Dave talks to… Mitch Sullivan – Talent Matters Podcast


The One Where They Talk About…

  • The rise in importance of marketing
  • Recruiter branding
  • Job ads as a crucial marketing function
  • Speed v quality – the modern recruiter’s dilemma
  • The recruiter as salesperson and marketer
  • Building your own talent pool to become more self-sufficient

In the second episode of the eagerly awaited return of our Talent Matters podcast series, Wave CEO Dave Jenkins is joined by another well-known face in recruitment, Mitch Sullivan. He is seen by many as a LinkedIn Legend and Copywriting Guru, though Mitch refers to himself as a trainer and e-commerce business owner these days thanks to the success of his online Copywriting for Recruiters courses. Of course he is also an author, having penned the brilliantly acerbic On Recruitment.

If you haven’t listened to the podcast episode yet, it is well worth 30 minutes of your time but in the meantime we’ve pulled together the crux of the conversation.

Marketing is being given the respect it deserves

What’s exciting in this new wave of social recruitment is that there are lots of interesting voices in recruitment and it’s great fun watching younger people posting content that you really like. Ultimately, it’s the result of marketing being taken seriously – and not just in recruitment. A lot of other people on LinkedIn are putting out great content, great ads, great visuals and really causing people to sit up and pay attention. There are also lots of businesses popping up specialising in recruitment marketing and copywriting and they are being taken more seriously.

Can recruitment agencies ever really have a brand?

Mitch – never one to shy away from a controversial statement – argues that, if you define a brand as the way somebody thinks or feels when they encounter a business or name, no agency can have a brand. However, individuals will evoke a reaction and can be associated with a value, approach, way of thinking, or style. Social media has given the power back to the individual as it allows them to build a personal brand and use that to form connections and nurture relationships.

Job adverts are the most effective way to build a brand

Job advertising is the most measurable, most instant form of recruitment marketing and this is where branding comes into it. The most effective way for a recruitment agency to build a brand is to be remembered for putting out good job ads.

Job ad quality is crucial and deserves an investment of time

Many recruiters rely heavily on the job description when constructing job adverts. Why? There are a number of elements at play here. If they’re an agency, they might be trying to anonymise as much as possible. It could just be that they’re incredibly busy, or that they’ve been told to do it that way. The risk is that writing the job ad becomes as much a function of admin as marketing which is a tragedy because crafting a job ad that will be found in searches, that resonates, that appeals, and that encourages the candidates to find out more or to apply is a skill and deserves to have time spent on it. The great news is that you don’t need to be a good writer to be an effective copywriter. A common mistake recruiters make when writing their first job ad isn’t the quality of writing, it’s the structure of the content. There’s a logical way to structure content based on what the reader most wants to know. Simply humanising your job copy, writing it for people to read, can go a long way.

The dawn of the job board changed the pace of recruitment…

In the days of press advertising, agencies would never publish what they do now on job boards. Ad space was incredibly expensive and your ads would go out maybe once a week. That meant you had the time to spend crafting the perfect job ad but also the expense of it meant that you had to get it right to ensure a reasonable ROI. As soon as speed became the priority, the quality changed. When job boards started to really take root in the 2000s, they rapidly became the de facto route to advertise jobs. Everyone had email, now everyone could find jobs quickly, react to them immediately and send their CV over instantly. For those first few years, speed and convenience trumped job ad quality and the climate changed so incrementally over 15 years that everyone just got used to it.

… and the internet made forming relationships harder

As online recruitment became ubiquitous, agencies changed, becoming vertical rather than horizontal. Many went more niche and could service wider geographical areas. At the same time, the law changed so that you didn’t have to meet every candidate at interview. This again sped up the process and made things more convenient for both candidate and recruiter. However, having to meet candidates created a greater warmth, a connection. It’s also changed how jobs are sold. Once everything started from a phone, now everything starts from a keyboard. Without that immediate connection, recruiters have to get better at writing as the job ad is often the first point of contact. There are plenty of resources out there to help with that. What’s important to remember is that most of the time it’s logistically not feasible for any recruiter – whether in-house or agency – to produce a really good ad for every job they work on but what they can do is produce more effective ads for every job. That is something that can realistically be achieved.

Recruiters as both salespeople and marketers

In today’s market, do recruiters need to be more marketing, less sales or does there need to be a whole new skill set that’s perhaps a hybrid of those? Recruiting should probably be viewed as ‘selling light’. You can’t sell a job in a job ad, all you can do is sell the idea that it’s worth finding more about it. It’s a lead generator and that has to be acknowledged and recognised. The real selling begins once you start to talk to people but even then recruiters can only take selling so far because two parties have to meet each other, like each other and form a contract and that’s something recruiters can’t wholly have influence over on either side. In that sense, recruiters are more in the promotion business than the selling business. Ultimately, sensitivity to both sales and marketing are needed. What should be remembered is that you’re dealing with two sets of moving parts, both of which are liable to change in an instant, sometimes irrationally. It’s why recruitment can be a tough industry.

Alternative recruitment strategies are vital right now

This is aimed largely at permanent recruiters, especially those with a niche, but applies to some degree to most agencies. With soaring job board prices and a general lack of jobseekers, recruiters need to widen their search for talented candidates. First and foremost, they should be carrying a proprietary database, collecting candidate details and storing them in their CRM. They should be building an audience on LinkedIn. The stronger those approaches get, the less reliant on a single source, such as job boards, recruiters will have to be. Growing an audience, making connections, forming and nurturing relationships, will all help to build up instant access to people who do the types of jobs you need to fill.

Watch this space for further Talent Matters podcasts, coming very soon. Next up is Nick Dean, Chair of ADLIB and enable. Tune in for shed loads of advice and fascinating insights into the world of recruitment and what it’s like to run a 100% employee-owned, B Corp certified business.