How does Product Market Fit apply to Talent Acquisition?
What is Product Market Fit (PMF)? Essentially, it is how you go about bringing in users and turning them into active paying customers. If you translate that to recruitment speak you’re talking about “bringing in more candidates and turning them into employees”. For further information check out this Quora thread.
Within talent acquisition we apply some of the tactics used to ensure PMF, although the majority of us do it in a very basic, inefficient manner. Rarely are we researching, testing, and improving our approach to candidate attraction.
Consider our current approach to sourcing and attracting candidates. A vacancy arises, you search your database, you seek out referrals, post to job boards and use LinkedIn. Some of you may have a talent community to draw upon, or use an agency. You hire someone. Ask yourself a few of the following questions:
- Do you know which source provided you the best return on investment?
- How much are you investing in your tactics, and could you do it better, and cheaper?
- Could you have reached a wider, better targeted audience using alternative methods?
- Are you doing exactly what everyone else is doing, and therefore competing for the same candidates?
- Is your career site or job advertisement targeting the audience you need and converting them to applications?
Most of us will have access to some of this data through our various HR and Recruitment software. Some of us will have employee value propositions and employer branding which we serve up to one and all. Is the data accurate? Has your investment in EVP and employer branding worked? How are you continually improving to ensure you have the best fit candidates to help your business achieve its goals?
We can learn a thing or two from software startups to help us increase the quality of our candidates and the number of quality candidates moving through our funnel. Here’s how.
Firstly, you need to ensure you understand your target audience. You may have already done some of this research through your own EVP efforts or brand positioning. I won’t go into detail around how to do this as there are many articles already on employer branding and EVP. What I’m more interested in is in what you can do with that data.
Product Market Fit
What we don’t see a lot of at the moment is the development of candidate personas. Here’s a good blog about candidate personas. Developing candidate personas allows you to really target your messaging to candidates. This would likely see an increase in more qualified candidates to your funnel.
Example: You are recruiting for a large construction company. Would you use the same language in a job advertisement to
hire an experienced Project Manager and an inexperienced Machine Operator? Sure, the responsibilities would be different, but would you use the same tone, same word choice, same reasons (the “Why”) they should apply? If you did, what type of response would you get? Should you use different language for different regions?
Growth Hackers call this language market fit. How well you describe the benefits of your organis
ation, the role, and how well it resonates with your target audience. It applies to all your messaging to candidates from every screen to every message.
Are you experimenting with the language you are using in your advertising? If not, you should be. Check out Textio for a tool to help with your job ads. Is your language too masculine? Are there too many bullet points? Is it laden with jargon? All of this is important in a world where an entire internet is competing for the human attention span which is worse than that of a goldfish.
Eight seconds. No, not that nineties Luke Perry rodeo movie, but the average attention span we spend on new information online. Down from 12 seconds in 2000 – cat videos really did a number on us, apparently. So, your message needs to be bang on. You have eight seconds or less to grab your candidates’ attention and keep them on your page or site with the view to convincing them to apply or at least register their interest.
Some digital marketers say use more bullet points, others will say don’t use any. Job boards will say include salary information in order to increase applicants by X. A lot of this stuff can be situational, or industry-specific. Experiment and find out what works for you and more importantly, what’s working for your candidates. Yes, this all takes a lot of time upfront, but less so down the track. The long-term game is to increase the quality of applicants coming through your pipeline, doing so more efficiently and at lower cost.
Channel market fit
Using the same example above, would you then use the same sources to hire this person? Where will you invest your time, money and effort to find a Project Manager versus a Machine Operator? Which will provide you a better quality of candidate and return on investment? Are you using the same channel as everyone else? This is channel market fit.
Depending on your ATS, you should have access to your sources of hire. You need to interrogate this data in terms of volume and quality. Research which sources might be better for your company and this specific vacancy.
Growth hacking breaks down sources into three categories. Word of mouth, organic and paid.
Word of mouth (or viral marketing) for us in recruitment includes social media, referral programs, talent communities, online video, and gamification.
Organic marketing would include, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), speaking engagements, content marketing, email marketing, talent community, articles
Paid marketing includes offline ads such as print, tv, radio. Google adwords, geofencing, job boards, review sites etc.
Which of these are getting the right candidates into your funnel? Do you know? You need to be exploring these and then choosing a few to experiment with.
Example: You’re recruiting for a software engineer. Traditionally you post on LinkedIn and various job boards. You get no applications from LinkedIn, you get the majority of applicants from one job board but they are low quality, and you get a couple of higher quality candidates from a specialist job board and one employee referral. Compare this to a growth hacking example.
Growth hacking example: You’d do some research to understand your candidates behaviour. What social or professional platforms do they use, if they searched keywords what words or phrases would they use, what conferences or meetups do they attend, what do they read or watch, etc. You’d then start to look at your tactics and do some of the following:
- Build a SEO, SEM, or Adwords campaign (even better if each vacancy has its own landing page). Tweak the data to see what gets better results.
- Use geofencing to target software engineers attending a conference or working at a particular location.
- Create an exciting “a day in the life” video for viral marketing. Place the video at the top of a vacancy posting, then at the bottom. See which gets more views.
- Build active and engaged talent communities.
- Sponsor or hold an event targeting software engineers, whether it be a hackathon or meetup.
- Run several job ads for the same position, but use different language, formats, info and see which one gets the best result.
- Deploy several email marketing campaigns using different subject headings, slightly different content and see which gets better results.
These tactics aren’t all that hard to do. You might need to draw on some internal expertise but they are all (apart from geofencing) relatively inexpensive and quick to implement. The key here is to research, test, measure, improve. Stop using those sources that aren’t providing you the best return, and focus on those which are.
Here are some key takeaways if you don’t have the time to read this blog;
- EVP and Employer Branding is great, but mostly generic and mostly a ‘one size fits all’ approach
- Candidate personas allow for more specific targeting and therefor lead to better conversion rates of higher quality candidates
- Consistent messaging is critical from the words and phrases you choose, the tone used, as well as each and every candidate contact point such as career site, job vacancy, emails, and messaging
- Research, experiment, and measure to get the best outcomes for your marketing spend
- A bit of time investment upfront will lead to better quality candidates, and increased return on investment
- Failure is just another word for advancement and improvement.
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