What Recruiting and Marketing Have In Common

By Maren Hogan

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I started my career in marketing. In fact, I never even considered recruitment until one day my father-in-law and husband decided they were going to start a recruiting firm and I was going to run sales. While that was 2008 (a very bad year to start a recruiting firm), I found that the world of talent acquisition really appealed to me.

Fortunately for me, and my marketing degree, marketing and recruitment have so much in common that the leap wasn’t too difficult. In fact, in both disciplines, I’ve found things I can apply to the other to make myself a better marketer and recruiter. Here are the things marketing and recruiting have in common. In each instance, substitute the word PROSPECT or CLIENT for the word CANDIDATE or EMPLOYEE. Can YOU tell the difference between Recruiting and Marketing?

Recruiting and Marketing

“The aim of marketing recruiting is to know and understand the customer candidate so well the product or service role fits him and sells itself.” — Peter F. Drucker

Neither could a 26-year-old Maren. And thus, a star was born. I wrote the presentation and accompanying articles for Recruit Like a Marketer, Hire Like a Boss, about five years ago, maybe even 8. So I have had to update a few tools and processes, remove some companies that are now defunct or in HR jail and retool this presentation for a candidate driven market that despite fierce competition, refuses to raise wages (in general calm DOWN).

The TL;DR version is that just as marketing is about attraction and upsales, so too, is recruiting. No one, and let me tell you I mean NO ONE, is better at attraction than a marketer (said the marketer). In order to hire like a boss, you need to recruit like a marketer.


Marketing Tactics and Terms to Know:

  • Buyer Persona/Candidate Persona
  • Campaign
  • Content Funnel
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Lead Funnel
  • SEO
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Ads — Retargeting, Social


So a marketer identifies the kind of person they think will buy their product based on the kind of people who have purchased their products before. They make educated guesses about these people and create a persona so they know who they’re writing to. It’s basically a big guessing game but marketers love guessing, so long as they’re right. You can do the same thing with your candidate personas. If you have evergreen requirements, a very distinct company culture, difficult to fill requirements or pretty much any open requirement you can create a candidate persona (and I recommend doing so) to help you make decisions that those of us in talent acquisition and management have to make every day. Things like:

Benefits: What do these people want? Which benefits will bring them to you?

  • Job Ads: Where to place them, what to write in them, who will see them?
  • Events: Which ones should you attend? Should you invest in virtual? How many of your people come from your standard “schools”?
  • Digital media: Do you need to place your ad on CareerBuilder or LinkedIn? Is your perfect candidate going to be found on a local or niche job board or are they more likely to come from a referral?
  • Content: What kind of content will attract these folks? What will encourage them to learn more? Where do they need to see it in order to move further down the funnel?


Every marketer worth her salt understands leads at a visceral level. At Red Branch Media, not only do we build lead funnels to understand what kinds of content the prospect needs to see, but how warm that lead is, what kind of questions are popping in their minds at the time they are in that stage and how many form fields they will likely be willing to fill. Sound like a lot of work? No worries, we have free templates. The cool thing is that you can do the same thing for someone who is job hunting. It’s actually easier because unlike a handbag, software purchase or new TV, a job is relatively permanent. A good lead funnel will take the following into consideration:

Funnel Location: TOFU-MOFU-BOFU- Where are they in THEIR process? Have they read a blog post or started an application? Have they registered on your career site but not fanned you on facebook? Understanding how your candidate will engage with you (and how he won’t) is crucial to determining their (likely) position but it’s also crucial so you can map out their journey ahead of time and determine holes.

Temperature: When you hear people talking about warm and cold leads, you may think it’s synonymous with top of the funnel or bottom of the funnel but it’s not necessarily that simple. You may have a warm lead, who’s NOT qualified and middle of the funnel. Figure that out.

Candidate Personas: While a piece of content can work for more than one persona, it’s very unlikely that the piece of content that snags your call center supervisor will be what attracted your lead java developer.


Once you understand how each marketing tactic can work for attracting applicants to your company, it’s time to drill a little deeper. Just like there are tactics to get you to come into Bed Bath and Beyond (the 20% coupons, the app, the commercials and more) there are also individual things that go on sale (a Roomba, great sheets and luggage) and the features of those specific items as well as the urgency (how long it’s on sale and the discount itself) that a marketer needs to sell.

