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Written by Chris Walsh, Head of Marketing

In recruitment marketing, strategists often align marketing activities with a recruitment “funnel.” It’s a simple construct borrowed from traditional business to consumer marketing. The idea is that, like a liquid-filled funnel, there’s more liquid at the top than the bottom and gravity does the work, pulling water through the funnel. In the recruitment funnel, marketing activities draw candidates from awareness at the top to interest in the middle. Then at application, recruiting kicks in and converts applicants to hires through the recruitment process. I’ve seen the image below, and many like it published on various recruiting websites and blogs.

It’s a nice construct, but in our view, it falls short in a few ways.

First, the primary purpose in using a funnel is conservation, but the purpose of the TA process is filtration. People primarily use a funnel to transfer liquid between two containers without spilling. But in talent acquisition, the recruitment process is more about filtering than funneling. At Personify, our goal isn’t to get all the candidates through the funnel–it’s to get the best candidates through. Success for us is defined as quickly and efficiently providing hiring managers with a rich assortment of well-qualified candidates from which to choose, and they hire the best one–not everyone.

Second, the funnel construct suggests a clean break in the process and a transfer of responsibilities between recruitment marketing and recruiting at a specific point in the funnel. Once a candidate is “interested” in a position, recruitment marketing’s job is complete, and recruiting takes over to convert an interested candidate into a hire. At Personify, recruitment marketing is an ongoing activity that doesn’t end when we create interest. Because we submit multiple qualified candidates for each requisition, we inherently have suitable candidates who don’t get an offer, withdraw before offer, or occasionally even decline an offer. Personify’s recruitment marketing team plays a continuing role not represented in the typical funnel construct. Even after a requisition is filled, Personify continues to market the employer brand and its jobs to well-qualified individuals through talent communities, career fairs, and content creation that keeps candidates up-to-date about the brand through email, DM, text, and social media. After all, for our growing clients, there is a high likelihood we’ll hire again for a similar role–why not maintain a bench of ready talent?

The third shortcoming of the funnel analogy is that it lacks actionable insight for recruitment marketing by failing to recognize candidate needs, wants, and motivations. After all, we’re not putting drops of water through the funnel—these are real human beings. While brands and talent acquisition specialist have their plans, so do the people we seek to hire, so they don’t always “flow” through the funnel on the employer’s terms. Sometimes candidates opt-in or out of the process for their reasons on their schedules, which can be very inconvenient (not to mention frustrating) for employers, hiring managers, and recruiters. Did you ever have a Registered Nurse, Software Engineer, or other hard-to-find candidate withdraw from the process at the offer stage? It’s devastating. But suppose we had a recruitment marketing construct that prioritized candidate needs and desires in our thinking, process, and activities. In that case, we might create a more efficient and satisfying recruitment and hiring process for all involved.

So how can we think “outside the funnel”? Personify’s take: Experiences > Funnels

What are the most successful consumer brands you know? Perhaps brands like Apple, USAA, or Zappos come to mind. These brands are famous for being exceptionally consumer-centric. And as Forbes.com (https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/06/30/100-of-the-most-customer-centric-companies/?sh=262dd90d63c3) stated, “customer-centric companies live and breathe their customers and are laser-focused on providing amazing experiences [emphasis added]…brands that have superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors.” Brands that want to win the war for talent in tight labor markets will do the same thing—they’ll put candidates on a pedestal and build a superior experience around them based on candidate (customer) needs and wants.

So instead of putting candidates through a hiring process (a.k.a funnel) built to serve the employer’s requirements, Personify starts by identifying candidate motivations, needs, and wants throughout the job-seeking experience to help recognize and deliver on the candidate’s needs first. Personify walks in the candidate’s shoes to identify distinct phases, mindsets, and motivations. This leads us to develop richer experience insights allowing us to create the best possible candidate experience. It’s a bit of a mind shift, but when you put yourself in the candidate’s shoes first, you end up building an exceptional candidate-centric experience that gets more, better candidates to “yes” faster while differentiating your brand.

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