How important is the role of marketing in recruitment? Is a strong marketing team an essential ingredient to success or an unnecessary cost? Rena Tan, Randstad’s Regional Marketing & Communications Director, speaks to us exclusively about how marketing has influenced candidate attraction, business development and employer branding – all for the better.
1. You secured your first role in recruitment marketing in 2006. since then, we have seen the introduction of industry-changing technologies such as social media. how has marketing in recruitment changed?
The shift to incorporate social media channels into marketing strategies can be witnessed across all industries and not just within recruitment. I would say that social media is passe. In any role, regardless if you are in marketing or recruitment, social media should be something that you are already familiar with. Marketers worth their salt need to know how to communicate on social media in this post-digital age.
The marketing function is increasingly expected to evolve from being a cost centre to a sales driver. Instead of just delivering standard marketing collaterals and organising events, the marketing team is now expected to drive activities that will result in revenue. By leveraging technology and automation, marketing teams can re-allocate their resources to projects that have the potential to deliver stronger business outcomes, or have a greater impact on the sales funnel.
For example, recruiters used to struggle with cold-calling and the ratio of cold calls to meetings is approximately 20 to one. Big data and artificial intelligence when used in tandem can provide powerful analytics to help develop razor-focused lead generation strategies, so consultants no longer need to spend an exorbitant amount of time on cold calls, but instead focus on providing more personalised services to clients and candidates.
2. How important is marketing for a recruitment agency like randstad when competing in an increasingly crowded industry?
Randstad understands and values what the marketing team can bring to the table. It’s actually quite rare to see a company that truly views the marketing function as a strategic business partner rather than a ‘back-office’ function. With 11 marketing staff, we have one of the largest marketing teams in the recruitment industry in Southeast Asia. Within the recruitment industry, we have built a reputation for having strong thought leadership, as well as robust branding and content marketing strategies. We work closely with the consultants and leadership team to develop marketing strategies that will have high return-on-investment. This not only ensures that our marketing strategies are aligned with business goals but they can also attain full buy-in and confidence from the management team and consultants.
In the last 24 months, the marketing team has also been trusted to spearhead and pilot a number of digital initiatives, and we have started to see some of these projects reap amazing results and conversions for the business. This absolute trust in Marketing to experiment, drive and deliver is what really differentiates Randstad from other recruitment companies.
3. Would you agree that marketing is business critical for a recruitment entrepreneur when starting up a new company in SEA?
Marketing is a critical function that is absolutely necessary to build a strong brand, regardless of the size of the company. Whether you are an MNC or a start up, having a compelling brand keeps you top of mind among your clients, candidates and even potential employees, especially when you are operating in such a competitive industry. Without a strong marketing strategy to develop your brand, even if you have clients and candidates, you might find it challenging to find the right talent who would want to work for you – which in turn will impede your company growth.
Before you decide to take the plunge, it is advisable for entrepreneurs to understand the market and find out what they are up against. The recruitment landscape in smaller markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong is highly saturated with some large incumbents who already have an established brand presence, as well as a large number of boutique agencies providing specialised services. Therefore, it is important to identify your sweet spot, typically a service offering that can set you apart right from the beginning.
Recruitment entrepreneurs also need to develop a robust pipeline of engaging content and fresh insights to stay competitive, along with a well thought-out marketing and channel strategy to engage with their target audiences.
My advice is if you really want to jump onto this bandwagon, get it right from the get-go.
4. Some of the main purposes of marketing in recruitment include candidate attraction, business development and employer branding for internal hiring. which social media platform is most effective for these purposes?
It depends on the industry you operate in and who you are trying to engage. For example, McDonald’s teamed up with Snapchat in the United States to target its recruitment campaign at millennials – a group of workers who makes up the majority of the food giant’s workforce. We have also seen some technology companies use Twitter to reach out to Java developers or IT specialists with niche skill sets, rather than the traditional channels such as job boards or email marketing.
Professionals working in banking and financial services, sales, marketing and communications, human resources, IT as well as accounting are more likely to engage on professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn. Facebook and Snapchat are better platforms for B2C brands (e.g. FMCG, retail, hospitality, food and beverage) to engage with the younger audience.
In general, companies in Southeast Asia tend to use LinkedIn as a primary sourcing channel, particularly for middle to senior level professionals.
5. With a limited talent pool of recruiters in SEA, how important is marketing when hiring internally?
When I first joined Randstad two years ago, I found out that the general brand awareness of Randstad was relatively lower than other recruitment companies. Many people did not know who Randstad was, which meant that they were even less likely to join us, and that was an immediate problem that needed solving.
