November 1, 2019

Building Personal Recruitment Brands: How Staffing Firms Can Shine in a Crowded Galaxy

Like modern consumers, today’s job seekers know what they want. And our digital world has empowered them with greater choices, more convenience, access to volumes of online research, and the ability to transact over the Internet. In some ways, job searches have started to evolve in subtle ways that mirror the e-commerce approach most of us rely on routinely for material purchases. We reserve movie tickets online, we book travel online, we select retailers based on online reviews, and we even buy groceries through our computers or smartphones. Candidates too are conducting their job hunting business across digital platforms, and they have transformed into careful shoppers rather than impulse buyers. Successful recruiting, therefore, has shifted to become more of an exercise in marketing and business development. As recruiters take up this mantle and bolster their online presence, personal branding is more imperative than ever before. 

Recruiters or Candidate Marketing Professionals?

Finding talent for client or MSP programs isn’t significantly different than courting new customers. As Decision Toolbox CEO Kim Shepherd noted in 2015, the sales process aligns well with modern recruitment necessities: “The first step is to treat candidates as customers—not only because it will help land talent, but also because every candidate is, in fact, also a potential customer. That means nurturing every candidate who sends a résumé.”

In a business development approach to staffing, recruiting professionals should begin thinking of prospective talent as leads to be enticed and nurtured.

  • Define a meaningful value proposition to give candidates a reason for leaving their current positions for one that offers a better culture, closer alignment with personal and professional aspirations, opportunities to develop new skills, a meaningful career path, and more.
  • Craft the value proposition into a message that has appeal and a hook.
  • Distribute that message through every channel that matters.
  • Manage leads, stay in contact with them, and follow up until the deal is closed.
  • Use applicant tracking systems (ATS) the same way business development professionals use customer relationship management software (CRMs): develop a pipeline, measure leads through analytics, monitor conversion rates, and use the data as business intelligence for honing processes and forecasting. 

So much of modern recruitment marketing emphasizes engagement, social media interaction, and the promotion of a robust employment brand, for the agency as well as the client. But what about the recruiters themselves? As representatives and the primary points-of-contact for candidates, they too have a brand—even if they aren’t aware of it. Writing for Forbes, William Arruda discussed the importance of personal branding in the digital world:

In many ways, digital branding has leveled the playing field and enabled more professionals to increase their visibility with people – people who could be instrumental in accelerating their career trajectory. Being online gives you a platform that’s not connected to your title or how many people work for you. Instead, it allows you to share your knowledge, expertise, and opinions so you can connect with key stakeholders and build meaningful relationships.
That means the flesh-and-bones you need to be translated to the bits-and-bytes you. But the old rules of personal branding still apply. 

Arruda went on to describe “six sacred rules for personal branding.” Let’s take a look at these principles and see how we can apply them to staffing.

Fundamentals of Personal Branding for Recruiters

Nail Down Your Unique Value Proposition

Just as an employment brand showcases the differentiators, benefits, and promise of value to candidates, a recruiter’s personal brand should accomplish the same ends. “You must be clear about who you are, what separates you from your peers, and what your message is,” explained Arruda. “Visibility has no value without clarity.”

The Internet is a noisy, boisterous, crowded space. For a recruiter’s voice to rise above the din, it must be clear, unique, and convey a sense of individuality. However, this means more than doctoring up a clever bio on LinkedIn, although that’s essential too. 

  • Highlight specific areas of focus, such as industries, job titles, skills, and client or MSP programs regularly supported. Offer succinct case studies, overviews of methodologies, or representative examples of success to demonstrate the proof in the pudding.
  • Provide details on what makes your approach to recruiting different. Stand out. Examples may include ways you enhance the candidate experience, your means of engagement, your communication style, how you advocate for candidates during resume presentations or negotiations, etc.
  • List the value adds you deliver to candidates, which may separate you from competitors.

Know Your Community

Today, building out candidate pipelines is more like developing talent communities. And client or MSP contact lists should be more like networks. Focus on your core, proven strengths and create communities that reflect them. 

  • Key MSP program managers
  • Client hiring managers or decision makers
  • Industry influencers, associations, and groups
  • Peers inside and outside the programs you support
  • Past performers who can be redeployed as strong candidates for upcoming roles
  • Prospective workers and passive talent who are ideal matches to the positions you frequently fill

Stay LinkedIn

Yes, trite as it may sound, LinkedIn endures as a sort of Holy Grail for a lot of hiring and sourcing initiatives. “LinkedIn is the place people go when they want to learn about you in a professional capacity – so make sure your profile is the online version of you,” Arruda recommended.

