Internal recruitment teams have stolen a march on agencies by using digital marketing to engage passive candidates, but third-party recruiters who play catch-up can regain a competitive edge, according to a digital marketing consultant.

Recruiters have to prove they can provide access to an engaged pool of candidates that employers can’t reach themselves in order to win business, Megan Wilkes told an RCSA breakfast in Sydney this morning.

“What agencies are really missing is that big middle piece, which is nurture and engage the talent pool – asking when is it important for that candidate to hear from me – if it’s too job-based, then there’s no reason for them to engage,” said Wilkes, who is the social media and marketing manager for specialist web design and digital strategy company JXT.

“Corporate teams are really taking the time to do that ‘middle bit’ thoroughly and are talking to potential candidates about what they want in order to get them to enquire… and that kind of social media marketing strategy can be done practically for free.”

In-house recruitment teams using digital marketing effectively will be able to cut agency recruiters out entirely if agencies don’t adjust their marketing techniques, she said.

Wilkes used the example of a hospital in Mississippi, which used Facebook and job reviewer site Glassdoor to save $40k in recruitment costs.

“Utilising both those sites together, [the hospital] made four placements at $478 per placement. Employers are getting savvy to online networks, and are using them to boost their brand and therefore their talent pool.”

Changing the way recruiters communicate job ads to passive audiences on social media is one way to become more engaging about opportunities, Wilkes said.

“More than 50% of the workforce is now under 30, extremely mobile, passive, recruiter-cynical, and really social, by that I mean looking for avenues to connect with people,” she said.

“Eighty-five per cent of passive people are going to be willing to talk with you, you just have to give them the right reason. For example, a recruiter may think of passive as ‘everybody has a price’, but people aren’t always talking money. They may think, ‘my lifestyle means more to me than anything’, so a job ad to them should read about a great work-life balance and is easy to get to.

“Saying, ‘I’m recruiting for a super challenging marketing role available in Sydney, and you’ll be on the forefront of the budding company’ is much more engaging than saying ‘Marketing manager, Sydney CBD, $30k’.”

How to make digital marketing work

A simple digital marketing strategy can have flow-on benefits, including refreshing recruitment companies’ databases and encouraging more referrals, said Wilkes.

“Pick your platform, set your schedule, find your content, share and engage. They’re the simple tips to making any platform rock,” she said.

Using engaging content online also serves to keep candidate connections active, Wilkes said.

“How many of your clients could call your talent pool and any candidate would say, ‘yeah, I know who ABC Recruitment is, I really like Tash over there’? If that isn’t very strong, you need to look at ways to freshen your database,” she said.

“The vast majority of that database is probably ready to hear about a move, you just have to connect with them in a way that is personalised to them. That’s challenging and will make an impact. Get to know your audience through Google Analytics.”

An engaged audience is also more likely to provide referrals, said Wilkes.

“Remarketing to candidates you’ve already placed is a great way to get referrals. They might have somebody in their network who is looking to change jobs, and if you’re top of mind with someone who has just moved they’ll recommend you.”

Recruiters should focus on one digital approach, such as search engine optimisation, as opposed to spreading themselves thin across many channels to achieve quick results, Wilkes added.

“Candidates are actively searching for you, so you need to be found online,” she said.

“For example, optimise your Google results. If people are putting keywords into Google around your agency’s expertise you need to be found by those keywords. Get Google webmaster tools, see where your traffic is coming from, constantly update your site with blog content, and design your website to have those keywords as early as possible. Why? Because where do you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google search results.”