Unless you’re Facebook, Amazon, Deloitte, or some other industry giant, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Values-based storytelling through great content can help.
I’ve recruited more than 200 people over the last 20 years. I’ve seen how there are always new challenges that make recruiting seem more difficult every year.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course.
One of the best ways to make it clear why someone should work for you isn’t through pay or benefits—it’s by sharing the values that stand behind your business and your team.
If you can communicate your values clearly, you get three advantages:
So how do you showcase your values in recruiting? You can tackle it in three ways:
But before you do any of this work, you need to make sure that you have clearly defined your values. This is more than a mission statement—although if you have one, a mission statement can be a good place to start. Defining your values determines what you want from the people who work for you.
Let’s do a quick exercise to discover your company values. Open up a blank word document, and copy and paste the below questions:
As you fill out your answers, you’re defining the specifics of what makes your organization’s culture different.
For a galaxy-brain version of this: send this questionnaire out to every employee of your company and collate the results. I can guarantee that you’ll be surprised by some.
Once your values are clear, you’re ready to start recruiting with them.
I’ve been a marketer for more than 20 years, and I tend to look at recruiting as the same as a marketing or sales job: find a good prospect (or candidate), persuade them to talk to you (or start the recruitment journey), and then convince them to buy your product (or join your company, since we’re talking about recruiting).
There are very established ways to market to potential customers, but most companies don’t think about marketing to potential job candidates.
If you’re reading this, though, here’s your chance to stand out from the pack and go chase down good candidates.
Start by figuring out your buyer’s persona—aka, your ideal candidate. Where can you reach them online or offline? What do they care about? What language do they use?
I’ll give an example of a campaign I ran to recruit candidates for a relatively small company in Poland. We were struggling to hire tech talent and planned a campaign around finding where they were and engaging them in an unexpected manner.
In our case, we found the bus and tram routes that the largest tech companies in town were on and advertised in and around those lines:
We were showcasing three elements of the company’s values: extraordinary commitment, a feeling of community, and a sense of playfulness and fun. People who wanted another quiet, ordinary job wouldn’t be interested in working for us, and they were less likely to engage in the ad anyway.
Once they visited the job listing, they’d be retargeted on StackOverflow and other developer-centric websites and reminded to complete the job application before the deadline ended.
What values can you communicate? How can you showcase them? Think of the step before your job posting: how are people finding your job posting? How can you make that reflect your values?
Your values may be different than a tech startup. Perhaps you’re a mission-driven organization that’s helping clean up plastic from the ocean, or you’re a nonprofit helping educate inner city youth. Whatever your values are, they should be reflected in how you talk to your potential candidates and where you found them in the first place.
From a marketer’s point of view, you want to make sure that your landing page for your ads—the job posting in this case—aligns with the message that brought people there.
When you write the job post, the temptation is to google “JOB NAME” and see what other people have written for their listing. That’s surely good enough, right? No!
(I’m not calling anyone out. I’ve done it myself.)
Your job description is the very first experience a new employee has with your company. If it’s generic and uninspired, that’s what a new hire will carry into his or her first day on the job.
Think of what this person will be doing. Think how you would describe the result of that work to a customer or a lead. Maybe that’s the best way to describe it to a potential employee, too?
As a guy with 20 years of experience in startups, I tend to think of any new job I’m trying to describe in terms of the responsibilities that they will own and the complexity of the problems that I expect they will solve.
My job descriptions tend to be written with those ideas in mind. But even with that goal, you can explain the role in contrasting ways that highlight your values.
Your values are about how you help solve a big problem that the whole world faces—whether it’s recycling or mindful wellness or just giving people a little entertainment in their day—so have that mission and those values resonate in how you talk about your role.
Once you’ve got applications (and the above campaign, by the way, got us more than 20 people who were currently employed and hadn’t been actively looking for work to apply to our key tech roles), you need to reinforce those values when you talk to them, too.
Everything up to this point can be ruined if you can’t walk the walk when you interview.
If you’re a company that emphasizes the human touch, your first call with the prospective candidate should only happen after you’ve taken five minutes to see what they’ve recently tweeted or posted about on Instagram.
If your values are about equality and humility, then having an office manager greet the applicant at the door instead of the hiring manager sends a false note.
And so on.
The best way to make sure that your candidate doesn’t feel like your in-person values align with your online ones is to make sure that you’re honest with yourself when you describe your values in the first place. Don’t make “fun” a core value of your company’s job post if you all wear suits, the walls are all grey, and no one ever cracks a smile at the office.
You tend to make a lot of assumptions when you recruit for someone. You think you know who your ideal candidate looks like. You have maybe spent two minutes thinking about the job title. Perhaps even fewer, if your company is large enough to have defined titles for most roles. You’ve written your job post, pushed it to Indeed.com and LinkedIn, and you figure you’re finished.
If you’re hiring for a critical role, you’ve really just started, though. No point in giving up working on improving your recruiting process just because you tried once.
There are many things you can test, but here’s what I tend to:
Values-based recruiting is about the explicit values of your company (“We build rocket ships…”) and also the implicit values in your company culture (“…while we’re organized about it we can still have fun.”).
Think about how you can showcase both of those in your next job posting, and I promise you’ll stand out from the pack.