  •  Concentrate on your headline, and make sure it captures attention. Instead of going with something traditional and overused (e.g., “I recruit for ABC company”), try something unconventional (e.g., “Hungry Recruiter Looking for Hungry Candidates,” “Smart Person Hiring Smart People,” etc.).
  • Include an accurate and professional headshot. If possible, pay to have one taken or find a photog friend.
  • Make sure your summary includes the elements we mentioned in the first point about your unique value proposition.

When posting jobs on LinkedIn, also try to rouse notice by breaking the mold with fresh and interesting subject lines. Today’s job seekers are a different breed—digital natives who grew up in an era of colloquial social media, memes, and Internet humor. Get creative. Go crazy. Experiment and see what works. Here are some “out there” concepts that have actually gotten results in the past.

  • My Client in Mountain View is “Jonesing” for a Sr. Android Developer. Are You the Fix?
  • My Client Said, “Find a Tech Writer Who’s the Shakespeare of Schema?” Is That You?
  • Are You the Hemingway of HTML? ‘Cause a Client in Seattle Needs One.
  • Need First Class Customer Service Reps to Solve First World Problems. Toronto, ON
  • Help Me, Menlo Park Product Support Analysts. You’re My Only Hope.
  • Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? No Idea. But My Client in Redmond Needs Software Engineers!
  • Sick of Great Software Engineering Jobs in Menlo Park? Then Ignore This Message.
  • Client Needs Android Developer to Help Find the Droids They’re Looking For.
  • Why Did the Product Analyst Cross the Road? To Get this Rad Job in Menlo Park.
  • The Top Reason Software Engineers Need Jobs? They Haven’t Talked to Me Yet
  • Ugh. This Growing Company Needs ANOTHER Software Engineer. Can You Help?
  • Great Job Opportunity or GREATEST Job Opportunity? Find Out. Software Engineer. Menlo Park
  • Help Us Achieve World Peace. Sr. Android Developer in Redmond. Baby Steps, You Know.
  • Stop the Nightmares, We’ve Got Your Dream Job.
  • Zuckerberg Got Fired? Made You Look. How About a Software Engineering Job in Phoenix?

Select Your Social Networks

“You’ll be more likely to adopt a regular habit of interacting with your brand community online if you enjoy the process,” Arruda said. “If you like visuals, consider Instagram. If you like to share pithy, witty quips, Twitter is your tool. You can’t beat LinkedIn as a place for making your articles visible.”

In recruiting, not every social network is the right tool for the job. But then, you never know until you try. The best way to determine your social media preference is to analyze the platforms that the bulk of your primary candidates use. So if you’ve discovered most of your talent via Facebook, make a concerted effort to create a vibrant Facebook profile, post regularly, engage your audience, and interact diligently. 

Be Present

The most compelling brands, whether personal or professional, are visible. You need your community to see you, and you must remain present when they respond. Like marketing experts, take a stab at creating an editorial calendar or schedule for posting. The prevailing best practices for social media publishing are:

  • 4 to 6 times daily for Twitter
  • 1 to 2 times a day for Facebook
  • 1 a day for LinkedIn

All of that said, you don’t really need to post every single day. The secret is staying active and participating in the community you’re constructing. “Commenting on others’ contributions and sharing it with your brand community is a great way to stay engaged with your people,” Arruda suggested.

Analyze Your Data

To expand your “sphere of influence,” as Arruda called it, and continue to grow your community, you must analyze performance and audience data. Fortunately, there are tons of resources that include analytics for social media, such as HootSuite and Buffer. Maintaining and enriching a flourishing brand involves determining what’s working for you and what’s not. Data hold the key. Consider metrics such as:

  • Increasing or decreasing number of followers and connections
  • Views 
  • Interactions such as comments and shares

Beyond the basics, you can also follow the best practices of inbound marketing and “score your leads.” 

  • Assign scores to potential candidates based on the information they’ve given and how they’ve engaged with your brand across the Internet.
  • Look at contacts who become submitted candidates or signed a Right to Represent (RTR) and determine benchmarks and trends; find commonalities and patterns.
  • Discover attributes of contacts who didn’t become candidates
  • Demographics, website or social media behavior, employment status, LinkedIn connections, etc.
  • Decide which attributes should be weighted heavily based on fit

You Don’t Need to Be a Rockstar to Be a Shining Star

In this digital century, savvy staffing agencies should be training their recruiters in the arts of inbound marketing and sales. And while that’s a much more complex topic, there are simple steps recruiters can take to begin the process. Staffing firms that help their professionals establish compelling brands will shine in a galaxy already overcrowded with emerging or dimming stars.

Photo by Noah Näf on Unsplash

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