As your company’s “job marketer” you have to do the same thing. The high-level stuff is:

  • The career site
  • Culture content
  • Your facilities
  • Company benefits

The job specific stuff is:

  • The team
  • The manager
  • The department
  • The activities
  • The responsibilities
  • The comp

But you know what people always miss here?

The IMPACT! In marketing, advertising and recruiting, what people always forget is that even when you touch on all the stuff we just discussed if you fail to sell the impact YOU LOSE.

So the recipe to reach pactives is this:

  • Understand who they are: Candidate personas
  • Understand what will resonate: Content funnel
  • Understand when they want to hear it: Editorial calendar
  • Understand how to nurture them: Lead funnel/Templates

The impact must be underscored in each one of these pieces or parts of your campaign or process.

For example, you might be looking for a 45-year-old technical engineer with ten years of experience.

Your candidate persona will tell you that person likely has kids heading to college and parents getting a little older. Flexible work arrangements and a hefty saving option in your retirement plan to use for education may be the benefits that bring him into your talent pool.

Your content funnel will give you insight into the fact that he probably reads The Economist, and Wired online edition and regularly peruses a few dozen techie subreddits, so you’ll know to visit these places and place job ads and/or retargeting on them. You can also use this information to give you insight into whether or not he’ll respond well to the term “technical ninja” (hint: he will NOT).

Your editorial calendar will dictate writing something that will attract him at the right time. He’s mentally checked out over the summer because the kids are home and he’s not really focused on work, so you’ll send out the “How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home” downloadable ebook or podcast around September when he’s irritated that everyone’s gone and he has to be back in the office.

Your lead funnel will tell you where he is mentally at this time and which parts of the job and impact he’ll be making to emphasize when reaching out.

Your templates will help your recruiting team reach out faster and with more finesse than other recruiters from sourced name to offer letter acceptance.


People always come to me with a JD and expect me to make it better. But that’s not really where the process starts. For most companies, especially in today’s candidate-driven market, you must start with the need. What do I mean by that? I mean going back to the drawing board on MOST of your job descriptions and advertisements. In particular, ask yourself these Qs about your ads:

  • Do they tell a story?
  • Do they contain biased language?
  • Are they filled with jargon or titles unique to your company?
  • How many paragraphs before you speak to the candidate?
  • How long since they’ve been updated?

There are a thousand other reasons to change your JDs and Ads but numero uno is the workforce, the job market, and the world have all changed and frankly…many companies have not changed with it. Identify the need you have today. Talk to other people in the department, conduct exit interviews with folks who’ve had the conversation before, ask the supervisor of the position what is needed on the team and in the department, assess your educational and experience requirements (Are they still necessary? Can you identify why you had them in the first place?)

Any marketer will tell you you cannot sell without establishing the need. And nothing is more powerful or intoxicating than a company telling you THEY NEED WHAT YOU GOT!


Speaking of intoxication, let’s get to attraction. How do you bring these passive/active candidates around to the honeypot? We’ve gone over many of the tools but the basic combo is the terrible one espoused by early 90s teen romcoms. Make everything about yourself the image of what they want.

I’m kidding. Kinda. If you’ve done any work on employer branding or even if you’ve simply worked at your company for a little bit you know full well what brings people there and what keeps people there. And if you don’t…ask! You may have to work killer hours, but if you have control over those hours, it’s easier to bear. You might be struggling under a below par compensation package but you vest your people into the company 401k right away? You get the picture.

Find the need of the candidate and find a way your company can meet it. I recently did a talk about 50 benefits you didn’t even know you were offeringand HR folks were blown away by how many things were attractive to people that they weren’t even aware of.

Things people CRAVE:

  • Feedback
  • Responsibility
  • Authority
  • Meaning
  • Privacy
  • Connection
  • Control
  • Flexibility
  • Stability
  • Inclusion
  • Acceptance
  • Authenticity to be who they are
  • Parameters
  • Challenges
  • Ability to create
  • Understanding
  • Impact
  • Focus
  • To contribute
  • To be heard
  • Recognition
  • Comfort
  • Communication

You will communicate with your candidates in a variety of ways. Many of us are used to email and phone. But there are other ways of communicating with candidates that continue to crop up. And the thing I want to touch on here is respect. Respect people’s preferred method of communication. If you don’t, they won’t hear a word you say. For instance, we use a lot of tools.

