November 1, 2003   view past issues

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Feature: Are You Spamming Your Prospects-II?

This feature is the second in a two-part column on communications with candidates. To read the first column, please visit the archive of WEDDLE’s Newsletters for Recruiters and click on the newsletter dated October 15, 2003.

We’re sinking deeper and deeper into it. Every day, it creeps up a little further, suffocating the minutes and even hours of our day. It is the quicksand we call spam. The inexorable, ever rising muck of e-mail messages that we do not want to receive and/or have no interest in.

And yet, not all commercial communications over the Web are spam. Some we consider useful and helpful and are happy to receive. They inform us or entertain us or introduce us to some product or service we are pleased to know about. In other words, spam is in the eye of the beholder. Each of us knows it when we see it, but all of us see it differently.

So, how can we ensure that our communications aren’t spam? Recruiters, after all, are constantly sending a wide array of messages to candidates. They include:

  • Job postings,
  • Career site content,
  • Auto-responses to job applications,
  • E-mail communications to prospects and applicants, and
  • E-mail communications to those whose resumes are archived in our candidate database.
  • How can we ensure that these messages are viewed positively by their recipients and not as just one more volley of spam with which they must contend?

    The answer is both simple and challenging: we must give each and all of our communications the Eye of the Beholder test. Here’s what I mean. The messages most of us consider spam are those that we wish we had not received. We quickly evaluate their value to us and decide that they are not interesting or helpful or both. They are, in essence, a waste of our time in a world where our time is ever more limited and precious. And, that’s where the Eye of the Beholder test comes in. To make sure that our messages aren’t viewed negatively, we must know what the beholders want to see.

    How can we do that? Customer research. We’re trying to sell the top talent among prospective candidates on the value proposition of working for our employer. To accomplish our objective, we have to know what they want, what motivates them to action and what will distinguish one offer-ours-from another. When we begin to probe for the answers to those questions, however, we will quickly discover what our colleagues in sales and marketing have learned over the years: all customers are not the same. Most IT candidates, for example, have goals and interests and motivations that are different from most Finance candidates, and they are both, in turn, very different from candidates in Engineering. And, even within a single career field, entry level candidates are clearly different from more seasoned prospects and those living in the Midwest are very likely to be different from those living in California or New York.

    Our customer research, therefore, must help us identify and understand these differences so that we can use that knowledge to tailor our communications with candidates-to shape them to their unique and specific interests, issues and concerns. The greater that tailoring, the greater the likelihood that the beholder of our messages will view them as positive, useful and appropriate. Or, to put it another way, the more tailored our messages, the less like spam they will seem.

    You have a number of options available to you for conducting such research:

  • Use your recruitment advertising agency. They have experts on staff who know how to acquire the information you need and, no less important, how to use that information to inform and influence your prime prospects.
  • Use your internal marketing and/or communications staff. Not all of these groups have the research expertise you need, but those that do are often every bit as sophisticated as external resources.
  • Do it yourself. Conduct focus groups with select members of your workforce among those career fields where you do the majority of your recruiting. Ask them why they “bought” your employer’s value proposition and how you could best articulate that message to their peers outside the organization. Then, use that insight to tailor all of your communications (see the list above) with those candidates.

    Now, I know this seems like a lot more work, and you’re right, it is. In my view, however, such precision messaging is the only way to win the War for the Best Talent. You can probably recruit mediocre talent with spam, but you need sophisticated marketing messages to recruit A and B level performers. And therein lies the key to getting the job done. Using smart messages to recruit top talent enables you to acquire the additional resources-financial, staff and other support-you’ll need to do this work. Sure, it will take some stretching in the beginning, but once those early results are in, they will quickly pay off. Why? Because you can measure and monetize the impact of hiring better talent; it’s a real and tangible return that justifies an investment. And, as Jimmy Dean,of sausage making fame, once said: “I’d much rather have to explain the price than apologize for the quality.”

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use and Harris Interactive announced the results of their annual poll of recruiter’s favorite MBA programs. The top ten were: University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), Dartmouth (Tuck), University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler). Recruiter’s picks for the top MBA schools for hiring women were Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of California at Berkeley (tied with Northwestern); their picks for the top MBA schools for hiring minorities were University of Michigan, Columbia University and Clark Atlanta University.

    Buck Consultants released the results of a survey of 400 employers that examined their policies toward activated reservists in the U.S. Armed Forces. It found that 85% of the respondents have military reservists among their employees and that 83% have reservists who had been called to active duty. What kind of benefits do they provide to these men and women?

  • 54% provide their employees with a pay differential to close the gap between military and civilian pay,
  • 43% provide full medical benefits for up to one year,
  • 23% provide full medical benefits for the duration of military service, and
  • 12% offer full pay for 3-6 months after activation.
  • While these are important benefits, the most important assistance an organization can offer is in the battle with loneliness that confronts almost all military personnel serving overseas. And, other than messages from family, there’s no better boost for morale than being able to stay in touch with friends and colleagues at work. Set up a listserv on your corporate site where activated reservists can communicate with other employees (they’ll both get something out of the exchange) and keep soldiers on the distribution list for company e-mail about the softball team and the company blood drive. In other words, do whatever you can to let them know that they haven’t been forgotten. conducted its annual Boss Day poll to determine what employees think is the key to pleasing the guy or gal on top. Better than four out of ten respondents said that it was doing quality work (up from less than a third last year), while 29% gave the nod to being a team player (down from 37% last year). When asked what made for a good boss, almost half (46%) said it was the willingness to share responsibility and credit, while 24% said it was the ability to act as a mentor. What was least important? If you are trying to please the boss, being honest (sadly, chosen by just 9%), and if you are trying to be a highly regarded boss, having power in the company (chosen by just 1%). And, how are bosses and employees getting along? According to respondents, it’s been better; 44% said that bosses have become “stricter” in the past year.

    Walker Information provided another look at bosses in a recent study of employee loyalty. It surveyed 2,400 full and part time workers and found that two-thirds (65%) are either at high risk of leaving their current employers or feel trapped, but would leave if they could. What was bothering the respondents? In a word, leadership … or more precisely, the lack of it. Only half of the respondents said they worked for strong, capable leaders, and fewer than half were comfortable reporting ethical misconduct, a sure sign that the management abuses reported at Enron, Global Crossing and Worldcom are just the beginning of the story.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. If you’re trying to recruit a veterinarian with experience treating large animals, which of the following sites would be your “holy growl?”

  • 2. If you need to fill a project position but want the employee to telecommute to work, which of the following sites would answer the call?

  • PortaJobs
  • 3. Which of the following sites would help you connect with a recent college graduate to fill an entry level, telesales position?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories


    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: Less than $100/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 12,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates

    Top occupations among resumes: Administration, Human Resources, Software Engineering

    Other services for employers: None

    Answers to Site Insite


    2. All of them; has changed its name to