6 lessons Talent Acquisition can learn from Marketing

Since moving into the world of recruitment from Marketing, I’ve realised just how much they have in common. I’ve seen it done well, and I’ve seen it done badly. Here are my top tips for anyone in a TA or Recruitment role from an HR background, including some useful industry benchmarks.

  1. Know your audience

The first rule of Marketing. And this doesn’t mean ticking this off your to-do list by describing your audience as ’18-24-year olds in London’. It means gathering rich and detailed information about who they are, what drives them and what frustrates them.

Create ‘candidate profiles’ so you really understand the people you are trying to attract. Then segment them – each group won’t have the same interest and motivations (see The Army’s recruitment campaign). It can be expensive to carry out market research, but you have your own employees as a handy resource. Why not do a few 1:1 interviews to find out why they applied for your organisation and their favourite things about working there (in exchange for a coffee probably, so not entirely free!)?

Then it’s about knowing where to find them – do they go to careers fairs or use LinkedIn? Think about meeting them where they are – posting on relevant online forums, using Instagram Stories or joining social media groups.

2. Get your message right 

Get your message right

Once you have a clear idea of your target audience, you need to decide on your key message. It will help if you already have an EVP (Employee Value Proposition) so you know how to describe what you offer in an enticing, appealing way.

Even if you don’t, consider your candidate profiles when writing your job descriptions. These are designed to be adverts; sell the benefits and not just a list of job tasks. Put yourself into the shoes of the person reading the ad. Does it make sense to someone who doesn’t already work in your organisation or sector? Have you used jargon?

Appeal to the emotions. Describe your working culture, your values and your purpose. Help your prospective candidate imagine themselves in the role and feel excited and inspired.

If you’re still struggling, you could try enlisting the copywriting services of your in-house Comms team if you have one.

3. Use data and analytics

Use data and analytics

One of the best things about Marketing is the ability to track and measure everything. You should be able to tell where previous successful applicants have come from, which adverts have performed best, and you should even have the ability to carry out ‘A/B split tests’ (putting two adverts up and seeing which one gets more clicks). You can track conversion rate (% of people viewing the advert that click through to apply) and ultimately, cost per hire.

Here are a few typical Marketing KPIs and some recruitment equivalents:

Cost per Acquisition

Cost per hire (total spend divided by number of successful hires). You can choose to include only variable costs (advertising, agency costs) or fixed costs too (staff, ATS).

Return on Investment / average value per customer / Lifetime value

This is more difficult when you’re not selling traditional products. Can you calculate the value in £ of having a post vacant vs. filled? Speak to your Leadership Team for help – it can help to justify more investment in your team if you know the average cost of vacant posts to the organisation.

Retention rate

You should have access to staff retention figures – what % of the people you hire stay for 1-2 years, 3-5 years etc? This helps to maximise value from your investment and make sure you’re bringing the right people on board. You could also review performance data to assess hire quality.

Traffic volumes and conversion rates

As above, this is the total number of visitors to your site and the % of people who clicked ‘apply’. Aim for around 20% as a rule of thumb. You can optimise this by testing job advert copy, page layout, call to action button (Apply now vs. Find out more), headline and images. Remember to only change one variable at a time so you can see what makes a difference.

4. Prioritise the candidate experience

In Marketing there’s a lot of talk about the customer ‘journey’ and a big focus on customer experience. This can mean various things.

Firstly, on your site you need to lead people through a logical path. You need to have content to attract them and make them aware of your offering. This can be a headline with your key message and an image that resonates so they click to find out more. They are now interested, so show them employee case studies and testimonials, videos about what it’s like to work in your organisation and engaging job descriptions.

If they’ve come this far you need to make it very easy to take the next step and apply. Your call to action needs to be clearly visible on every content page.

Finally, your application form needs to be quick and easy. How long does it take to fill out your form? Do you really need all the information you’ve asked for? This is good practice for GDPR as well as increasing conversions. Look at your form completion rate and see if you can strip it back to optimise its performance and reduce drop-off rates. The shorter the application form, the better your conversion rate will be. Some of our clients achieve a 36-47% form conversion rate.

