Kasey LynchJune 20, 2024
Topics: Recruiter Experience

Digital Evolution & Human Engagement in Recruitment Marketing

Digital media is a transformative force in recruitment marketing, shaping how organizations attract and engage talent. Shaker Recruitment Marketing, a full-service agency with a rich history spanning nearly 75 years, is continuously at the forefront of the industry’s evolution. 

Sara Elkins, Shaker’s Vice President of Digital, joined us on Talent Experience Live to explore using recruitment marketing through digital mediums to attract top-tier candidates. We also discussed how — amidst the surge in AI and automation — a strong, foundational recruitment marketing strategy will help you stay competitive regardless of the tech you use.

Read on for highlights, or watch the episode below.

What is your definition of recruitment marketing?

“[Recruitment marketing] is creating targeted solutions to attract, engage, retain, and ultimately hire and keep that talent,” said Elkins, a 24-year veteran at Shaker. “That’s at a basic level.” As Shaker’s VP of Digital, she oversees social media strategies and consults with clients on their HR technology needs — an aspect of the job she particularly loves because it exemplifies her belief that recruitment marketing is most effective when undertaken with specific challenges and goals in mind. 

“It puts me on the phone with the client, listening and learning about their goals and objectives, and then creating the puzzle pieces of what that solution looks like,” she said. 

How has recruitment marketing kept up with modern marketing trends? 

A true industry stalwart, Shaker has seen recruitment marketing’s evolution first-hand, from “Help Wanted” signs to print ads to job boards, to programmatic ads to mobile — and now, AI-supported tactics. 

Elkins pointed out that by now, we’ve all grown accustomed to convenience and personalization in the digital experience. Job seekers expect those same modern-day hallmarks in the candidate experience. 

However, recruitment marketing departments traditionally face tighter budget constraints than consumer marketing organizations. “That means we need to be a little more creative, we need to be more efficient, we need to be more strategic,” said Elkins, adding that measuring success is key. “It’s about testing and learning. Try it on a small budget with a localized approach. See what happens and measure it. If it doesn’t work, then we pivot.”

How is Shaker approaching new technologies like generative AI?

TA teams are starting to embrace generative AI for creating persona-driven content and assisting with job description writing. However, Elkins notices uncertainty tied to the newness of the technology — there’s no tried-and-true roadmap for success yet — as well as data privacy and security concerns. 

“Especially since we are dealing with humans and it’s all about talent and getting the right person in the right job, people are a little bit hesitant of how to do this,” Elkins said. 

That’s why finding a tech partner with expertise in compliant data and security practices is important when clients want to start folding AI into their recruitment marketing strategies. For example, Shaker partners with Phenom, which helps clients gain assurance that they’re staying within guidelines on AI practices

How does Shaker help clients evolve their digital recruitment marketing practices? 

In a perfect world, a TA team could put staffing demands on hold and dedicate all their time to testing new technology and processes. Since that isn’t exactly realistic, Shaker implements parallel pathways for clients to test and learn new approaches without interrupting current recruitment practices. 

“When you’re looking at a TA team who are…trying to hurry up and hire, they can’t hit the pause button and say, ‘Hold on, let me do all this stuff over here to see if it works’,” Elkins pointed out. 

Rather than overhauling what’s already in place, Shaker helps clients identify immediate hiring challenges and evaluate existing approaches. “Let’s take a look at what you guys are currently doing, what platform are you currently on? What is the current candidate experience, and how can we start bridging gaps and bringing things together?”

Career Site Evaluation

Although every organization will end up with unique pathways to successful innovation, zeroing in on the career site is a key place to start for almost everyone, Elkins said. “That’s the central home base for a candidate,” she explained. “What is that experience, what content is on there?”  

Elkins encourages clients to go through the online candidate journey on their own career site to identify any gaps that “break” the experience. After all, regardless of the outreach in place — emails, flyers, banner ads, etc. — the career site is where a candidate will end up. “You’ve paid somehow for those eyeballs. You don’t want to send them back to a central home base that [you’re risking] won’t convert.”

