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Opinion and Insight

#RecFest2018: Why I Spent A Day As A Recruiter to Be A Better Marketer

Contented Brothers marketing manager, Vanessa Whiteside relays his learning experiences from the London based in-house recruiter event, RecFest 2018

#RecFest2018: Why I Spent A Day As A Recruiter to Be A Better Marketer

Last week I went to RecFest, marketed as “the definitive destination for in-house recruiters” in a bid to learn more about the employer branding space, and how businesses attract, engage, develop and retain their people. I firmly believe in the philosophy that you can’t learn from sitting behind a desk, but by experiencing new processes, from different people and sectors. This broad understanding is the key to creating engaging, relatable content.

First of all, I expected the ‘fest’ element of the event to be a cheesy, inauthentic adjective aiming to inject a bit of an edgy, non-conformist element to what would otherwise be a grey, day-long conference with a few glasses of warm white wine served at 4.30pm.

I was wrong, Hawker House was kitted out in full festival regalia, from the wristbands upon entry, to the food trucks and teaming crowd of recruiters in shades and shorts basking in the sunshine.

As is customary with any festival, I perused the jam-packed line up across the four stages, and selected the performances I was most keen to see. NB: usually at festivals my organisation goes out the window after 2 beers… but this was no ordinary festival. First up, Craig Fisher at Fishdogs talk on ‘How to stand out when everyone else automates’. It’s important to note that even though these talks were geared towards a recruiting audience, the most powerful points are absolutely relevant to any audience.

  • 3 things - It’s human nature to retain personal information over professional information. Be prepared to share three things to connect with someone on on a personal level, as opposed to the usual ‘what do you do, where do you work’ questions. #noonecares
  • Content sharing - It’s proven that if you share 5 pieces of relevant and useful pieces of content, audiences will reciprocate with sharing 1 piece back with you. Therefore, to build an engaged and networked audience, be prepared to share 5x more than you expect to receive.
  • Empathy Mapping - To really understand your customer/client/candidate, you need to understand their lives. This is common practice for marketers, but it was refreshing to see this process being used cross-industry. Creating an empathy map of what your people think and feel, say and do, see and hear.

Following this first talk and desperately seeking caffeine (and failing), I settled into my next talk, ‘Decoding the future of work’ from Lars Schmidt at Amplify Talent. The elephant in the room, the fact that ‘the future of…’ is probably the most overused phrase at any conference across the world was addressed in the first five seconds, thankfully!

“It has never been easier to find talent, it has never been harder to engage talent” was the statement which most resonated with me throughout Lars’ talk. It’s true in all sectors, with search and discovery technology at our fingertips, but with Millennial and Gen Z audiences spending up to 10.6 hours engaging with online content every single day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cut through this content clutter.

Already feeling like I have absorbed a day's worth of information in just two hours (and still without any coffee!), I headed to Bonnie Andrews from TotalJobs, part of Stepstone UK, talk ‘Can technology improve candidate experience and selection?’ (‘By golly, it can.’ I think should have followed this title.)

Since Brexit, the UK’s global attractiveness has decreased from 2nd most desirable to 5th in the space of 1 year, with 62% of Brits considering leaving the UK for better roles within the EU and a whopping 86% of young, educated, digitally trained Brits considering leaving for more fulfilling career opportunities.

Not only are people choosing to up sticks and leave the UK, the eroded relationship between recruiters and candidates is at an all-time low, with candidates often left frustrated and expecting more clear, timely and honest communications.

Recruiters are beginning to understand that the candidate of today is attracted to roles, not only for the traditional package (salary and perks) but increasingly for progression, learning and development.

For recruiters to get back on the good side of candidates and understand their new needs and desires, many employers have been harnessing the power of technology to maximise engagement with this new generation of candidates, and meet their evolving expectations. Here’s some examples of the most innovative recruitment technology today:

  • L’Oréal SeedLink Seedlink analyses natural language processing including written and spoken.
  • Unilever - Pymetrics Neuroscience Games Removes unconscious bias and collects data to customise the experience.
  • TotalJobs - Good & Co Workplace culture software, based on science that assess candidates strengths and traits.
  • L’Oréal VR Assessment Platform immerses candidates into an interactive, hyper-real 360 environment within the L’Oréal UK headquarters.

Finally, after a truly festival-esque experience of shovelling cold noodles from a cardboard box into my mouth before heading to the next stage, I settled in to see my final talk of the day with Matt Buckland from Workable on ‘Sourcing is easy, engagement is hard’.

Matt shared his experiences of engaging with the elite force of Facebook coders, through creating a genius scavenger hunt through the medium of Lego, which led the Facebookers to a unique and personalised tech trail to true engagement.

This concept of providing a personalised experience is a sophisticated example of reciprocity in which the Facebookers felt indebted to Matt’s team, who eventually became engaged through earnt respect and investment of their time.

A word of caution is that this highly personalised recruitment strategy is not suitable for scale - but for the uncapturable elite, it’s the only way.

My day at RecFest concluded with a cold beer and some unsightly sunburn, but I also acquired some fresh and insightful lessons from a sector that I was far from versed in, but I learned that people engagement is not limited to one sector, it spans every working industry from healthcare through to mechanics.

Key takeaways

  • Content - we have all got stories, so be bold with your content and share what you and your brand stand for. The passion conveyed in this content will be more engaging and relatable.
  • Candidates - new needs, values and expectations requires a new approach from not only recruiters, but from businesses as a whole.
  • Engagement - RecFest as a whole has been a revolatory marketing lesson. Recruitment Events Co. fostered true community engagement by creating the love-child of corporate conference and the hedonistic festival. At the end of the day, we’re all people who have innate needs to learn, have fun and socialise as part of a community. This is exactly what RecFest achieved, even for an outsider like me.

Genre: People , Strategy/Insight