If you have high drop-off rates, check if you’re asking people to give you information they don’t have to hand (referee details, passport or NI numbers) as this can cause people to drop out (scroll down to the bottom of this article for a case study on this). Can you collect these at a later stage in the process? Can you cut some of the more challenging written answers and save them for the interview instead?

Customer journeys

Once they have submitted their details consider your onward communications programme. In Marketing this is often called the welcome journey. You should be able to automate messages via your ATS if you have one (if not, check out our easy-to-use system Talent Funnel) to provide an excellent candidate experience with timely and relevant emails. Candidates should be welcomed and thanked for applying (promptly – just like Marketing teams would follow up a new lead), told what and when the next stage will be and kept engaged throughout the process.

Candidate journeys continue through to hire and beyond. Review your on-boarding process (again, you can automate this via your ATS) and think about the candidate experience when they come in for their first day.

5. Focus on your employer brand

‘Brand’ may seem like something to be left to the Marketing department (and they may think so too!) but you and your team are responsible for enhancing your employer brand through every touch-point (your careers site, social media channels and external advertising). You need to make sure that every communication (both internally and externally) presents a consistent view of your organisation and EVP.

Employer brand describes your company’s reputation from a potential (and current) employee’s perspective. Employer branding means the way you create and maintain that brand. It’s important to do this as it helps you to differentiate yourself in a competitive marketplace.

Essentially brand-building is about great storytelling. It’s about your value proposition – describe the essence of your company, how it’s unique and what it stands for. Make sure you communicate this to jobseekers and your current employees. Your EVP should include your organisational culture and any benefits of working with you.

Linked In estimate that without an employer brand, organisations are spending 10% more per employee hired. Conversely, if a candidate wants to work for you because of a strong employer brand, recruitment costs can plummet by 43%.

Finally, happy employees are key. They will talk about their experiences at work to friends and contacts, positively or negatively, so don’t neglect your internal communications programme (‘existing customers’ in Marketing!) in your race to bring new people in. It’s an easy and common mistake to make.

6. Test, innovate and optimise

I’ve said this throughout but it’s essential to keep improving and optimising what you do. Recruitment jobs are busy. You’re constantly playing catch up. But if you’re not testing and trying new things then you risk losing potential candidates to your competitors. Not only that, you’ll lose out on the joy of continual learning (or maybe that’s just me…).

Don’t know where to start?

This can all feel overwhelming.

If you’re struggling to keep on top of the day to day and don’t know where to start, contact us for a free consultation and we’ll review your careers site and EVP and suggest a few things to focus on. This should have a positive effect on your application rates and lead to a happy HR Director! https://www.talent-funnel.com/hire/


Case study

We reviewed application form drop-off rates with one of our key clients.

The first page of the application form had quite a high drop-off rate as expected (over 40%). From page two onward our clients generally see a high conversion – people have made the effort to get this far so should complete the application.

  1. CV / National Insurance number – the CV is optional, but National Insurance number is required. Only two fields but there is a 21% drop-off rate. This should be below 3% if people have made the effort to get to page two.
  2. Convictions / Equal Opportunities / Emergency Contact – cumulatively there is another 7% drop-off.
  3. Referees – there is another 38% drop off rate on this section.
  4. Working time regulations – 2% drop-off.
  5. Cover letter – 4% drop off.

Overall they were losing 3 out of 4 people (75%) who have come to the application form.


We created a secondary form to collect some of the information at a later stage in the recruitment process. This removed:

  • National Insurance Number
  • Emergency contact name
  • Emergency contact telephone number
  • Referee details

None of these fields are required to make a decision on whether to invite an applicant to interview.

The result? We almost doubled the conversion rate from 25% to 47%.

Get in touch today for your free consultation: https://www.talent-funnel.com/hire/