"Not an employer branding problem: A recruiting traffic problem"

"You don’t have an employer branding problem; you have a traffic problem."

We are sympl, the recruitment operator.

Organisations are increasingly struggling to recruit the right people. Everyone can agree on that. Why candidates don’t find their way to a vacancy is a more debated subject.

In the world of recruitment, it’s popular to think that employer branding solves many, if not all problems. The more attractive the employer brand, the more candidates you will convince. A lack of applicants is often (too easily) blamed on an unattractive employer brand. 

That may sound logical, but still not entirely satisfying, right? It leaves you wondering when that brilliant employer brand will start having an effect. And who will keep doing the organisation’s work while we’re all busy inventing these lovely employer branding campaigns?

What if you turn it around?

Just think about it: how many people do you need to reach to find that perfect candidate? Do you have a number? Now try to reach that number of people as fast and efficiently as possible. In other words: what if you rephrase your problem from a brand problem to a traffic problem?

That was our hypothesis when we started sympl. And by rephrasing the problem, we automatically started exploring different solutions, like the channels we should focus on. 

Intentional channels versus social media

Judging through the traffic-lens, we can officially conclude that most organisations don’t choose the optimal channel for their goals. They mainly focus on candidates who actively look for work and channels where those active candidates are easily found: job sites.

Unfortunately, those recruitment strategies are big red oceans: there are undoubtedly interesting people to be found, but all your competitors are also trying to snatch them up. The candidate has the undeniable advantage here, which often results in the nasty habit of ghosting. Ghosting is not just a problem on dating sites; recruiters also get to complain a great deal about candidates who suddenly stop responding after a few emails or texts. 

Passive candidates are just as intriguing, if not more, than active candidates. These people may be interested in your vacancy, but don’t make any effort to find your vacancy themselves. For every two active candidates, there are eight interesting passive profiles that are open to a job offer but have not found their way to that vacancy yet. 

These candidates aren’t scouring job sites. You’ll have to find them somewhere else. Here at sympl, we strongly believe in the fast and busy world of social media as a recruitment channel, and that is mainly Facebook right now. It could be a different channel tomorrow, so long as it attracts many daily users and can’t be branded as intentional. Read: people don’t visit it to find a job, and there is no competition to offer them a job. 

This approach does have some drawbacks, of course. People don’t visit Facebook to find a new job. You have to actively target and convince them with captivating ads. You may be swimming against the tide a little, and it’s far from obvious to call Facebook a recruitment channel.

But the advantage here is that Facebook is a “blue ocean” for recruitment right now. We’re already delighted with our results on Facebook (ps: don’t tell anyone else).

Does your ATS make life easier for you or your candidate?

Recruitment tends to take the nuts and bolts of the process a bit too lightly, as though a candidate just chooses a brand at some point and will then proceed to sign the contract, regardless of their experience with the application process. 

A recruitment process is a fairly long and complicated process in reality. It’s a black box, and few HR professionals feel like tearing into that box to stare at the friction between the first moment the candidate connects to the organisation and their first day at work. 

If there’s any scraping going on at all, it is to optimise the recruitment process with an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is supposed to make the experience less frustrating for organisation and recruiter, but what about the candidate? 

Perhaps we should reverse the logic in times of less abundance? At sympl, we think that recruitment needs a revolution like the retail market, where customer-centricity is a matter of life and death (just ask Sears).

Recruitment through the eyes of marketing

That focus doesn’t really exist in recruitment yet. Digital is not the new normal yet when it comes to the application process. Offering and searching for jobs mainly happens online, but everything else before or after is still stuck in the 1980’s. 

There is plenty of scope for change through a combination of existing technologies, channels, and platforms. Just like retail, it doesn’t need any overwhelming digital transformations or monstrous investments. 

A player like Coolblue, for example, has never developed its own software. It uses existing technology to be able to focus 100% on an optimal user experience. And with success: you say worry-free shopping, you think Coolblue. 

 The hypothesis that started sympl was that we could apply that same philosophy to recruitment; that we can approach recruitment differently by thinking like digital marketers or retailers. We can keep one eye on traffic and conversion rates, and the other a smooth customer experience.

Recruitment is ready for this. Our first experiences at sympl and our past career in marketing still support that conviction. When we worked with Proxis on the first e-commerce in Belgian in the 1990s, we got our share of scepticism. At the time, the general opinion was that nobody would ever want to buy clothes via the internet. Well… the sceptics turned out to be wrong about that one.

Human touch

Today, that same scepticism has translated into disbelief in online screening and recruiting. “That’s never going to work”, we are told, “because you should be able to look an applicant in the eye”. That’s simply not true. Candidates don’t exactly have the urge to turn up for an interview 4 or 5 times. 

That doesn’t mean that we at sympl expect that technology will eventually take over the entire recruitment process. Some people may be convinced that artificial intelligence will one day be able to find the absolute ideal candidate for a specific vacancy, but we disagree with that notion. 

A recruitment is too important a decision to leave to technology only. What technology can do for us, is to remove as many obstacles as possible on the road to that final, important decision. 

Recruitment is a machine, and a machine needs an operator who knows his machine through and through, who can, in a way, “tell” if everything runs as it should. That is how we see sympl: as a recruitment operator, who gets – and keeps – the recruitment machine running.