Use Applicant Power Sources, Not Just Job Boards!
Have you dialed in your job boards but still struggle to get enough applicant flow?
Have you spent time trying to amplify it, but don't see an impact?
Are the applicants who are applying either unqualified or worse...ghosting you?
It's time to add a different type of sourcing power into your recruiting mix.
Here's the challenge...
I was talking to one of my longtime clients the other day who's struggling to find enough applicants. It's causing them to have to close some of their locations early, which has a major negative impact on their revenue. They've focused almost all of their recruiting attention up to this point on job boards. And that's an easy mistake to make.
When it comes to finding applicants, everybody, even outside of the HR world, believes that job boards are the only answer. The entire team looks to HR to solve the problem of finding enough qualified applicants for their job. If the only solution is job boards, then the person to solve it is the HR person or someone filling that role.
If you're in that role, and job boards are the focus, then you might be out of bullets to fire.
When we look at the data on the best employers in any industry, we can quickly see where some problems lie.
1. Complete reliance on just one source.
Now at its extreme, this might mean complete reliance on just a single job board. But it could also be complete reliance on job boards as the core primary focus of generating applicants.
2. Lack of focus on quality, over quantity.
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This includes focusing on counting how many applicants you're getting, instead of recognizing it may just be a vanity metric. It's nice to see the number. But if those applicants aren't actually qualified for the job and aren't hired, then it really isn't the number that we need to be focused on.
3. Lack of a deliberate, proactive plan to utilize more powerful sources of applicants.
4. Lack of management and team buy-in.
You need help outside of the HR department when it comes to solving this problem. But it's hard to get buy-in if you're not talking about it. And it's very difficult to get buy-in if you don't have a plan of attack.
I've been running the same company for over 15 year, which is a long time for a SaaS tech founder to be in a deal. One of the biggest lessons that I've learned over the last 15 years is that every blessing can be a curse. It comes down to one of my core mantras. It comes from ancient Greek philosophy.
It was triggered by the movie The Matrix. One of the things that it talks about is that there are these three core mantras from Delphi. One of them is "nothing in excess".
There's an interesting thing that happens as something starts working really well. Our gut says to push in to that thing. Drive it farther and farther and farther, which is an important thing to do. But one of the downsides, the curse, of having one thing that works really well for us is that we can become so fixated on it that we lose balance. We stop making sure we have a backup plan or utilizing other things that work at the same time.
Early on in our story at ApplicantPro...
This was about marketing and lead generation. We'd started off our company using some small resellers, all very specific ones who sold assessments. And it worked really great to get our initial clients... right up until a recession hit. When that recession hit, I had all of my eggs in one basket, which was these small resellers who all sold hiring assessments.
When the recession hit, resellers changed their business model and started focusing on employee development and performance. And instantly, I lost my lead flow.
But then, I pivoted. I started focusing on direct sales through search engine optimization. I used Google to get in front of HR people who, at that time, were searching for applicant tracking software. It was a great pivot. But to be honest, it was a pivot out of desperation. I had no other options.
You would hope that I learned my lesson at that point.
But what happened next was that I put almost all of my focus on this one source, which was Google. It ran up and we started seeing massive success from it. It drove our business forward, which was great. And once again, the primary job when you find a source that works is to amplify it and drive it to its peak performance. But, at the same time, I had to make sure that I was balancing out everything else. Because... what worked for us on Google stopped working after about three or four years.
Suddenly Google changed...
Competition caught up with what I was doing...
Instantly I was left, once again, struggling to drive my business forward. I'd become too reliant on one single source, search engines...
One of the biggest problems with Google as a source was that it was cheap and easy. In fact, it was free. The majority of all the business we were generating from that time didn't cost us any money. And while having a free source of lead flow is a huge blessing, it also can be a huge curse. It sets the concept in the mind of us, as marketers, the company, etc, that it doesn't cost any money to generate leads.
When you go to look for that next source...
When you have to pivot and solve problems...
When competition catches up with you or the economy/world changes...
