Inbound Marketing for Recruiters: Q&A with Matt Charney

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“Don’t sound like an HR handbook” and other sharp inbound marketing tips from the employer branding expert and executive editor of Recruiting Daily.


“Candidates and consumers start their searches in the exact same place: Google.” That’s Matt Charney, executive editor for Recruiting Daily, employer brand savant and expert on inbound marketing for recruitment. He’s talking about why talent acquisition should be using marketing’s playbook. “Eighty-five percent of job searches start there. If you use inbound techniques to attract candidates, then you’re doing the same thing your marketing team is already doing to attract customers. It works.”

But how do you develop content that persuasively – and honestly – attracts talent to your employer brand? What common content marketing mistakes should you avoid? And why don’t recruiters and marketers spend more time working together? We got on the phone to discuss.

“It comes down to being able to write persuasively.”

What’s the first thing recruiters should do to become better marketers?

Take some basic business writing classes. Just a few tweaks to make your job description go from bullet points to actual sentences, and see what difference that makes in terms of applicant flow. From there, you can work towards being able to write copy on a careers site, and writing emails that candidates are going to open. It comes down to being able to write persuasively.

Any persuasive writing tips from your own, prolific, content-creating experience?

You don’t want to sound like an HR handbook, you want to sound like an actual person. Use what I call ‘weekend language’; we have a different tone during the workweek than we do on the weekend. Being casual and personal is a huge win because you sound like a person. The other thing that’s really important is that you make sure your job posts answer what’s in it for the candidate, not the employer. Frame it around the talent, not you – lots of employers make that mistake.

What mistakes do you see people making with their inbound-for-recruiting efforts?

A lot of companies just aren’t questioning why they’re doing certain things. Social media is a great example. There’s been so much time and energy spent on social media with the understanding that it’s a good place for sourcing. Actually, it’s good for engagement but it’s terrible for source-of-hire. Same with LinkedIn Recruiter: you can spend more money on that than if you just went to Executive Search and paid a 30% fee. And sending it to an agency is way easier.

The point is to save time and money. Look at what’s working. But, don’t necessarily think you have to do something. If you’re not gonna dedicate time to a career blog, nobody is going to want to read stuff that you don’t want to write. Don’t be on Snapchat because all the cool kids are doing it.

Does inbound marketing have to be online? Can it be event-based, or done face-to-face?

Events are part of inbound marketing. Everything needs to come through the same system. Events are one spoke. Social media is a spoke. Career sites are another. The hub is the ATS. As long as you’re capturing them all in the same system that’s really what you need to move them all through the same funnel.

What’s the relationship between an employer brand and a corporate brand? Are they same thing?

Employees are the best consumer brand advocates you’ve got. If it sucks to work for you, then that’s going to reflect in the way they talk about your company and your product. Candidates and new hires tend to already be customers or clients of a brand: there’s a strong positive correlation between the two. So employer brand or consumer brand, they both come down to your Net Promoter Score – the ’How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?’ question.

Recruiters shouldn’t be too worried about building an employer brand around a logo. What people want to see is recruiters having a voice, being themselves, and employees being able to do that as well. Because ultimately, an employer brand is the sum of what the employees are saying, not what the company says it is. It’s not a mission statement.

How do you make sure the content you’re creating is on-brand?

That question always comes up. But if consumers aren’t familiar with your brand, then it doesn’t matter. If your consumer brand is really entrenched, then your employer brand is probably going to be secondary, so I really don’t think it matters to be ‘on-brand’.

However, does this become an issue if the actual employee experience is different than what your employer brand says it is?

You don’t want to misrepresent your workplace. Don’t say you’re great at work–life balance if you expect 60-hour weeks. Err on the side of omission, not inclusion. If something really sucks, don’t mention it. If someone asks about it, though, don’t lie. And candidate experience has to role into employee experience, because 50 percent of the people you hire are internal hires. They’re directly related – two sides of the same coin.

Why don’t people draw a closer connection between recruiting and marketing? Why are recruiters so much further behind in adopting those strategies?

Recruiting is very transactional. You’re judged on very hard facts: hours, cost per hours. Marketers are judged by longer-term stats that are harder to define, so they don’t have that immediate need to hit numbers and benchmarks. But recruiting is already a marketing activity. And when you go to marketing events you hear, “I want to work with recruiting and HR but I don’t know how.” Really, one of them just needs to invite the other to lunch.

“What people want to see is recruiters having a voice, being themselves, and employees being able to do that as well.”

Is there anyone out there doing a good job of connecting marketing and recruiting?

Zappos’s entire consumer brand is based on their workplace culture and employer brand. They’re a shoe company, but they have such a strong employer brand. For Whataburger, a local restaurant chain here in Texas, all of their consumer marketing is their employees talking about their favorite food. In both cases it’s employees influencing product, which is a lot of marketing.

You’re also a screenwriter and script doctor for film and TV. Is there any crossover with recruiting?

There are a lot of crossovers. Most recruiting is casting, and the ability to read coverage – which is a lot of what script doctoring involves – is always an awesome skill for selling candidates.

Also, in Final Draft, the software you use for screenwriting, the character limit per line is 140 characters. So I learned to Tweet before I knew I was doing it.

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is Head of Marketing and Content at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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