Help Me, Wanda! #9: What is the Difference Between Recruitment Marketing and Marketing?

Help Me, Wanda! #9: What is the Difference Between Recruitment Marketing and Marketing?

Dear Wanda,

I attended an HR conference recently and was struck by how often I heard the phrase “recruitment marketing.” Not to be “that guy,” but back in my day, marketing was marketing. Why the sudden distinction between recruitment marketing and marketing? Aren’t we really talking about the same thing?

Sincerely,

That Guy

Dear That Guy,

I can guess by your question that you are likely in your twenties or thirties and when you say “back in your day” you are being facetious. If you were older than 40, your question might sound something like, “Why is everyone trying to introduce more marketing language and thinking into recruiting? I’m not a marketer.”

It’s only in the last decade-plus that talent acquisition has started taking lessons from the marketing team in attracting and converting prospects into candidates. In the days before the Internet, no one thought much about employer brands, candidate experience or talent attraction. Because once upon a time, if you lived in Baltimore, you looked for jobs in Baltimore, primarily using the Baltimore papers. Now, you can learn about jobs around the world, giving you a far wider perspective from which to make your career choices.

But in learning lessons from marketing, the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of marketers, absorbing the special knowledge of recruiting and pretending that selling a job is no different than selling cereal.

This isn’t meant to disparage marketers, some of whom I consider dear friends. But as they start to influence the language and thinking of recruitment professionals, we need to remember that there is a key different between recruitment marketing and consumer marketing.

Consumer marketing (or even business-to-business marketing) assumes that you want to sell as many things as possible. It demands that you not try to sell ten or twelve if you can sell a hundred or a thousand or a million. The overriding metric is quantity: how many sales, how many customers, how many widgets. In fact, the more you sell, the better your margins, as you can achieve cost efficiencies by producing in bulk. Everything is sell, sell, sell.

While tactics of recruitment marketing and consumer marketing share a great deal in common, don’t assume that what works for one will work for the other.

Compare that to recruitment marketing, where you really only have one thing to sell: a job. In a handful of instances, you might have a bundle of the same job if you’re staffing a new location, for example. But for every opening, you need only one great applicant. The primary metric isn’t quantity, it’s quality: wouldn’t you rather choose from two amazing candidates than a million mediocre ones?

Every other difference between recruitment marketing and consumer marketing stems from this single idea. For example, if you sell someone a mediocre product, they will leave. Sure, that’s not as valuable as keeping a long-term customer, but that’s not as expensive as making a bad hire – someone who will lower productivity, potentially lower morale, and even be expensive to terminate.

So while tactics of recruitment marketing and consumer marketing share a great deal in common, don’t assume that what works for one will work for the other.You need to consider if the tactic or strategy increases the quality of candidates instead of increasing the quantity of sales leads. There is a fundamental difference between the two that will likely keep them separate for quite some time.

Happy Hiring,

Wanda

Have a hiring question you’d like Wanda to answer? Tweet using the hashtag #HelpMeHire and your question could end up in a future “Help Me, Wanda!” column.

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Wanda
Written by Wanda

Wanda has spent the past 20 years in the recruitment marketing world, using her no-nonsense approach to hire the best talent for companies in need. She is a huge Montgomery Biscuits fan and craft beer aficionado. When not dispensing career advice, Wanda loves traveling the globe with her Chocolate Lab, Cooper. She currently resides in St. Louis but hopes to one day live on the moon and start her own improv training center.

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