Suddenly you're left flat-footed! You're left scrambling and desperate. This is like working out just one single muscle. While that muscle might become strong, the rest of the body falls out of balance, and out of the practice of solving problems.
To solve this problem at ApplicantPro, we decided it was time to mature ourselves as an organization, specifically as marketers...
We would become more proactive...
We made a plan of attack that gave us a balance of multiple sources: search engines, social media, trade shows, email marketing, as well as our partners and resellers...
We came up with a much more balanced approach to how we were going to go to market...
We would diversify.
We would optimize each of those sources or each of those channels individually by building a flywheel or an approach to what would make it work. Then we had a drumbeat for improvement in each of the areas, not just one single source.
Do you know what this did? It increased our confidence in running our company. We had more potential ways to solve problems when they crept up, such as a worldwide pandemic that disrupted the entire economy.
What does this have to do with hiring?
While you might think that this is just a rambling story about generating leads for my software company... it's not. Almost every single organization out there in the United States right now has made the same mistakes that I made.
When it comes to sourcing applicants. It's just marketing. And when you become overly reliant on a single source...
with no other backup plans
with no other sources
with no other balance
And worst case, with free being the only option
It's possible that those blessings, and the blessing of free traffic, have now become a curse though it might have worked before. We allowed the muscles (budgeting, approaches, all the other parts) to atrophy, become stacked, and become reactive.
We didn't build up the processes to strengthen and drive those assets and sources forward.
Apply this to your business...
I'm going to walk you through how to apply what I learned in marketing my own business. Improve marketing of job openings at your own company and get those opportunities to work for you.
First... You start with low-hanging fruit. Don't drop the ball on what's working. If job boards are working for you now, don't drop the ball on that. In fact, continue to optimize and improve it. You optimize job boards by...
writing better ads...
ensuring great distribution to all the different places...
maximizing conversion, and...
sponsoring jobs, or allocating budget to squeeze every last drop from the job boards.
But you don't stop there!
Second... We move up the tree. We start working our way up into some of that fruit that's harder to reach. Most of this doesn't have to do with spending money. That's why it's a bit harder. It has to do with building up programs and processes to engage your fans and followers. These are the types of people on social media, on your own website, and people who walk into your store. Look at people who are a part of Facebook or Linkedin groups geared around common ideas or concepts that are related to your business. These are phenomenal places to look where you can generate high-quality applicant flow. To drive forward, you're recruiting.
Finally... Move up to the fruit at the top of the tree. It's crazy hard to get to. We have to build a machine to get employees to become the promoters of our company and our jobs. At this pinnacle is where we drive the most value for the organization, the most long-term sustainable sourcing.
Why would we put so much effort into these other sources?
When looking at a normal sourcing report, it shows how many applicants we get from each source. What most companies will find is that job boards are driving the majority. They will contribute to as much as 90%+ of all applicant flow.
And there are two core problems with using this metric to decide where to allocate resources, time, attention, and money.
- Your data for the past shows you what WAS happening. It doesn't show you what could have happened if you did something different. That's right. If your company was only focused on job boards, then of course the results are going to show that the majority of your applicants come from job boards. But, that doesn't mean that it's the "best source." Job boards are the source generating the most applicants because of your approach. It's simply the results of your approach. If your approach is wrong, then the data is unable to predict what will work in the future.
- Focusing on the source of applicants is focusing on quantity, not quality. What you should do is focus on one of two other metrics:
The best source of interviews,
OR, The best source of hires...
At least that will reset your focus on quality. Because It doesn't matter how many applicants you get, If you don't actually hire those candidates anyway.
- Metrics won't help you know what to do next. The metrics that would be helpful to look at are not your metrics. They are the metrics of somebody who does a great job at balanced, proactive, powerful sourcing in your industry. That really is the hard part about metrics. Your metrics show you the results of your approach. If your approach is wrong or skewed, then they are not showing you proof of what works. They are not evidence of what you should work towards. Simply, it's almost pointless data. It just is a data point that shows you where you're starting as you progress to start solving it.