Looking for inspiration to improve the candidate experience? Find out how the Fortune 500 hire and attract talent in our State of Candidate Experience: 2024 Benchmarks Report.  

What’s the end goal you’re aiming for with new recruitment tech?

Of course, implementing new technology comes with a price tag to justify it. The critical function it should serve is helping to attract the candidates who will convert — and then stay with your organization. “The math game in the middle of this is trying to figure out, ‘How much do I have to spend to attract these people?’ and then ‘What are some of my metrics’? That’s the Holy Grail that everyone is after,” Elkins shared. 

When technology achieves the goal of maintaining a steady flow of high-quality candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers can focus on building relationships with the most qualified people. 

“We want…those recruiters and those hiring managers to do what they do best — which is to have those conversations to engage with candidates to inform them about the brand, what the job is, what it’s like to work here so that they get the right-fit candidates,” Elkins said. The role of technology and AI is to enable this by creating speed and efficiency.

What’s the secret to getting recruitment marketers on board with new approaches?

Elkins has three key pieces of advice for encouraging recruiting staff to embrace innovation: 

  1. Ensure technology will benefit the end user. That’s why evaluating what’s already in place and then identifying top pain points is so crucial, Elkins emphasized. “In our space, it has gotten very complicated and it’s very overwhelming because you have all the bright shiny things coming at you all at once. But it goes back to the basics: If I implement this new AI tool, this new tech, am I really solving what the problem is?” 

  2. Choose a collaborative technology partner that’s willing to learn about your business and unique needs. This can make a big difference when working together to solve specific problems. 

  3. Be purpose-driven. Keep the human story at the center of recruitment marketing, Elkins said. That’s what resonates with candidates, and with recruitment marketers alike. “What is that human story about why I’m working at that company versus the competitor?”

How can we gain candidates’ trust regarding AI usage in recruitment marketing?

Legal professionals aren’t the only ones questioning how AI might impact recruiting. Job seekers also are wondering how employers are using AI in candidate screening and selection practices. Top concerns include the introduction of bias and fear that AI will be allowed to make final hiring decisions.  

Gain trust by being thoroughly transparent and working closely with legal counsel, Elkins advised. “If you [are] actively using AI, talk about it. Put content out there about it. Put it on your career website.” 

Auditing the usage of AI in fit scoring or any other aspect of candidate screening is crucial to prevent bias and ensure that human decision-making remains at the center. 

What are key takeaways for leveling up digital recruitment marketing?

Recruitment marketing covers a wide range of activities, Elkins pointed out: ads, emails, social, career sites, and more. Don’t try to fix it all at once. 

She re-emphasized the importance of putting yourself in a job seeker’s shoes to identify the major pain points in the current candidate experience. “I would encourage clients to go ahead and look at their own career website. Go to Google, do a search for whatever job you’re recruiting for,” Elkins said, and don’t forget to examine how your brand is conveyed on social media platforms also. 

This is the point of the journey where a collaborative partner can help guide the next steps. For example, Shaker frequently works with clients to decipher pain points and determine a solution best suited to address them.  

Case Study: How Ciena’s One-Person Recruitment Marketing Team Drove a 700% Increase in Applications

What’s on your radar for the future of recruitment marketing?

What’s old is new again, according to Elkins: “A lot more people are talking about talent pooling, talent communities and CRMs.” These tools and tactics — which have been around for more than a decade — are resurging as budgets and the job market tighten. 

TA leaders are also proactively looking at workforce planning, evaluating where skills gaps may exist, and thinking about how to innovate on these proven approaches to fill pipelines with skilled candidates. 

“We’ve been talking about finding the right strategy…how can you execute and really leverage these tools to meet whatever your hiring goals and initiatives are?”

Want more on digital recruitment marketing? Get in-depth strategies in our Definitive Guide to Recruitment Marketing

Kasey Lynch

Kasey is a content marketing writer, focused on highlighting the importance of positive experiences. She's passionate about SEO strategy, collaboration, and data analytics. In her free time, she enjoys camping, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her loved ones — including her dog, Rocky. 

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