We worked very closely with our human resources team to deepen our understanding of Randstad’s employee value proposition, and started building compelling employer branding campaigns aimed at attracting and retaining employees. Using a blend of content marketing strategy, social selling, employee advocacy and proactive media engagement, we managed to raise our brand profile significantly – which ultimately had a knock-on effect on our employer brand.
Some of our other talent attraction strategies include employer brand videos to showcase our vision and culture through visual storytelling, employees stories via LinkedIn testimonials as well as our newly-launched social media campaign, #HumansOfRandstad.
Within the past three years, the number of employees at Randstad Singapore almost doubled in size and we have since expanded to cover more specialist functions and industries to cater to the increased demand.
So in my humble opinion – I do strongly believe that marketing has a profound impact on our ability to attract and engage talent.
6. In terms of candidate attraction for your clients, does marketing generate more leads in certain industry sectors than others?
It depends on the sector and the type of candidate our clients are trying to attract. We mainly use social media channels to reach out to junior candidates, but for the middle to senior level professionals, we find that offering high quality and targeted content and providing career consultation services are more effective attraction strategies.
Besides the run-of-the-mill channels such as career fairs, job advertisements, email marketing, advertising and more, we have also started to explore digital initiatives to generate client leads and build candidate pools. For example, we recently launched an AI chatbot to connect with and qualify candidates from the technology sector. That project saw a strong passive-to-active conversion rate, and even successfully managed to place some of these candidates in new jobs.
We have also built an online algorithm to automatically match our web visitors to their perfect job based on their career requirements and personal expectations. Through the ‘live chat’ function on our websites, web visitors can also become potential candidates for our clients as our agents not only help them with their job search, but could offer professional career advice as well.
The idea is to set up as many access points as possible for different types of candidates to reach us – this multi-pronged approach allows us to easily attract talent from any sector.
7. Randstad’s SEA marketing team is one of the industry’s largest in the region with more than 10 members, but is the marketing function built into the recruitment process of billing consultants too?
The marketing team is understood and perceived as a revenue driver instead of a cost centre in Randstad. We collaborate with recruiters to gain insights into different client touchpoints and develop engaging marketing campaigns to address clients’ needs. Through these collaborations, we are not just breaking down silos but we are also discovering new ways to interact with our clients and candidates.
We leverage the latest marketing technology to develop more high quality campaigns and help our recruiters generate new leads. We also constantly use marketing analytics for end-to-end measurement, so that we can better advise our leadership team on their return of marketing investment, and how we can better impact their sales funnels. The team uses campaign insights and data to drive automation strategies, as well as to find out which clients are more receptive to new content and what kind of content they like – so that we can provide more targeted content for their outreach. Our recruiters are also strong advocates of our brand and the content we produce, and have played (and are still playing) an instrumental part in pushing our content out to their networks.
8. In your experience of leading award-winning marketing teams, do the best recruitment marketers come from a recruitment or marketing industry background?
Attitude trumps experience in my opinion. A good marketer does not necessarily need to come from a recruitment background, but he or she needs to have the passion to make a difference, be able to think strategically and possess strong business acumen. A great marketer is someone who is commercially-savvy, innovative, highly agile and can embrace change. They have high standards and are always uncomfortable with how things are done so that they will constantly push the boundaries and challenge themselves to be better.
Marketing professionals can no longer just look at ‘fluffy’ measurements such as the number of likes on a Facebook post or the number of participants at an event. The CEO of today is not interested in engagement rates, the number of followers you have or how many people are sharing your posts. He/she will be looking at how your marketing strategies can provide business returns, how your initiatives can impact candidates, clients and recruiters on a daily basis and how quickly these can happen. A great marketer is always viewed as a business partner, never a support function.
9. What are your predictions for the future of recruitment marketing over the next decade?
We are currently living in a post-digital age and it is critical that recruitment marketing is part of the driver in this transformation. There will be a greater need to develop and target engaging content through automation and technology, so that we can gain higher efficiencies in our client and candidate outreach. Marketing professionals should also start acquiring the ability to predict trends and needs of the business, clients and candidates through the strategic use of big data. Predictive marketing analytics will increasingly be a critical topic on the CMO’s agenda as it can help business leaders make more informed decisions on where to focus their resources.
Marketers will also be expected to cultivate stronger partnerships with recruiters at the desk level, so that they can engage with both clients and candidates to understand their pain points and micro-moments, and offer more personalised services and content.
Marketing professionals who have successfully honed their skills in customer experience, marketing automation, demand generation and artificial intelligence can help shift the needle for the team to become a key revenue driver. The marketing team will also be depended upon to mobilise every coworker in the business, including the management team, to promote and reach the organisation’s objectives.
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