Translation: we spend a LOT of money on professional tools, yet when we have an issue, despite us submitting a ticket online, sending an email that instructs the vendor that email is vastly simpler for us than phone calls, they still try to set up a time to talk. What that tells me is that the vendor doesn’t respect my stated preferences and then, they no longer get my money. It SHOCKS me how few marketers and recruiters fail to understand this basic tenet of communication. And this matters regardless of the communication channel:

  • Did you know that more than half of surveyed job seekers are comfortable with the idea of interacting with machine-learning chatbots? (Source)
  • Are you aware that 59% of employees say a company’s social media presence was part of the reason they chose their workplace? (Source)
  • 80% of employers say social recruiting helps them find passive candidates. (Source)

But keep in mind communication starts well before the first email or phone call is sent. Your career site, your job ads and your social media presence are all telegraphing to your candidates before you ever even know they exist.


You know how after you’ve just browsed an amazing shoe sale on Nordstrom online, and the ads for the shoes you viewed keep popping up for days and weeks after you last viewed them? They’re on your news sites, they pop up on Facebook, Nordstrom even sends you an email about them… you finally cave (well at least, I do) and you purchase them! It’s called retargeting ads in marketing, and these methods are so smart, they can see how long you viewed the product, if you added it to your cart, and even suggest related products you’ll like. The seller is nurturing the customer along to get them to the final purchase point, and the same concept can be applied in recruiting to get job seekers to apply.

Candidate nurturing, like customer nurturing, is the act of strategically engaging the job seeker well after they’ve left your site. Remember, out of sight — out of mind? It’s why nurturing is key to keeping candidates within the process.


Take these actions to begin nurturing job seekers into applicants, and don’t stop at the application. Candidate drop off rate can be reduced with the proper nurturing strategy to keep candidates invested in the process. Use:

  • Display retargeting ads
  • Social media retargeting ads
  • Nurturing email campaigns

As your main methods to deliver content at the right time (using your content funnel and editorial calendar) with the right recruitment messaging (built from your candidate personas).


When it comes to the best tools and templates to make all this happen at scale, it takes a VILLAGE! So here goes:


SEO Tools — For SEO and understanding what your prospective employees want and need, look no further than Google Trends and SEMRush. Both are free (SEMRush is a trial but still useful) and you’ll get insight into the kinds of questions people are asking about jobs (keyword insights), where they are finding the answers (top sites that rank for those words) and how to start creating content that answers those questions to disseminate and establish thought leadership.

Candidate Persona Tools — While a lot of what needs to be done for building candidate personas requires primary research, you can leverage tools like Google Analytics to see demographic and behavioral data of visitors on your existing careers site or job ad pages.

Nurturing Tools — I mentioned retargeting ads, so getting involved in Google Adwords and Social Ads through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are a must! You may need to leverage the marketing team that uses these for your consumer-facing marketing to get you started, just remember the same concepts they use can be applied to job advertising! There are even programmatic advertising tools like AppcastOnRecruit and Recruitics, which can help you organize and measure your recruitment advertising spend so you’re directing budget to the channels with the most promise.

Marketing Automation Tools — Hubspot is our favorite marketing automation platform, it allows you to send out automated emails based on the contact’s behavior with your site! You can also set up pop-ups, like one that offers job seekers a chance to subscribe to job RSS feeds or put in place something called Exit Intent, which is a pop up that appears only if the user is trying to leave the site.

You can track their contact information, pages they’ve viewed, resources they’ve downloaded and create smart lists with automated emails! If you’re ready to take recruitment marketing to the next level, consider investing in Hubspot! Other tools like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor are email services that can be used for basic outreach, much cheaper and can have similar effects!


For fill-in-the-blank process sheets, Red Branch Media has you covered. We’ve done a LOT of work around persona building, funnel planning and creating a map you and your team can work together to create. Plus we include definitions and suggestions for where content should go.

Go to: https://redbranchmedia.com/rbm-template-vault/

  • Content Funnel for Every Buying Stage
  • The TOFU/MOFU/BOFU Matrix
  • Content Funnel Templates
  • Email Campaign Calendars
  • Digital Ad Manager
  • Twitter Chat Manager

… and more!

About Maren Hogan:

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer, writer and business builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. Founder and CEO of Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and outsourcing and thought leadership to HR and Recruiting Technology and Services organizations internationally, Hogan is a consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques. She has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies and been a thought leader in the global recruitment and talent space. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and The Red Branch Media Blog.

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