeker Nation Study.” According to LinkedIn, 44% of all employee referrals come in through social media. The Aberdeen Group reported that 73% of 18- to 34-year-olds scored their last job via social media.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google top the list, but Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, and Meetup are gaining ground. Recruiters and prospects still use job boards, such as CareerBuilder and Indeed, and they also communicate via text, email, telephone, Skype, and videoconferencing, plus face-to-face meetings during the later stages of the process.

Beyond researching the talent pool and communicating with employment candidates, the most competitive companies are using these same social media platforms as marketing vehicles. Companies’ LinkedIn and Google pages direct prospects to YouTube video testimonials by current employees and tours of the workplace. Since corporate culture plays a major role in Millennials’ employment choices, these videos show deeply engaged employees, animated teamwork, and rewarding employee-customer interactions. Enlightened companies are also publicizing their community and environmental activities, linking when possible to third-party websites, e.g., Habitat for Humanity, that recognize the companies’ involvement and contributions.

But companies can—and should—convey their culture and values without talking directly about themselves. Articles, white papers, e-books, blogs, and social media posts can simply educate, inform, or entertain on topics that are known to be of interest to their employment targets, e.g., technology, sports, fashion, travel. When a company’s activities are genuinely newsworthy, the smartest recruiters are working with their PR counterparts to literally “alert the media” and then share like crazy through every available recruiting channel. Copying marketing’s proverbial “call to action,” employers make it easy for applicants to submit applications and upload LinkedIn profiles and video resumes. The most complete recruiting websites open two-way communication, publishing FAQs and also inviting prospects to submit their own questions.

Websites such as Glassdoor, Muse, and Fairygodboss offer supposedly candid peeks inside companies through the eyes of current and previous employees. Employers have no control over these posts, but they must pay attention and exercise immediate damage control, when necessary, through their own social channels.

Print corporate brochures and employee newsletters are staples in corporate communications libraries, showcasing companies’ accomplishments, goals, values, and cultures, while celebrating their partners, e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, industry affiliates. These print publications—available, too, as PDFs—are valuable recruiting tools, as are fliers, direct mail, and posters.

While social media may be the sexiest new recruiting avenue, electrical distributors have not abandoned their tried-and-true incentivized referral programs, increasing the impact by inviting employees to share the news of vacancies with their own online friends and colleagues. Distributors are also elevating their presence within universities, community colleges, and vocational-technical schools, sending employees in as guest lecturers in classes focused on business, industry, and women’s studies. Internships are growing in popularity, too, and some companies invite candidates to company picnics and open house events. And, of course, every one of these activities is broadcast through the companies’ social media channels.

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Every successful marketing department monitors and analyzes the effectiveness of their campaigns, tracking click-through, open rates, and myriad other metrics. HR and recruiting professionals must do the same, collecting and analyzing data to identify the most effective channels and refine their recruiting and selection processes.

Many commercial automated tools are available to help recruiters identify active and passive prospects; evaluate their strengths; initiate regular, meaningful contact; record communications; monitor candidates’ progress through the hiring funnel; and schedule events, such as Skype interviews and Meetup gatherings. Before investing in any of these recruiting tools, IT should ensure compatibility with the company’s existing systems.

The results of all this electronic engagement may be an impenetrable wall of indecipherable digits or data with invaluable insights into a company’s recruiting resources, activities, and success. The chosen platforms must enable recruiters to isolate the factors that have led to the most successful hires: Which social media channels? Which schools? What educational background, e.g., business, engineering, communications? What experience, e.g., contracting, manufacturing, retail, military? Actual collaboration with marketing, PR, and IT departments may reveal additional questions, tools, and routes to recruiting success.


Niehaus, president of Communication by Design (, serves the electrical industry by creating marketing communications and custom training programs, often applying her extensive knowledge of sustainability. Jan writes regularly for tED and designed and scripted NAED’s “Selling Green 101” curriculum. She can be reached at 314-644-4135 or


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