So, what should you look at to find sources with power?
Well, metrics aren't going to help you solve this problem. You need to come up with a plan and start drumbeating forward. You will need to track your progress.
The metrics that you want to look at are...
What is our mix of sources? We need to get a better balance so that we make sure we are driving a drumbeat forward, while also optimizing the job boards. This means improving our results from our fans, followers, and employee referrals.
Focus on the conversion rate or the power that a source has. Look at the number of hires, divided by the number of applicants from that source. You can look at this for your whole company, or you can drill down to location or job type level. What you will find is that for almost every organization/industry, fans, followers, and employee referrals have the most power. They have a substantial increase or overage of power compared to job boards. Meaning, they convert far more job seekers into new hires. We usually see around...
5-10 applicants per hire from employee referrals, fans, and followers,
Versus... 50-100 applicants per hire coming from the free job boards.
This doesn't mean job boards are bad. It means that the applicants coming from those job boards are less likely to be hired. Therefore, it takes more effort, more flow, and more energy on the job boards to make a single hire.
The entire goal of the power metric showing the conversion rate is to help your team understand that these other sources are a quality focus.Success isn't going to be measured by the sheer quantity of applicants we generate. It is going to be measured by the number of interviews or the number of hires that we get from these sources. If we focus only on applicants, our team will think they're failing. They won't believe in the power behind the actions they're taking.
The biggest takeaway is that these other sources don't require money.
They require consistent, deliberate proactive effort over time.
How do you go about solving these areas?
You have to set some goals as an organization. When it comes to sourcing applicants, you should have four main goals...
I'm not suggesting that you run away from job boards or stop using them. I'm actually suggesting that you use them even more, and then optimize and maximize your results from them. But you also must seek to diversify your mix of sources. Include other places that are more powerful, giving you balance and diversified options.
Use data to show the power and set the priority of the sources...
Again, instead of focusing on how many applicants you're getting per source, focus on the conversion rate with your team. Help them see that you're going to apply your time, effort, focus, creativity, on the sources that will most likely turn into hires.
You have to come up with a plan of attack...
This doesn't happen randomly, or without focus. You have to come up with a plan. Set your strategy, identify what rocks or goals you need to accomplish in the next one to three months. What actions are you going to take in the next week? You need to make sure that you have a focus on both projects, things you have to do to get everything in place. Flywheel what you have to do consistently every day, every week, every month to keep this going and evolving.
Keep consistent deliberate communication with management and employees.
This is one of the most overlooked parts of sourcing. These other sources, especially employee referrals, are powered through communication. The fuel that you add to the fire is not money. It's communication. It's deliberate, proactive, consistent communication with the team from top to bottom. That goes for every source.
Now, what is the plan?
- Set the vision or strategy
- Come up with those rocks.
- Break down the project into phases: preparation/setup, launch, flywheel, deliberate consistent action.
- Work iteration- you're going to stop and review to see what's working and what's not working. Then come up with another plan of attack and make those adjustments.
- Check on the drumbeat.
Finally, start looking at the metrics behind what's going on. Check the consistent action metrics, leading indicator metrics, and lagging indicator metrics to show progress and show what is working. You can see that things are progressing.
This is most likely brand new for most people who are trying to source applicants, whether you're an HR, business owner, admin... This may be outside of your comfort zone. It may be something you've never done before.
But I'm going to help over the next month. I will show you my approach for powering up sourcing in each of these areas. I will give you...
my plan of attack,
what I do with my checklists,
my actions, and
even my metrics,
so that you can simply use them as a template to implement on your own.
If you just can't wait... If sourcing is such a pain for your organization, that you can't possibly wait another day to start fixing this.... I'm here to help with that as well.
Let me know! Hit me up... I'd be more than happy to schedule a one on one call with you
to create a strategy for your organization to show you what you need to do next. Most importantly, to show you how I can help.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to shoot me an email.
Otherwise until next time... good luck hiring!
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