hiring recruiting

Stop Running Recruitment Ads, They Don’t Work

Pretty much everything has changed since March 2020. Why would hiring people be any different? But some people still haven't gotten the message.

Many years ago, when I was working in a corporate marketing role for a behavioural assessment company, I wrote a blog post espousing that HR had to become more like marketing if companies hoped to compete for top talent.

Fast forward many years, and we find ourselves in a market where employers are struggling to fill openings. Employees are resigning in large numbers. And the old ways of hiring just aren’t working. Let’s look at some numbers that paint a picture of today’s environment:

  • 44% of employees are currently seeking a new job
  • Less than 15% of job postings get filled by people who applied through the job board
  • 50% say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation – even for a pay increase
  • 79% of candidates use social media in their job search
  • 92% of consumers will visit a company’s website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase
  • 71% of employees would accept a pay cut for a better work experience
  • 89% of employers think employees leave for more money
  • Only 12% of employees cited this as their reason

My point back then was that HR needed to engage people through social networking and build relationships that would open the door to having high performers consider a job with the company when the opportunity aligned. This became known as social recruiting. This was, at the time, already a core marketing strategy. The idea of building engagement with your audience on social media was growing, and the influencer boom was about to hit.

Since then, a lot of smart people have drawn even more direct lines between marketing and recruiting and how using the same tenets we use to attract customers can be effectively used to attract and engage with prospective employees.

Author, speaker, and marketer John Jantsch has recently been talking about this a lot. He’s made a pretty compelling case for how the Duct Tape Marketing system that he invented and that we use with our clients can also be effectively used to attract and engage with your ideal employees.

The point he makes on this topic, and I agree with, is that people aren't candidates or consumers; they're both. There's really no distinction. They may buy from us, or they may work for us – often both. The reasons they decide to do either are influenced by the same things because they are the same people.

But we seem to treat candidates as an entirely different class of buyers. We just write an impersonalized job description and run some ads to fill up the employee pipeline. These are marketing tactics we’ve known don’t work in a vacuum for years. News flash, it no longer works for recruiting either.

The problem is one of strategy. Too often, businesses think they can solve their marketing problems by buying some ads or investing in some SEO. Their problem is usually one of strategy, and the same is true with attracting and retaining top talent today. That’s why the same process we use to attract and engage customers will work for companies struggling to attract and retain quality (or any) staff.

Let’s take a look at how Jantsch breaks this out.

3 Steps to an Effective Recruitment Strategy

There are three primary steps to developing an effective recruitment strategy:

  1. Narrow your focus to your top 20%
  2. Promise to solve a problem
  3. Create an end-to-end journey

Narrow Your Focus to Your Top 20%

The first step in the process is to think about who you want to attract. Most companies would rather hire top performers. Those employees who will deliver the most value. In marketing, we talk about narrowing your focus to your ideal customer, and you need to identify your ideal employee when you’re recruiting.

  1. Look around. Who are your top 20% of employees? Once you identify them, start answering these questions:
  2. What does their current work/life situation look like?
  3. What do they enjoy about their job?
  4. What frustrates them at work?
  5. In what work environment do they excel?
  6. What factors were involved in their decision to work for you?

Go out and speak to your top 20% and ask them these questions. Or have their managers do it, or maybe even send out a survey. Once you have the responses, start to look for common themes.

Promise to Solve a Problem

Nobody who ever walked into a hardware store and bought a power drill needed a drill. They needed a hole. The drill was just one of the solutions to their problem.

That’s a cheeky way of saying people don’t want what we sell; they want a problem solved. It’s not about us. It’s about them. When you’re recruiting your ideal employees, you need to make it about them. What’s the problem you can solve for them? What problem are you solving for your customers that will excite them?

If you don’t know, then go out and ask your customers. Ask your employees. What is it that they really value about working for you? About being your customer? If your company collects Google reviews, read those. A lot of these reasons will be in there. If your company is rated as an employer on sites like Glass Door, look at those reviews, too. What ideas keep coming up?

Create an End-to-End Journey

A core concept of the Duct Tape Marketing system that we employ with our clients is creating an end-to-end customer journey called the Marketing Hourglass. This breaks the buyer journey into seven stages: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer. Every customer your business has goes through the first five stages of this at their own pace (lots never make the last two, and the fault for that lies with the company or their marketing agency).

This same framework can also work as an employee journey with a tweak to two of the words because employees are also customers. You can shift this to know, like, trust, try, hire, retain, and refer.

Source: Duct Tape Marketing

When I use this for a marketing client, I walk them through the stages. We brainstorm all the places they may come into contact with their ideal customer at each stage and how we need to show up. Then we figure out what the message needs to be in order to answer the questions they have at that particular stage. That makes it very simple to fill a customer journey with engagements that speak to the ideal customer. You can do the same with your employee journey. Here’s what that might look like:


  • Employer branding
  • Social media
  • Job sites
  • Advertising


  • Your core message
  • Who they meet first
  • Fast follow up
  • Ease of finding out more info


  • Mentions
  • Reviews
  • Employee stories on the website
  • Values in action


  • Application process
  • Phone screen
  • Follow-up
  • Clear expectation


  • Interview
  • Onboarding
  • Manager
  • Current employees
  • Training plan


  • Respected
  • Development plan and growth path
  • Co-workers
  • Recognition
  • Pay & benefits


  • Friends/good relations with co-workers
  • Trust your process
  • Trust in leadership
  • Incentives

None of this just happens. You have to work at creating this process. You have to map out what you will do at each stage of the journey to deliver the right message to your new hires. But having this all mapped out and knowing what your ideal candidate is looking for is a huge step toward becoming an employer of choice.

What if your recruiting message, and everything you did in your company, was about helping people move from where they are to where they want to be? What if every step in the employee journey was filled with experiences that made them feel respected and understood? That you knew what is the problem that they are trying to solve? How much easier would it be to attract and retain great people?

You may still have to run the occasional ad to let people know you have an opening, but all these elements in place mean the rest of the journey engages your ideal candidates and creates long-term employees and brand ambassadors.

Hiring a Marketer?

If you’re hiring a marketer for your company, download this helpful checklist to create an effective job ad and ask the right questions in an interview.

And if you want that new marketer to really make a positive impact on your company, consider the Certified Marketing Manager Program. In it, we train them to develop and execute a custom growth strategy for your business. See more details here.